December 9, 2015



4 min read


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No sports fans...this MVP which I am about to talk about is not the Most Valuable Player. In startup marketing, MVP is the Minimum Viable Product. According to Wikipedia, "MVP is the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. It is the sweet spot between products without the required features that fail at sunrise and the products with too many features that cut return and increase risk."


Got it? Yes? No? Let me simplify it further for you. 


Let's use an analogy, let's say this big business idea of yours is a single lego block - a bold, bright coloured single lego block. Then you start stacking on top of this block (the business idea) with other colourful lego pieces; some big pieces like the key features and some smaller ones like the frills. And when you're done "stacking", you take a step back to admire your whole masterpiece. You might say to yourself, it looks pretty cool (and not to mention colourful!). You're so excited, you're proud of it and you can't wait to show and sell your "lego invention" to the world. And in your high and excitement you are convinced that this masterpiece is what EVERYONE wants. BUT do they really? 


Let's use another analogy, say Product A with B,C,X,Y,Z,1,2,3 and 4 features. Is this combo your successful MVP? Perhaps A will work just fine with B,X,2 and 3 and give you the highest return. Perhaps A will work with just X,Y,Z and 3. Perhaps A+B will be your winning MVP. It can be a combination of different things. BUT you do not know this until you test it.


The 3 key reasons why you need to determine your MVP:

1. Test hypothesis whether it is solving a problem people will find worth paying for.

2. Test commercial viability of the product or services.

3. Test to verify market, capabilities and complexity of your offerings.


In Eric Reis' Lean Startup book, he wrote about the "Build-Measure-Learn (BML) Methodology." A must read for any entrepreneur in my opinion. Having had the privilege to be a part of some very exciting startups and consult on some newer ones from pre-seed to Round 2 funding stages, determining the MVP is a crucial move. It is an exercise to determine the "sweet spot" of what product or services will work, without overdoing the features which will make it complex and cumbersome for customers to relate to and identify with. It is the exercise to determine the "right mix at the right price".


Last week, the startup that I am currently consulting with, launched a few tests to determine their MVP. They/we had reached a limit of listening to internal stakeholders opinions and finally wanted external validations and customers confirmation. And so we embarked on the following BML methods to test our MVP.




First, we built one basic product offering with some basic features based on some realistic assumptions. Then we built a number of variations with added features and frills. We priced them differently as well.



Next step is to test and measure through relevant methods. The following are the on-going methods being used in the current project which I believe will be relevant to most products or services. Ensure the reporting matrix is in place before you begin, so you have a clear parameter of what is being measured.


For new products:


a. Survey:

Build a questionnaire and conduct an online survey based on your target groups. We are currently conducting a survey with approximately 500 respondents, a good sample size in my opinion as a starting point although a larger sample size will be ideal. There are some online services you can subscribe to that will give you access to random unbiased pool of respondents and provide a good reporting tool as well. In this case, we are using Survey Monkey.


b. Focus group:

If you have the additional budget, you can gather small groups of people from your target market to get unbiased feedback on your products or services. As some of you may be familiar with how focus groups are done, it is usually conducted by an independent market research company whilst the client will be listening in from another room, unseen and unheard by the participants.


If budget is a limitation, you can get creative and conduct focus groups with people that you know, friends, family, colleagues whom you can trust to give honest feedback.   


c. Private preview:

This could be a combination of a survey and a focus group but in a slightly fancier sense. Build a private preview landing page to introduce or provide a "teaser" to the product. Interested visitors can sign up by providing their email addresses for special invitations to the private preview. Once the product is ready, an online event or an event at a physical location can then take place to gather feedback. 


Alternatively, if you're not on "stealth mode" i.e. not wanting to alert your competitors, you can feature your prototypes with prices on this landing page to gather more information, entice interest and also invite visitors to the private preview.


d. Landing pages:

Create more than one version of your landing page. Then spend a little bit of money on optimizing/boosting your sites by setting up some advanced targeting to gauge which section of your target market respond to your test variations. The winning landing page will then be used as your main page at official launch/LIVE date.


e. Blogging:

Start writing about your product or services and measure interest based on inbound traffic, comments and engagement. This is a great platform to start your content strategy and thought leadership segment on the subject matter.


For existing products, services or new campaigns, MVP may not be directly applicable. In this case, the testing can be done to determine Minimum Viable Service or Minimum Viable Campaign or Minimum Viable Features as follows:

a. AB Testing:

If you have an existing customer database, you can split the base into two and label them A and B. One will act as the control group while the other will be used to test other variables. The winning group will then be used for overall execution of your campaign.


b. Add a mock Call-To-Action (CTA) button on website:

If you're not sure about adding a new feature or a new add-on service, you can test by adding a mock call to action button on your existing website to gauge interest. To manage your customer experience, this CTA will then prompt visitors that the feature is still being built and advise them to come back again soon or leave their details such as an email address so you can notify them when it becomes available. Monitor the clicks through your Google analytics dashboard to measure interest/goals completion of this feature. 




Pivot or proceed.

Now, with all the data that you have gathered, you can either proceed or pivot/change certain features or revamp the strategy. Learn from the data and adjust your products and services accordingly. Then test again.



The MVP exercise is exciting but not without its challenges. Without a proper distribution and measuring methods, the results accumulation will be slow and data could possibly be inaccurate. We've had to revise our methods a couple of times after launching the tests as we were not getting the traction that we had initially wanted. After a few hiccups, the tests are close to working like clock work. And now we are looking forward to the results and determine what will be our next step. Look out for part 2 of this MVP blog post where I will cover some of the learnings.








M Consulting, the branding and marketing development and activation consultancy was founded by Mawarni Adam, an award winning marketer with over 13 years of experience in branding and integrated marketing across multiple industries in the ASEAN region. It is her passion in building, revamping, turning around a portfolio, leading change and breathing new life into stagnant business situations that propelled her to establish her own marketing consultancy. Helping others make a positive difference in their businesses excites her. Her direct experience in the Subscription Video-On-Demand, Airline, Insurance, Loyalty, E-commerce, Banking, Venture Capital and Advertising industries, will bring an integrated perspective and valuable marketing input, strategy development and execution to any business. 


Read more about Mawarni here: About M


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