Did you know how to scale from MVP to a completely finished product? Almost everyone has heard of MVP but what goes before and after? We are here for you to untangle the startup stages for product development.
A product development process comprises all the activities that are necessary to deliver a concept to the market and end-user. Some of them are ideation, design, execution, testing. The startup stages may be followed in classical order or in another order, adding more stages typical for certain industries.
Startup stages before product development
1. Almost every article about product development notes about market need, market research, target audience. If you need to discover the detailed process for the issue you can check it here.
2. Idea/problem to solve. You might already have an idea, but if not, it is also OK. Some of the idea generation techniques are mind-mapping; looking at scientific materials; crowdsourcing; SCAMPER.
3. Idea validation. In this phase, you will speak to actual future customers and try to turn your assumptions into facts.
4. Conceptualizing the product. At this stage, you turn your vague idea into a more intangible concept, so you can receive more meaningful customer feedback. It may be a one-page website or a Powerpoint presentation.
5. Planning. When it comes to product development, you should take the time to plan before you begin building your prototype. The process can quickly become complicated. So you need to build a preliminary product roadmap. It includes main features and other activities you need to complete: key stages, business model, plans, business objectives, timing, product vision, metrics. First, you can put them down in random order and then prioritize.
6. Documentation. It is an important stage to write down your goals, your requirements. It is incredibly helpful for software product development. The main ones are functional and technical specifications — they are necessary when you start developing the full version of the product. However, it is a good practice to document almost each stage of product development. There might be:
- Competitive analysis documentation
- Prototyping documentation
- User stories documentation
- Roadmap and projection documents
Tech product development
In the early stages of product development, prototypes may be treated as mock-ups. It is an important step between the conceptualization and the implementation of an idea. Usually, they act as a model, representing the approximate appearance and sometimes functionality of the product that you have in mind.
The prototyping process is an effective way to save time, avoiding any major changes in the development process. So when the prototype is ready you need its validation: you show the prototype to real customers who would use your product and ask for their suggestions.
It is a good idea to observe the users’ reactions to your product in real-time.
After changes proposed by potential customers have been added, you need to gather feedback again to ensure that it is in line with the client’s demands.
Minimal Viable Product
MVP definition: an early version of a product that is created with minimum effort and time. An MVP is not the first version of your product, but the most basic form of it.
It’s critical to understand that an MVP is not a product with fewer features. Rather, it is the simplest thing that you can show customers at a given point in time to learn how to move forward with your product.
In this stage, you create a product that solves only one challenge for your customer.
Here you also ask for feedback to get ideas and suggestions based on customer needs. This allows you to make changes to the product that will resonate with your audience and build something more valuable for them.
It is the phase when you can earn money without investing a lot.
MVP functional elements should be modular so that the dev team can easily fix any bugs in the future. It means the architecture has to be adaptive and simple.
When you are totally into a product, it can be difficult to see the “blind spots”. So, it is also a good practice to involve quality assurance specialists at this stage. Testers will set standards of code quality, and track mistakes. If a QA team worked on the product from the very beginning, they would also share responsibility for its quality, which leads to better final performance.
At this stage, you probably go for your first or regular funding round. So, when testing your product with potential clients, collect feedback. Later on, you will need it for demonstrating and proving to investors that your product is viable and is able to generate revenue.
First release: MMR
Here we come to MMP (minimum marketable product) and MMR (minimum marketable release).
An MMP is the first iteration of the MMR. It helps investors confidently invest in your company at this stage of product development.
MMP is not a feature-rich product, investors imply that it has some technological innovation that’ll provide a strong competitive advantage. So the key at this stage is to focus on innovative features that your target group seeks.
An MMP is the first version of your product that can solve user problems with a minimum number of features. At this stage, you start getting customers’ feedback with the first monetization proof of success.
During this stage, you will also need to define what third-party integrations you will have and build the functionality for them.
Subsequent release: MMF
An MMF stands for a Minimum Marketable Feature, which defines a must-have feature of your product that will bring immediate value to your potential customer.
From the business point, MMF enhances customer loyalty, helps you save costs, and generate revenue.
With each MMF users want something that’s noticeable, not just bug fixes or improvements of existing features, but rather a completely new feature they can enjoy.
Become appealing: MLP
MLP is a minimum loveable product. Here you care not only about solving the problem but also about the great look of your product. Your team starts with working on design and UI and tries to make the product user-friendly. At this stage, you are forming an emotional reaction to the product.
In the age of social media, it’s vital that things have some visual intrigue. The longer people can hold your message in their minds and put it into context, the more likely they are to turn to your solution and recommend it to their friends.
However, remember about M in MLP. It’s important to remember that while you focus on delighting your users, it’s also essential to be agile. Pick the minimum set of features needed to solve user problems, and make them as exciting as possible.
Engage a group of passionate advocates proactively engaged with the product. They would prove to investors that the product is perceived as lovable and delightful.
MLP is not a final version of your product. It is a valuable learning tool that informs you about target customer visual preferences and expectations through quantitative and qualitative feedback.
Now you’re actually on the market! You developed and tested all the main features, went through several iterations to add to the product a nice appearance and friendly user experience. This stage is about selling your product and everything it takes to keep that process going smoothly: technical support and maintenance, proper distribution, marketing, etc.
Post-launch review and perfect pricing
How are you selling your product? Is the price point working for both cost and sales or do you need to adjust it? Take a look at how much it’s actually costing you to produce your product and provide your service and determine whether or not you need to adjust the amount you’re charging. If the introductory price is one that doesn’t stick, this is also a good time to adjust.
Growth: to be continued
There is a need for 5 sub systems to work properly for your startup growth. They are sales, marketing, fulfillment (basically your product), operations, customer success. The more optimized they are, the faster you grow.
When your sales are flowing like water, marketing activities are performing without any barriers, and support is good enough, then you should start improving all these sub-systems. Naturally, you will also need to improve your product with more features to satisfy consumer demand.
Keep reassessing regularly. Do you feel like the product is going well? Is there anything that could be improved or adjusted to better suit your customers’ needs? You don’t have to be scared of making continual improvements, even after you’ve completed a new product development process.
With product market fit, growth simply means a release of new products and services to cover new segments, as well as an acceleration in the customer acquisition process.
One of the examples is Uber starting its food on-demand service.
Launching a company is like starting a fire. If you keep blowing on the flame, eventually it will grow strong enough to burn without your help.
Bringing to life an idea for a tech startup might be intimidating, but it’s much easier once you have a clear understanding of the main startup stages. The process starts by developing your concept into something viable and visible; talk to users about what they think about this new thing, then take those insights back to investors who are willing to fund the project.
For different industries some of the startup stages might be missing, some may be in the other order, the other might be extended into more cycles — adopt the phases into your startup to make as much as possible out of the product development. In regulated industries such as health tech, you may need to prove you have ‘controlled’ the design process in very specific ways.
Product development is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring, research, improvement, and creativity. If you found a method that works, it still needs to be open to changes. New models, tools, and approaches appear all the time; make sure to test them out in order to find the perfect combination.