Jenni here, and today's blog post comes from a question that we've been asked a couple of times by 3 or 4 clients over the last week. The question went something like this:
"What do I need to do to get my idea off the ground? What is the minimum need to release something new? I get caught up in needing the perfect webpages, the perfect images, the perfect etc., etc., etc. I don't want to look shitty, but I don't want to prevent myself from getting out there at all, you know?"
Like I mentioned, this is at least the 3rd time this week I've heard this question, so I thought I'd address it here on the blog. Let's talk a little bit about this magical thing called minimum viable products, and how you can get stuff out there without damaging your brand.
Minimum Viable Product
I first heard about this idea when moving to the Bay Area. I have a background of working with tech startups before starting Prim'd, so I'm pretty familiar with the concept of "failing fast." The idea is that if you're going to fail, you want to spent 2 months of your time and energy working on that idea, not 2 years.
The way to fail fast is to get your minimum viable product out to market as fast as you can.
What is a minimum viable product? An MVP is:
“A product that has only the features (and no more) that allows you to ship to early adopters. The goal is for them to see your product, for it resonate with some customers, for those customers to pay you money for it, and start to give you feedback on it."
The thinking here is that you don't want to waste time working and iterating on something in a vacuum. You want to be working and interating on something while in conversation with your customers. The sooner you can get your product in the hands of your customers, the sooner you can watch how they actually use it. The sooner you can focus in on the features or packages they really need, and not waste time building things you think they're going to need.
But it's a balance.
If you release something too early, you run the risk of stepping off your brand. Putting something out there that is riddled in typos, or with badly lit iPhone photos, can cause folks to not be super jazzed to buy from your brand again (or at all).
Let's define minimum.
In the case of Prim'ds clients, most of you guys aren't out there creating web apps or software products. Most of you guys are creating service based packages, informational products, or products that are centered on sharing an area of expertise. Most of our clients are selling their services in some sort of package or retainer.
In order to define the MVP for these kinds of products, I have a series of questions:
1. Who is the most likely person to buy what it is you're thinking of offering? I feel like a broken record here, but knowing your customers is so so important. You might not yet need a customer profile, or all the details about them, but you do need to know what kind of person you're going to be selling to.
FOR YOU TO DO: If you're thinking of creating something new, pick up your pencil and write the names of three people that you know that could be a good fit for your idea. Pick up the phone and schedule coffee with them.
2. What is the one or two things that needs to be included in your package or retainer? One of the clients I chatted to this week was thinking of teaming up with a partner and offering combined services across their two areas of expertise. They're not quite sure what is going to go in that package yet, so I gave them the homework listed in #1. I had them go to coffee with 3 people, and ask lots of questions. Then I told them to listen to what their customers need. The goal here is to identify ONE or TWO things that need to go in your offering.
FOR YOU TO DO: At coffee with your three people, write down 1 or 2 things that you need to include in your package to meet their need. If after 3 coffee dates you have some trends, hurray! You have a package.
3. How are people going to buy you or engage with you? This is the part where people start to spiral (I need a website, a brand photoshoot, a logo!). But you can scale waaay back. If you are creating a website, it only needs to answer three questions: Who are you? What are you selling? and how can people get in contact with you or give you their money? You don't have to answer these things on a website. You can host a workshop. You can have a postcard printed out with your phone number on it. You can tell people at a networking meeting.
FOR YOU TO DO: find a place where you can answer these questions. It can be a webpage, a landing page, a workshop, or even a flyer that you pass out. But find one place that you can direct people to if they're interested in finding more. That place should answer these three questions:
- Who are you?
- What are you selling?
- How can I get in contact with you to give you my money?
IT IS ABSOLUTELY THAT SIMPLE.
A little bit of founder story here, but when Sophie and I started Prim'd we had no brand assets. No business name. No logo. No website. No color palette. No business cards. No official portfolio. None. Zilch. Nada.
We had the name of a business owner who needed what we were thinking about selling. We went into that first meeting and were super transparent with her. We told her where we were in our business process, and listened to what she needed. She hired us, and it was that first client that boostrapped Prim'd into being.
I love our founder story because it underscores how so much of the beginning stages of a new brand are really just about chasing the work.
And by chasing the work, I mean this: creating a great brand is just about chasing your clients. It's about furiously listening to those clients. It's about starting with something small, and thinking of it as an "experiment." It's not about getting it right, or making it perfect. It's about finding a way to keep moving, keep listening, keep creating.
When is too little too little?
I'm answering this because I know I've given some of you heart palpitations. It's too little when the quality is bad. It's too little when your people don't understand who you are. When they don't understand what you're selling. When there isn't a place to get in contact with you or give you money. It's too little when it's sloppy. When links are broken, or the technology doesn't function how it's supposed to. It's too little when the images on your site tell a story that's completely unrelated to what you're doing.
I'm not going to go too far into this, because the reality is that most of our clients are high achieving, perfectionist-tending, passionate people. So more often than not, our job is to tell them to just get it out there already!
If you're looking at your product, program or package, and your stomach is turning because "I just need another week!" ...GET IT OUT THERE ALREADY.
I could probably write a novel on this stuff, but that's enough for this week. What are you thinking about launching or creating? Where are you stuck?
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