How to Build Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)
Know why it should matter
The way to make the minimum lovable product (MLP) is hidden inside the product development cycle. How to do it right? Some tips and tricks are shared by Bartek Bogacki (CTO @ Roq.ad) and Paweł Sałajczyk (Head of Product @ Landingi).
In the world of startups, the competition is very high. The reputation of the new company does not depend only on a good pitch, finance plan, or business strategy.
The product becomes the primary reason for the investment and final outcome of the business operations. It shall be designed for a certain target audience, directly answering customers’ requests or problems. Jiaona “JZ” Zhang, the PM with experience in Airbnb & Dropbox shares her ideas about the product which will make an outstanding impression in First Round Capital blog:
“If startups truly want to stand out, they need to strive toward creating a minimum lovable product instead,” she says. The idea of the MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) shifts the attention from business operations to the end-user expectations towards the quality of service.
Where should you start, in order to end up not in the simple MVP, but MLP?”
Start with “Why”
The answer is — start from the research or… “Start With Why”, a wonderful book by Simon Sinek can help in dealing with this task and finding out the core values/features of the product. It can be a fundamental feature or as well as the main concept.
Research should be concentrating on the target audience, competitors, and currently available open-source resources on the market. Defining the target audience preferences and adjusting the product development cycle accordingly is the key to a successful cutting edge technology business.
“In Roq.ad we are using “Five whys” method. We have figured out that with “One why” the answer is too shallow and is simply not enough”, says Bartek Bogacki, the CTO of Roq.ad.
How does the “Five whys” method work in practice?
Roq.ad is an advanced marketing technology startup, which allows targeting online ads to real people, instead of the devices. Roq.ad is generating the Identity graphs and is fully compatible with Google Analytics 360, which is being used by the top companies worldwide. In simple words, it improves the customer experience and optimizes marketing costs thanks to cross-device analytics.
The product is dedicated to the Enterprise sector, so I have asked Bartek why did they start working on this idea and how they ended up with the current product:
“First of all, Carsten Frien [the Roq.ad CEO] and I were working in the enterprise marketing technologies business before Roq.ad. The idea itself came up within years of constant communication with our current customers.”
Between the idea and ready-to-use technology is a whole process.
“To nail it successfully, we apply the Dr. House Approach, also known as “everybody lies”. Just to clarify, in product management it means that the assumptions of the user might be wrong. The direct mirroring of customer expectations into technology is not always the best option. Remember, you are the one responsible for the interface”, continues Bartek.
When it comes to “How”?
Do not start mapping the technology from the solution itself. Leave the room for a creative approach in solving the given problem and brainstorm the ideas with team members. Decide how you will communicate with the end-users in order to receive constant feedback and simultaneously adjust your product development plan.
Paweł Sałajczyk, the Head of Product from Landingi, has been in the company from the very beginning. Paweł has developed an operations plan for managing a complex product development process in the SMB sector.
Landingi is a highly rated software, which allows creating outstanding landing pages for non-programmers. The range of integrations is making the solutions highly adjustable to the needs of SMEs as well as Enterprise customers. So, how does the product mapping day-to-day work in Landingi?
“When you map the core product, it’s about the interviews with the first 10–20 potential customers. You aim to receive direct expectations and map those in the MVP. A user’s repetitive behavior is formed later, which allows finding certain patterns in software usage. Developing MLP requires defining the behavioral patterns which lead to continuous engagement with the created software.” says Paweł.
How to turn feedback into a software enterprise product?
Learn from your first users and potential customers during the closed beta stage. Listen to their struggles and adjust the product. It will eventually leave you with a group of loyal customers, who will support the company at all times.
First users very often shape the future of technological companies. Think about it in a way that the first interviewed customers would have a different idea for MLP, depending on the background and cultural differences. Where are the interviewed people coming from? What do they do? Are they going to pay for the product? Most importantly, how will you manage the process when the feedback is received daily?
“Listen to what customers say and simplify it in technological solution”, Bartek Bogacki
When you have collected pure feedback and identified the pain you should start thinking about the next two problems:
- Technological: how to build a technologically advanced solution?
- Business: how to properly outline the business efficiency of applied technology?
“Technologically, we were willing to create an analytical tool that pictures a single persona cross-device better than any other solution on the market. The starting point was the API solution for DSP and SSP platforms optimizing real-time bidding. Primarily, we had decomposed the problem and reached our goal. The information was delivered in less than 10 milliseconds. However, customers wanted to receive the highest possible accuracy, even with the potential delay up to 24 hours. So we have concentrated on the quality of collected data and applied machine learning in order to win the market. Currently, the customer is able to collect and analyze data at any time”, continuous Bartek.
How to manage product feedback in the software SMB sector?
Building an MLP requires listening to customers. However, what does it exactly mean and how to apply it in practice?
Paweł, “Landingi has a customer-centered approach when it comes to product mapping. We have to be flexible on the feedback sources and strict on the analytics. Our product is being used by thousands of customers worldwide. The practical approach requires feedback data synchronization. For this purpose we use Productboard”
Let’s check the three examples of the feedback sources and explore what tools are being used in the Landingi product development cycle, provided by Paweł:
- Source #1: customer support tickets
It is the responsibility of the CSR to highlight the ways to improve and define the actual problem, based on the communication with the customer.
- Source #2: customer experience, using the Hotjar
By this time Hotjar and heat maps became an almost required solution for proper customer experience analytics.
- Source #3: behavioral analytics, Mixpanel
The engagement of users with the software can be measured.
“For each of the sources, there are defined key metrics. Key metrics from different sources are synchronized in ProductBoard, providing a single user impact score (UIS) for every feature. UIS allows clearly setting the prioritization in product development and structure the process itself. Last but not least, the product manager/owner has to synchronize the information and clearly understand what is the root of the problem. As well as, what would make the customers happy now and what will be needed in the future. Minimum Lovable Product may bring more and more love to and from the customers in case it grows on their feedback”.
“Design and test. Release when ready”,
How to Manage a Product Development Team?
Even the greatest plans have to be adjusted during the process. Give the freedom to your team to adjust the working environment. Keep communication transparent and straightforward. Also, make sure every employee understands the importance of his/her role, responsibilities, and duties. That said, as the plan takes shape, everyone has to have a feeling of own responsibility on how the project progresses. Simple questions to ask:
- Is the resource allocation in place?
- Is the value of the end product showed clearly?
- Does the Team feel confident to execute the plan?
- What are the possible risks?
The framework of the product planning cycle consists of four main components:
1. Research the context
Share the strategy and vision with the team. Describe the task, overview of the objectives, and deliverables. Check it with potential or current customers. Check the behavioral data.
2. Collect ideas and brainstorm
The team should respond with ideas. It should be a realistic strategy, based on resource/finance allocation, reports, user feedback. A brainstorming session is a must.
3. Integrate and Plan
Collect all the ideas and map a single plan. Set clear prioritization and deadlines. Share it with the team.
The team makes final tweaks, confirms buy-in, and gets rolling :)
I truly hope that you have enjoyed reading the article. In the meantime, make sure to check our 50+3 Solutions for Early-Stage Startups in order to keep track of work progress remotely.
bValue VC Associate; Passionate about social impact investments; Business consultant in private practice