How much time did you spend trying to articulate a long-term growth strategy for your startup? Probably a lot. Why? Because as an informed decision to win, strategy is often a lengthy process of distilling complexity into a relatively simple and actionable plan. That means that to reach that winning plan, you will have to carry out an extensive research phase, internalize vast amounts of information and only then extract the essential onto a single piece of paper, or an engaging deck of slides.
In this article, I will briefly describe why launching your startup with a Minimum Viable Product will provide you with a clear strategic direction for your digital idea’s long-term growth. By the end of this article, you should see that the simpler you decide to start your journey, the simpler the journey is going to get.
You will understand that building an MVP might not entirely substitute your need for additional strategic frameworks. Still, it will definitely help your business strategy development process by establishing an early customer-feedback loop, offering you a head start for navigating the complexity you will have to confront. Ultimately, you will acknowledge that, beyond saving time and resources, a Minimum Viable Product will shed clarity on the entire business processes that must be carried out to achieve profitability.
Without customer feedback, research on its own won’t get you a long-term growth strategy.
Clearly, you will need to conduct research to articulate a value proposition for your digital solution and identify the segment you want to target. Additionally, as part of the same initial research, a competitive analysis will help you define a positioning statement and reach a differentiation level relative to the other players on the market. Even so, as this entire research will be carried out prior to launching your actual product, you can only hypothesize about the validity of your findings, which means that whatever strategy you will define based on those findings, it won’t be 100% reliable.
With a product already on the market, you will have a much more accurate source of insights, as you won’t need to hypothesize anymore, but carefully observe your early-adopters’ behavior. Based on those clear findings, you will be able to validate your initial strategic direction and further augment it with insights rooted in real behaviors, not based on some presumptions.
But there’s a catch.
While it is true that having any version of the product on the market will get you customer feedback, you should wonder which version specifically would better complement your strategic development process? An Agile Minimum Viable Product or a Waterfall 2.0 type of product?
Sacrificing the Minimum Viable Product for a feature-crowded product will hinder your strategy.
There’s no doubt that the business context will always be complex, due to the many dynamic forces that act on it. However, as there have been developed a series of strategic frameworks, you might have a chance of easing this process by using some of them as tools to structure your thinking and guide you towards accomplishing the missions that you set for your startup. But, even with such frameworks, starting off with a feature-crowded product will make your life harder and most likely inhibit your strategy development process.
Just think about it.
You will be wasting valuable time trying to fully develop a complex product, and by the time it will hit the market, your initial strategy might be at risk of being outdated. Moreover, that valuable customer feedback will reach you after months, if not even years, and that only if you will do some pre-launch marketing, because how should people get on your platform if they have never heard of it?
Such sophisticated product will most likely hinder your strategic development process because you will have to wait for a long time to get that customer feedback that will complement your research. On top of that, as you won’t be working with small, incremental iterations, you won’t be able to refine your strategy along the way and ensure that you are delivering a solution that the users need.
A Minimum Viable Product will complement your strategic development process.
Now, you could heavily invest in researching and further releasing a feature-crowded product, or you could spend a fraction of that budget into building a Minimal Viable Product. That will help you validate your hypotheses and ultimately create a solution that would comply with your users’ needs.
Should you go with the latter, you will get actionable customer feedback sooner for a lower cost. You will also benefit from validating your initial strategic pathway by testing your product with real, organic use cases. Each iteration will have the market tell you what works and what doesn’t, based on both quantitative and qualitative data. Accordingly, having more clarity on your business goals, you will be able to set a series of metrics and crucial KPI’s, re-prioritize, and re-evaluate realistic milestones and consolidate your long-term growth strategy.
Strategy is complicated. A Minimum Viable Product will simplify it, bracing your startup long-term success.
Essentially, to define your business strategy, preliminary research might not be enough on its own, as this phase will mainly consist of hypotheses, and committing to a long-term plan based on presumptions might be too much of a risk. Alternatively, having a product on the market will create a customer feedback loop. This, in turn, will support you in crystallizing your strategy by validating all those initial presumptions, as well as enhancing your existing “winning plan” with insights rooted in real users’ behavior.
While you will get customer feedback with every product version you launch, you should aim to benefit from that as early as possible. For that to happen, launching an MVP seems like the best way to go. The reduced time-to-market will eventually translate in a faster and more up-to-date feedback that won’t fully substitute the need for other types of research when developing your strategy, but will definitely complement it.