So you’ve had what you think is a good business idea for WordPress and you’d like to turn it into a service and plugin, huh? Well, first of all, congratulations on your entrepreneurial spirit. It’s always good news to see that people decide to move from theory to practice and start a new project with enthusiasm (something we’ve been doing for a while, btw).
In this post I would like to help you a little in these first steps, sharing our experience with you and helping you focus your efforts on something that’s really productive and can be translated into real money as soon as possible. To do this, I’ll tell you about the Minimum Viable Product: what it is, what it is for, and how you can create yours. And to make things more real and less abstract, I’ll also share how we moved from an idea to our first MVP with Nelio Content, the most recent service we have launched. So let’s get started!
The Idea ?
The first thing you need to create your own business is a business idea. Unfortunately, there’s little I can do here to help you—finding the right idea is something that depends on you, your context, and your experience. But if you’re short of ideas, don’t despair! My partner Ruth wrote a fantastic article about the idea-generation process—she discussed the topic in the context of finding ideas for your blog, but the tips and tricks she shares apply to any kind of ideas, so they might help you here.
Back in 2016, we decided we wanted to launch a new service to grow our portfolio. At that time our blogs were a total mess—we had too many of them and creating quality content on a regular basis was impossible. So thinking about how to simplify our setup and the efforts a blog entails, we had the business idea that would end up becoming Nelio Content: create a service that simplifies the management and promotion in Social Media of WordPress blogs.
Business Opportunity ?
Now that we have our business idea, it’s time to get down to business and implement that idea into a real product. And the better and the more premium features it has, the more likely it’ll become a huge success! Or won’t it?
Not so fast, buddy. I’m happy to know you trust your business idea blindly, because if you don’t, what’s the point in creating a business in the first play? But I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: odds are against your succeeding. I’m not telling you this because I think your idea is bad or because I don’t trust your abilities—it’s simply what statistics show:
Nine out of ten startups will fail. This is a hard and bleak truth, but one that you’d do well to meditate on. Entrepreneurs may even want to write their failure post-mortem before they launch their business. Why? Because very optimistic entrepreneur needs a dose of reality now and then. Cold statistics like these are not intended to discourage entrepreneurs, but to encourage them to work smarter and harder.
So what’s going on here? Well, basically you don’t really know if your idea can translate into a real business or not. You think you do, of course, but the truth is you don’t. To get that insight, you need to find your product-market fit, look at your competitors, validate your business model, work on your marketing and sales strategy, create a brand… that is, there’s a lot of work to be done that’ll cost you time and money and whose sole purpose is to check whether your idea will work in the real world!
Luckily for you, there’s a magic formula that costs less money and is faster than classical methods and will let you validate your business idea: a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
Minimum Viable Product (MVP) ? » ? » ?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is the Minimum Viable Product? One of the definitions I like best is the one Chris Lema gives in his blog:
An MVP is a complete, and yet narrowly defined and scoped, product that allows you to test your market to see if there’s a fit. In other words, it’s the least expensive, practical way to really know if customers will pay for what you’re creating.
Sure, there are easier ways to determine if people will pay for your service. For example, you can do a survey of potential customers and see what they say. But if we listen to our beloved House M.D., we will immediately realize the stark reality: people lie. So don’t trust the person who tells you “hey, this is an awesome idea, I’d definitely pay for it”, because they might not.
An MVP is, as we said, the simplest possible product that implements your value proposition and aims to validate if there’s a product-fit. Or, plainly stated, if there’s people willing to pay for it. The image above perfectly exemplifies what an MVP is and what it isn’t. If the product we want to create is a “vehicle to move around”, a single wheel or a chassis are not very helpful. These are all parts of a “vehicle to move around”, of course, but they aren’t good for anything on their own. Now, a skateboard is a completely different story. It’s clearly worst than a car in terms of comfort and features, but it gets the job done. It’s a vehicle that helps me move around. It’s a great MVP. And if that works, I can then move to a bike. Next I’d be able to build a motorbike. And in the end I might be able to build my final product: a super awesome car. See where I’m going?
When we decided to implement Nelio Content, the idea we had was very ambitious. Remember that our goal was (and still is) to create a tool that automates and simplifies as many tasks as possible related to the management and promotion of a blog. This includes searching and organizing ideas, promoting on social media, analyzing the quality of posts, proposing content changes, providing analytics of interest and retention, and much more. Did the MVP have to have all this? Of course it didn’t!
How to Tell What an MVP Should Include
And finally we come to the crux of the matter and the reason why I imagine you’re reading this post. How can you know what an MVP should include and what things should be ignored for the time being. As Chris Lema tells us, just keep in mind this: “the MVP is not for your customers; it is for you“. That is, its goal is to validate if your business idea can translate into a real business opportunity.
In order to determine what your MVP should include, there’s a magic four-step recipe:
- Be very clear about what you want to prove. If what you want to test is whether people is interest in a service that simplifies the sending of messages on social networks, perhaps a web in which they can contact you and generate a lead (without even having the plugin yet) can suffice. Or, if you want to test if they’d subscribe to a service, create the simplest plugin possible for people to send messages from WordPress, promote all the advantages of automatism that one day you will add to that tool, and see if anyone really subscribes.
- Be careful with your resources. This one’s easy, if you’re mindful with step 1. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time building and launching your MVP. Chris Lema recommends spending less than 10 hours in doing so. If that’s too little time, I’d recommend that you create an MVP in less than 10% of the time required to build the whole product. Do you think your idea would take one year to be fully implemented on your own? Build the MVP in one month.
- Invest some resources in marketing. All the MVP is about getting your first customers. If they don’t know you exist, you won’t have any. So part of the creation of an MVP includes a minimal marketing strategy: adwords, some paid review of the MVP (where they indicate that it’s an incipient project but with a lot of potential, of course), and so on. Don’t forget the customer, especially not in this stage. Make sure that you promote the MVP properly!
- Work iteratively. If your MVP fails, discard the idea and work on the next one. But if it’s a success, don’t assume that you’ve already proven customers will love it and fully invest on it. Instead, improve it gradually. Your MVP showed there’s some people interested in your idea, and that’s great. Now make it slightly better. Don’t spend 11 months in the full product; spend just one extra month to add that cool feature. Go step by step. Remember the picture I showed you before? They didn’t go from the skateboard to the car in one step; they gradually improved the product. And so should you!
So there you have it! The magic recipe to create your first MVP. May the force be with you, Padawan.