Not every growing and profitable startup is innovative. Startups can replicate, upgrade, repurpose and/or build innovative solutions. For those who are looking to upgrade existing solutions with better, faster and cheaper ones, you can skip the MVP and instead, start with a prototype.

Prototyping

Existing solutions don’t need a simulation as they are already in use. Potential buyers are aware of their needs and the problems they face from using the competition. A prototype helps in demonstrating and selling early. Take your iPad and visit with these customers to show them how your product is going to solve the problems they face today. I have used Bryan Johnson’s example before but here it is again. Bryan, who founded Braintree, knew exactly what customer pain points are. He met and asked 10 targets if they would be interested in switching if he solved those problems, 6 said Yes. Bryan didn’t even need a prototype. Prototyping better, faster, cheaper products helps you demonstrate the upgrade and put buyers into perspective.

Building an MVP for products that have no significant competitive advantage over existing solutions can hinder your acquisition instead of providing you with valuable insights. Existing consumers would be ready to switch if you SHOW them how your solution is better, faster, and cheaper (not necessarily the 3). All you need to do is SHOW which can be accomplished using different prototyping methods and tools.

Storyboard

Using Invision, sheets of paper, Balsamiq, powerpoint and other storyboard like tools can give users a good feel for the usability and features of the product.

Landing Pages

The main objective of a landing page is conversion. It’s about providing visitors with all the compelling arguments to help them move from one stage to the other such as registering for a webinar, joining a list, making an appointment or others. Landing pages, in my opinion, are a lot more useful than a simple conversion. Validating user needs and prototyping can also be accomplished through landing pages. Create product simulation by taking users through the features as if they truly existed.

Prototyping Tools

Many tools nowadays provide you with all the necessary drag and drop functions to build a web or mobile prototype in no time and without writing a single line of code. Some of these tools are Bubble, Webflow 3D Transforms, Treeline, Pixate, and Appy Pie.

Customer Advisory Board

The best way to validate an upgraded solution, get feedback, insights and expectations is by forming a customer advisory board (CAB). This group of customers acts like a panel of trusted users who, in this case, are promised a better solution than what they currently use. This group will help you understand the complexities faster and in turn define product requirements sooner, build quicker and test with target buyers internally before you go to market. Free product, special service, and other benefits can be awarded to this group in exchange. 

Build The Minimum And Not Just The Necessary

MVPs include only the necessary, often core, features. This may not be sufficient to provide buyers of existing solutions with a compelling reason to switch even if your set of necessary features are an upgrade to existing ones. Define The Minimum set of features that users expect while focusing on your upgraded ones. In sum, keep the minimum but focus on The Necessary as an upgrade. This does not apply to features that are meant to be used as a plug-in or product integration. In this case, an MVP can help you get the validated learning you need.

Conclusion

A prototype, though commonly used as a pre-MVP version, can be the link between an idea and consumable products. This is usually the case for solutions that aim to create better, faster and cheaper products.

  • Use storyboards, landing pages, and prototyping tools to incorporate product features.
  • Form a Customer Advisory Board to refine hypotheses, define requirements and prepare for product development.
  • Build a combination of minimum and necessary upgraded features.

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