How Far Will An MVP Get You?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 9, 2013

Minimally viable product (MVP) is a strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature.   Some might say it’s a lazy man’s way of operating, but for a startup it’s a must.  Where does this fit with the enterprise landscape with involved workflows ?  Can you afford to try out features that may have a chance of failing?  Can you introduce new capabilities to an already overburdened email process littered with opportunities to make mistakes?  

 Over the years, the request for proposal (RFP) process for email platforms has gotten quite out of hand.  The average RFP we receive typically lists over 200-400 questions on all types of product functions and capabilities. Yet there’s something missing from this process: features you may need in the future, and how configurable capabilities are to your specific business needs, workflows and use models.  

How many of you marketers actually participate in the beta testing process with your technology partners?    How many of you really have input into what products are being developed?  How many have actually mandated the creation of small apps specific for your business?



It’s now a world of small apps. Some work for you today, some become obsolete fast.  But the functional use of these apps can guide and improve many aspects of the extensive campaign management process.  Most ESPS have essentially built feature upon feature on top of each other and then hope new user interfaces will make it easier to use.  I believe that is going to change dramatically in the coming years. 

I really like the app strategy for email and CRM functions.  Many things still need to be done the same way, but the utility of having apps will be critical as your business grows.   I believe the apps of the future will center around:

Mapping.  While it’s not a big deal to select audiences by Zip, state or DMAs, Google Like is useful for visualizing and mapping. 

Scheduling.   There’s a reason why there are so many scheduling and calendaring apps: different people operate differently. So there should be a diverse set of apps to support scheduling, calendaring functions, configurable windows and to be used by different marketing functions.  Is there one for email, one for direct mail, one for media flighting, one for social sites?

Content apps.   In email, you have content personalization, dynamic content, and now, real-time content, rendered on the fly.  I believe the content app will have separate parts to access the content process for VERY specific purposes like archiving, storage, content distribution.  

Workflow - Managing the tasks of email should be adaptable to each’s process. Each user should be able to configure her own workflow, not necessarily follow a standard set of steps that get complicated over time.  

I can see the future multichannel product, not an Enterprise platform with 1,000 features and cumbersome workflow and learning curves.  I see the future as a user-configurable set of apps that are connected and evolve on a per-use basis.  

The only thing that will stand in the way of this trend will be marketers’ unwillingness to accept risk.   With anything that is “minimal” comes the risk of it not doing everything you want.  Are you ready to take risks for the sake of innovation and progress?  If so, strive to be on the beta programs with your technology partners, strive to drive new uses and apps that are specific to your needs. And don’t wait six months to have it developed.   

As a buyer, you should ask yourself if you are asking the right questions to sift through the often very confusing innovation path.  MVP will get more out faster.  Is the market ready for the options and speed of the app marketplace?

Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation.” -- political economist Ben Friedman

1 comment about "How Far Will An MVP Get You?".
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  1. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, September 10, 2013 at 4:55 a.m.

    Minimum Viable Product is a guide, not "a must" for startups, because what startups really need is their first few real customers. These early adopters will almost always insist on a few changes to your product and if you refuse to go beyond you MVP then you will lose a lot of them and burn time and money that you can't afford while waiting for less picky customers to come along - if they ever do.

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