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Today we’re talking about your MVP. No, not Lebron James (or Damian Lillard), but instead your Minimum Viable Product.
Awhile back I mentioned something in parentheses about how “done is better than perfect.” Anyone who’s worked with me has heard me say that more than once. I know it sounds a little bonkers because this is a perfectionist industry where the words “pixel perfect” bounce around a lot.
But what I really mean when I say that is focus on what your minimum viable product is—what’s the floor it will take to launch/test/try your thing?
And I don’t mean that your website should look like garbage, or your work should be sloppy, or anything like that. What I do mean is that sometimes—actually, a lot of times—the desire to “go big or go home” or make a big idea absolutely 100% perfect, with every possible variable planned for, is actually keeping folks from launching their darn thing.
I’ve seen it over and over again: imperfect copy, mediocre photos, an incomplete portfolio, “not enough” inventory (trust me, you have enough if you’re just starting out unless you’re Warby Parker), these all are roadblocks people have thrown up to keep themselves from moving forward with sharing their big idea with the world. And that’s truly lousy.
Text can be tweaked, photos can be reshot, portfolios can be added to, inventory can be developed. What can’t be recaptured is momentum.
So that’s why over the last couple of years, my thinking has evolved from perfectionist weirdo, to being a massive fan of the minimum viable product or MVP.
As you probably know, I’m all about sharing and transparency, and like to use examples from my own business experiences, successes and, err, failures. One of my favorites that radically changed my thinking is when Kath and I launched our Design in a Day™ program.
In late 2016, we had this nebulous idea of “a thing” that would enable clients to get themselves launched online quickly. Maybe because someone had an event or meeting coming up and they needed to have a website up. Or they had an idea they wanted to move on quickly, so a long, drawn out process wouldn’t work. This was our first dive into this notion of the minimum viable product, though we didn’t have that verbiage in our vocabulary then.
So, we invented a process, created an admittedly-terrible sales page (oh boy, we had a big miss on who our audience would be) and started asking folks who had tight deadlines if something like this would for for them. Amazingly, people starting not only saying yes, and they loved it. We continued to refine and tweak and debrief after each of our Design Days.
And eventually our minimum viable product, Design in a Day™, became a vehicle for a minimum viable product for our clients. One that allowed them to launch their big idea/business/dream.
Now I’m a true believer. I’m constantly talking to consulting clients about minimum viable products, how to put their thing out there and see if it lands with a reasonable investment of time and financial resources.
So, in that spirit, here’s a list of ways you can launch your big idea using the minimum viable product model:
Put a podcast up on anchor.fm – this is an easy peasy way to start talking about a thing that interests you. Our clients Arrow Birth did this well before their online course and membership launched and it’s a great way to build an audience before you launch something bigger. Anchor is very easy to use, which makes it appealing as an MVP.
Start blogging on Medium. Have a passion project? Medium is a dead simple platform to start publishing about things you care about. It’s essentially free, and setting up your blog is no biggie. You can eventually export your posts onto your website when you’re ready.
Start a 100 Day Project on Instagram. Our colleague Kath has done this several times and it’s so freaking cool! It’s very creative and a fabulous way to practice a thing and see if it has legs. I even know two people who’ve gotten book deals thanks to 100 Day Projects!
Build a one page website on Squarespace or using a one page template in Elementor/WordPress. Just put your idea out there and see if it resonates. (Hint: It probably won’t at first—you’ll need to tweak, but that’s part of the process.)
Start a monthly/weekly/daily newsletter about your thing. (MailChimp is free, but ConvertKit is more awesome.) This is a great option for folks who have a day job who are thinking about going out on their own eventually. It keeps your content semi-private from prying eyes but can build asymmetric intimacy with your audience. It’s also great practice for writing about your ideas and finding your voice.
Post tutorials or how-tos on YouTube if you aspire to eventually launch an online course. If you you prove to your audience that you can teach and engage, they’re more likely to trust you when you launch a paid course.
Already have an audience thanks to a blog, podcast, newsletter or just your professional reputation but never tried to monetize that expertise? Try offering one-hour consulting sessions about your area of expertise. Acuity makes is super simple to book, pay and ask questions. People LOVE that they can simply get good advice with no obligation and no risk of high pressure sales.
Want to see if you’ve got a knack for teaching with an eye to perhaps teaching workshops? Host a free webinar on Zoom.
Already have an established business? Take your most popular client request and turn it into a productized service and beta test it with a few people at a reduced rate. See if it has legs. Maybe it does. Maybe it’s terrible (been there, done that). Maybe it has potential but you will need to tweak it. But you won’t know unless you try and test it.
You get the picture. There are lots of ways to to see if your idea has legs. It may suck. There may be crickets. But it may also be awesome. Don’t let waiting for a big perfect launch hold you back.
Embrace the MVP. Just do the thing.
Have a question about Minimum Viable Product? Lots of folks book strategy sessions with me to hash out issues like this.