Image via Devin Smith/Flickr

This is the mantra that has been pounded to the ground in order to get entrepreneurs focusing on their minimum viable product, otherwise known as MVP. Many people who adopt the lean startup approach interpret the MVP as the crappiest version of their product with that skims across the surface as a functional item. While it’s a great method to rapidly build an item or service, one thing folks tend to leave out is the customer experience.

It tends to put aesthetics, brand message, color, packaging, and many other things to the side as it’s considered less important than functionality. However, by putting time into these “secondary” areas, startups and businesses can see an increase in customer loyalty among other side effects.

Example: A trash bag is a MVP when you need to wear a top, but highly doubtful you'll create a following; unless you’re Kim Kardashian.

Being viable doesn't mean people will stick around long enough for the startup to fix its bugs, which hampers the next cycle of Build-Measure-Learn approach when it comes around. A MVP is typically exposed to early adopters who might be more forgiving of the prototype than the real market.

If you are going to test it on early adopters, you might as well build the bare minimum design as to release it into the wild right after the learning curve, especially with returning customers in mind. Returning customers are the best as they are a recurring revenue and have the potential of becoming brand advocates, thus lowering cost in marketing, customer acquisition, customer lifecycle, salespeople salary, and then some.

Brand advocates develop when clients love your service, or product, and want to see the company succeed. Don’t think what can you do to have customers stick around, but what it takes to keep that client for life.

Minimum Lovable Product — maximize the amount of love from customers with the least amount of effort.

Hopefully you have conducted the market research as to understand your target customers’ personality, behavior, interests, and other little details as to maximize the customer experience. If not, go outside, and become Nike.

Things to do upon returning from the voyage:

  1. Create the brand. The brand should revolve around the startup’s characteristics, value, desired word associations, empathy, and so forth.
  2. Boost the aesthetic appeal. Being generic is boring. It seems many startups took the first row of color in Microsoft Office, and ran with it. Take some time to choose the right color palette, typeface, icons, message, navigation, and customer interaction. Retain users by having a sexy looking product that works great under the hood.
  3. Have fun with small details. Add some personality into the HTTP 404, loading pages, smiley face when an online shopper adds something into the cart, and other small areas. As they say, the littlest thing can make you smile.

By taking the time to craft a MLP, you can:

  • Increase brand loyalty
  • Boost retention rates
  • Cut the bottom line
  • Save time from rebranding

Hopefully this inspires you to get out there, and develop your Minimum Lovable Product.

AuthorBrandon T. Luong