June 17, 2022

Developing An MVP Launch Strategy

In 2010, if you were looking for an alternative to a pricey taxi cab ride, you were mostly out of luck. Unless that is, you happened to live in San Francisco and had an “in” with Uber founders Travis Kalanick or Garrett Camp. Back then, the product looked very different from the rideshare app you know today. The mobile interface was called “UberCab” and had an incredibly limited feature set. The service was only available in San Francisco, and you had to email one of the founders to gain access.

Within five years, the rideshare app was valued at over $60 billion and was active in more than 70 countries. Uber is an object lesson in the power of a good MVP launch strategy. By starting Uber as an MVP, its founders could better understand their target personas, both drivers and passengers. It made them better problem solvers and delivered insights into how their competition—traditional taxis—would react and the legal implications of being a disruptor.

The takeaway here? A well-executed MVP launch strategy can make your product soar. In turn, a poorly planned one can sink even the best product idea.

So, what factors should you consider when it comes to releasing your product into the world? This article explores the most effective ways of creating your MVP launch strategy.

Decide On Scale

Will you lean towards a friends-and-family launch or go all-in with a big bang? Kathryn Rosaaen, Manager, Product Development, 3Pillar Global, explains: “I’ve never found a situation where a friends-and-family launch was detrimental. I love this approach. It gets the dev team into a cadence of release, it gives you feedback, and it generally allows you to practice your “release/feedback” process. Think of it as a dress rehearsal, and who wouldn’t want that?”

However, it’s good to keep in mind that friends and family may not always be objective. If you want real-world feedback, you should explore other options. If you’re launching an enterprise MVP, you can implement an “early adopters” program offering select customers early access to a new product in exchange for feedback. A soft release ensures that you don’t disappoint your existing customers.

Unless you’re an enterprise with a proven audience, a soft launch is generally preferable to a hard MVP launch. What’s the difference?

With a soft launch, you’re releasing the product to a small and controlled portion of the target audience. The most significant benefit of this MVP launch strategy is that it reduces risks connected with product release. Starbucks plans to use only reusable cups by 2025. They implemented a soft launch strategy in select countries to gauge their success. During South Korea’s test run, they kept 200,000 cups out of landfills within 3 months.

A hard launch is typically on a larger scale and all-in. Due to the risk involved, it’s not advisable for an unproven startup. Marketing costs and other investments, combined with the promise of solving customer problems, make hard launches more difficult—and more costly—than soft launches. The hard launch’s value proposition needs to be more mature and targeted.

According to Business.com, “Large-scale hard launches might be the right choice for large companies such as Apple or Microsoft, who have the time, money, and resources for extravagant events and impactful commercials. However, for startups with limited resources and experience, I always recommend a soft launch or a targeted approach and scaling up later.”

Scott Varho, SVP, Product Development at 3Pillar Global, suggests considering a silent release in your MVP launch strategy, “Companies often make the mistake of announcing the day the product will deploy to a publicly available production environment. The deployment date and the launch date should have sufficient time for the team to work out kinks.”

Slack, the messaging app for teams, made the mistake of trying to launch too big, too fast. The product didn’t perform at scale, so they retracted and regrouped. Surprisingly, the company didn’t set out to create a communications platform for companies at all. They were creating a video game, and during the development of their in-game chat function, the team realized the potential of the feature.

Slack pivoted to friends at other companies and tweaked its offering before graduating to a larger audience and iterating further. Slack progressively grew the audience size based on what they learned. Co-founder Steve Butterfield says, “We begged and cajoled our friends at other companies to try it out and give us feedback. We had maybe six to ten companies to start with that we found this way.”

Set Goals & Monitor Feedback

Plan ahead and establish performance metrics in your MVP launch. Establish what you’ll do when results show good, okay, and poor metrics. A Product Roadmap helps you keep track of future features you plan to develop after determining your viable product.

Once you have your goals, you need to set specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure your product’s success. Your strategic MVP launch goals determine the KPIs you select to understand if it is a success or not. For example, if you want to earn a certain amount of money within a few months, you might use Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) to determine if you are successful.

According to 3Pillar Global’s Kathryn Rosaaen: “One of our clients decided to put a contingency plan in place when they launched a new shopping widget. If they found sales leads to decrease by more than 20% over the course of two days, they’d revert to the previous design. This did, in fact, happen. Because of the clearly communicated contingency plan, they were able to pivot and implement a ‘Plan B’ within 24 hours.”

Have a system in place in your MVP launch strategy to gather and carefully evaluate your feedback. It’s easy to jump the gun and try to react to every piece of feedback you get. But before you put a new feature in the backlog, think it through. Where is this feedback coming from? How many/what percentage of people are sharing the same notion? For how long have they been saying it? Can you back it up with data? User research?

Remember who your users are and the problem you’re aiming to solve. View feedback through this lens before acting on it, especially if you’re doing a friends-and-family launch. In the end, they may not be the same as your target market.

Things Will Go Wrong. Be Ready

One of the most important considerations for your MVP launch strategy is that things will invariably go wrong. So you must have conversations ahead of time. Engage in some “war gaming” so that your team is ready for hiccups in your MVP launch. Some potential obstacles might include an operating system update, an old browser version, or an edge case that wasn’t fully understood.

Knowing up front that roadblocks are a matter of when—not if—is key to making the most of your adventure toward success.

In these circumstances, the passion and efficacy of your response is what your early adopters will remember. Beyond your technical skills, demonstrating your company’s mettle will further distinguish your MVP and instill confidence in the team as well as the product.

So, how can you launch your MVP while ensuring your solution platform and or infrastructure is business resilient?

Start by creating a disaster recovery strategy. Since the best way to deal with a problem is to avoid having it in the first place, invest time in testing, testing, and more testing before your MVP launch. Another powerful preventative step is having escalation paths planned out before the launch. Having a preventative step in place will help you know who can handle different types of issues.

Of course, problems are inevitable. As you build your MVP launch strategy, plan for discretionary time and post-launch sprints to take on repairs without disrupting your product roadmap or quality. Take into account how quickly your DevOps can release a repair into production and assign resources to perform triage.

Additionally, if possible, build customer-care features into the product. Make it easy to detect or communicate with the product team when something goes wrong. Then, let your user know you’ve logged the issue and are on it.

Strive for Balance

Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. If you do, you’ll delay your launch and risk waiting to begin learning and iterating that someone else may beat you to market. Balance speed and flexibility with planning. Think fast, flexible, and focused.

You’re launching an MVP to learn as you improve your product. In other words, you won’t get it 100% correct right away. Entrepreneur explains, “When it comes to launching an MVP, progress is better than perfection.”

That said, do your homework. Only move forward with a relative degree of certainty. Lindsay Kloepping, Director, Product Strategy at 3Pillar Global, says you’re ready to launch “When you have a sufficient amount of functionality to help prove or disprove your hypothesis.”

Find a Balance Between Speed and Preparation

Your MVP launch strategy is a balancing act between quick iteration and effective products.

According to Business Collective, “The beauty of technology is that it allows for rapid iterations based on actual data, which allows you to respond to your user base. And a responsive mindset can drive engagement.”

The bottom line? Remember that your main goal is to begin learning and iterating as soon as possible while providing some value to the users.

To learn more about 3Pillar Global’s services and how we can help you create an MVP launch strategy, contact us today.

Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.

FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.