5 types of MVP every product manager needs to know

As a product manager it’s important to test your assumptions quickly and bring live a minimun viable product with the least cost but good enough so you can learn from customers’ behavior. In order to propose an MVP, the product team will go through different product discovery techniques to identify customer segments, problems & needs, existing alternative and solutions.

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of a product with just enough features to be usable by early customers who can then provide feedback for future product developemt.

During my first years in product management I created many MPVs. Even though the product was an MVP, the development team still had to code, test and ship the product. If the results after the release were positive that was good news, but if the results were bad the work of the team was kind of waste…

I started wondering if there are better ways to create an MVP and validate assumptions easily. Luckily enough, I didn't have to reinvent the wheel as there are many types of MVPs out there. Below I list the most important ones that I found useful as a product manager.

Types of MVP:

1. Wizard of Oz is one of the best MVP types that creates an illusion of a fully functional product but secretly depends on manpower to deliver the solution. On the front end, you deliver the impression of a completely functional product; however, on the back end of the product, you have to execute all orders manually. A famous example is Zappos an online shoe retailer. In the earlier days of Zappos, Nick the founder, tested his idea before creating the product. He went to local stores, photographed shoes and advertised them online. He created a very simple website and spend a small budget in ads to get traffic to his website. If a pair of shoes was sold, he returned to the store, bought it, and sent it to the customer. From customer’s side, it looked like a full functional website with a variaty of shoes! The idea turned out to be so successful that Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion in 2009.

Wizard of Oz

2. Explainer Videos are short online videos used to explain the company’s product or service or even a concept. This way the product team can test if there is interest for the service and get the first early adopters to test the solution. This is exactly what Dropbox did, when the founder of Dropbox got the idea for the product we know today. He created a video explaining the complex concept of synchronisation of files across devices and place it in the landing page. If potential customers were interested in the product will provide their email and they will get notify when the product is ready. The rest is history…

Dropbox video

3. Landing Page can be used for a new concept or feature to test if users are interested on them before it’s being developed or during the product development. Imaging that you want to develop a functionality that automatically labels images of photographers. Instead of going straight to development of the algorithm, go to your company’s website and add a description of the feature you are trying to implement. You can ask the email of the interested customers to inform them when the feature is ready or measure the clicks on that item. This will give you an indication if the feature you have in mind is a popular one. Now, that doesn't mean if a customer gives his email or clicks to find out more that he is going to actually buy the service so be careful on your validation.

Landing page flexibility

4. Mechanical Turk is a type of mvp that gives the impression of an automated service but using manual effort behind the scenes. For example, imaging that you are thinking to create a chatbot functionality for your product. Before starting this AI functionality and spending hours of development you can use a couple of agents that reply to customers via a chat on real time. This way you can validate the value that this service adds to your customer experience before developing it.

Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk)

5. Concierge MVP is a manual MVP that helps a user accomplish a goal in order to validate whether or not the user has a need for what you want to offer (a product or a service). Manuel Rosso is CEO of Food on the Table, a product that specialized in generating shopping lists tailored to the individual’s needs and preferences. Manuel didn’t even have a product or website in the beginning. Instead he would sell the service for $10 a month in person to shoppers, then generate the recipes and grocery lists for them in person while accompanying them around the store. This way he tested the need for a product before building it.

Concierge MVP

During the years I have tried different kind of MVPs but the above are the ones I used the most. If you are interested in more types I have found a great article and here is the source.

What about you? Which types of MVP you use? Feel free to share your examples and lessons learnt.

Product Manager, Innovator, GIF lover