Minimum Viable Product · Positioning

MVP Positioning Issue

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

July 14th, 2013

I'm working on a V1/sorta MVP product that I can't figure out how to name or position. It turns out that the code to build V1 is on the path to the full product, but the V1 user functionality will ultimately just be a specific feature within the more mainstream product that will be developed later - and only usable by a small set of the users. 

The reason I'm doing it is that V1 is relatively easy to develop and monetize compared to full product.

The challenge is that this V1 functionality is going to irritate a couple larger publishers and this will likely play out in public - great for exposure and company brand development, but I'm concerned that it's going to establish a perception that I'm going to have to undo when the full product gets released. (V1 is targeted a small slice of the market and has a relatively unsympathetic value proposition, whereas V2 will be more of a populist product [but users will be able to sign up to the V1 functionality as part of V2]).
 
So I'm struggling how to build and position/launch this. The easiest is to do now is just do the V1 site as the company site and deal with market perception issues later. Alternatively, I can launch with a broader message but that's incongruous to the site people will see. I can launch with broader message and then have the site tease people with a broader message but the only thing people will be able to sign up for now is the V1 functionality. 

Thoughts?

John Wallace President at Apps Incorporated

July 14th, 2013

Do what Apple does. Always market what you are able to sell right now, and never talk or even hint about the future. 

Paul Travis Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development

July 14th, 2013

I've dealt with situations like this in my marketing consultancy, but usually the story has a different nuance -- monetization comes later.

If you can really monetize with your V1 / MVP, I would laser down on that and go full speed.  Let V2 be a "Plus" / "Premium" product that can tell a larger story.

The biggest challenge in startups is product-market fit and monetization.  Go with the blessing you seem to have :)

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

July 14th, 2013

From what I’ve seen, the message that will best resonate with your v1 adopter to drive their engagement/ conversion is the one you should use. Unless you’re super credible and resourced, most of your later adopters won’t take you seriously until you’ve got more traction and won’t pay attention enough to care what you do for v1.

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

July 14th, 2013

Thanks for the feedback... my gut says just go with the V1 and don't worry about V2. But here's a bit more color: 
V1 enables a relatively small number of people (no more than 10K) to act faster than the mainstream and acquire certain products before information is available to other people, including sellers. I am eliminating the traditional lag that both the information publisher and seller prefer to have. I monetize by charging users subscription fees. However, V2 is entirely dependent upon sellers playing ball and I have a much larger user base and do things in a way that is more seller-friendly. In V2, I monetize through a seller affiliate fee. So if I don't paint the larger picture when I launch V1, then sellers may assume I'm the enemy and be unlikely to work with me in order to create the V2 offering.
(I do have a propensity to over-think things, so please feel free to call me out on that.)

Kristann Orton Helping clients design at the intersection of business goals and technology needs | Innovation Catalyst

July 15th, 2013

Michael - Your business should have a brand and tagline with messaging that shows your broader vision for the company. This mission should be loud and clear in your homepage, your about page and in your company description included in all of your PR, and I would focus this message on the customer value / benefits of your solutions (rather than things like, "#1 provider in X industry"). Keep this separate from the product you are delivering, which can and should be focused on delivering a specific value proposition. Your product landing page should clearly articulate features and customer benefits for *this* product. Don't dilute the message by talking about the things that the product will be in the future as you will attract customers that will be disappointed. If you do both of these well, you should hit both goals of your V1: buzz for your company vision and customers for your V1 product. Cheers, - Kristann Kristann Orton kristann.orton@gmail.com 206.909.3972

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

July 15th, 2013

There's also a school of thought that would say to let the sellers get mad as a means of bringing them to the table. You could also position v2 as a pivot if the "pressure" builds. If it doesn't then it might just be a non-issue. Management consulting taught me to optimize the setup by picking the right platform and approach. Software taught me to not optimize the specifics prematurely. ------------------------- Vijay Goel, M.D. Principal, Goel Insights 310-492-5601 www.goelinsights.com Schedule time to talk: http://meetme.so/vijaygoel

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

July 15th, 2013

Thanks again everyone for the feedback. 

I believe that V2's adoption would have little to do with V1's adoption. There's also an argument that V1, as envisioned, is actually a bad idea. That's why I called it a "sorta MVP" because it's not really an MVP for V2. Maybe I'm better served by building an MVP strictly for V2. Maybe it takes a bit longer and is not instantly generating cash, but it's a more direct path to V2 and per Don's point #2 above, it accelerates the learning and pivoting necessary for the longer-term idea. Perhaps in the future, I can add the V1 features or, based on market response, maybe that never gets developed.

BTW, I don't mean to be opaque about the ideas... happy to share, but I wanted to make sure that the concepts were useful to everyone.



Don Daglow 3-Time Inc. 500 CEO, Technical Emmy® Award, International Speaker, Advisor at Founders Space accelerator

July 15th, 2013

My comments will align with some of the comments above, and this is an issue I've seen a number of times consulting for small start-up projects.

I like to break this into a series of questions you can ask yourself:

1.  Is there any way that V2 can be successful if V1 fails to get traction?  If V1's success is the only path to V2, then priorities are easy: V1 has to get what it needs because if it fails nothing else matters.

2.  How much user feedback do you have on V1's making users happy?  Before we even get to monetization we have to make users want to come back the next day to use the service again, and we have to make them want to tell their friends how great V1 is.  Without this kind of response monetization is a moot point.  If you haven't gone through the cycle of tuning in V1 so that it thrills your initial users I think you MUST have a plan that gives you both access and time to do so.  Otherwise you're basing everything on an untested plan, and in 25+ years of building online apps I've rarely seen an original vision that did not change a lot once we got real user feedback.

3.  Now we get to monetization.  Have you had the chance to run tests on monetization of features and/or services from V1?  If not, that's another area where you want to have had the chance to tune things with real customers before doubling down on your bets.

4.  Do you have time/resources to do a narrow territory rollout of V1?  For example, if you have the resources to do so you could do a rollout in Australia and New Zealand and perfect things there, while (to Kristann's point re messaging) preserving your options on market positioning in larger markets like North America.  You can also go live in Canada before doing the US for the same purpose.

Hope this helps!

Don

Jack Rose Founder at Colony

July 15th, 2013

I don't think you're necessarily over thinking it, as the success of your V2 product is contingent upon 'sellers' whom you may alienate with your v1, so how about a two pronged attack?

Launch your V1 to the public and simultaneously undertake direct outreach to the sellers to spin the perceived negative into a positive, demonstrating how the V1 functionality ultimately benefits them in the light of the V2.