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How I built my first MVP in less than 1 week (and how you could, too)

In my first article, I came up with a series of risks and hypotheses to test in order to build a successful product and a great company.

In his book “The Lean Startup”, Eric Ries explains that a startup is in fact a series of untested hypotheses. Each of them have to be tested, starting with the very first one.

If the first one is proven to be wrong, then the rest of the plan is wrong.

In the book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development” the author goes further and explains that each MVP is in fact a way to test each risk.

1) How I came up with my first MVP

I’ve identified in my risk analysis table that my number 1 risk is that the problem that I think my potential customers (medium-size ecommerce companies) are facing is not painful enough. Or even doesn’t exist.

I could have sent surveys to hundreds of experts in the field of ecommerce or to ecommerce professionals to validate my problem hypothesis. I would have created an online form with the typical customer development questions and prayed for people to answer what I wanted them to answer.

My issue with this method is that it wouldn’t have necessarily validated (or invalidated) my hypothesis. In “The 7 day startup” the author explains that, unless your customers are actually paying for your product (with money or other type of currencies), no hypotheses are actually validated.

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Screenshot from The 7 Day Startup Website

People are too nice and don’t want to hurt you. Words are just words. Especially if they come from friends and family.

For all I know, the product I’m fantasizing about is probably far from what my potential customers are fantasizing about. My job now is to find out what product they all secretly want to pay for.

I’ve therefore chosen to make customers pay for my MVP in order to validate my first hypothesis.

However, there is one little problem. I’m planning to build a SaaS product, but I am not a developer (even if I’m learning Ruby and the Ruby on rails framework). I also don’t want to invest a large sum of money to build a product yet and I don’t want to wait 3 months or more to validate my first hypothesis.

2) How I built my first MVP

What I hope will be my final MVP, a software that customer data into multi-channel marketing campaigns, is in fact what I think to be the best solution to the problem my customers are facing.

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The good news is that I can be the software. I have extensive experience helping online retailers analyse their customer data and come up with recommendations for example. I’m confident this set of skills can be a great first MVP.

In fact,

  • I can analyse customer data using a business intelligence tool,
  • I can then segment the different customers using this same tool,
  • I can build multi-channel campaigns using different marketing automation tools,
  • I can create reports for my clients with the KPIs that matter to their business and the results of their campaigns.
  • Each month, data will be re-analysed, campaigns will be updated and reports will be created.

For a monthly fee, my customers will retain more and more of their customers thanks to automated campaigns created around their own data.

3) How I’m promoting this first product

Now that I know what I’m selling, I can spend most of my time finding customers to talk to, empathize with and hopefully sell to.

In order to do this, I’ve identified several areas to promote my first MVP.

– Choosing a name

There are lot of articles out there on how to find a great startup names (this article from Joel from Buffer is my favorite). However, I didn’t want to spend weeks or months brainstorming the perfect name (I tend to procrastinate on things that don’t matter in order to delay working on the difficult important things).

A name can be changed quite easily.

It took me only an hour to find mine. Yes, it could be better, but I’m quite happy with Slices.io.

I came up with this name by writing on a sheet of paper all the features and benefits my product will convey (that’s how Joel from Buffer came up with the name buffer).

One of this feature was the ability to “slice and dice” customer data automatically. I thought that “slice” was quite a catchy word.

So I searched for a simple domain name that included the word “slice”. I quickly found that slices.io was available and quite cheap so I bought it straight away (for $69).

I would recommend you to not spend too much time on the name of your first MVP. What matters at this stage is talking to potential customers.

– Structuring the website

I needed a landing page to describe and sell my first product to potential customers.

I figured out that I only needed 2 pages: the main landing page selling my story and a simple pricing/signup page.

For the main landing page, I used a structure that I find extremely useful and that you probably heard of before.

Problem: describe the problem in the word of your readers.
Current solution: describe the solution your readers are currently using to solve their problem.
Why is this a wrong solution: explain why the solution they are using is the wrong solution.
Correct solution: describe the correct solution to use.
Proof: explain why this is the correct solution.

It took me a few hours to write the first version using this simple plan.

I then drafted a very simple wireframe on a few sheets of paper to illustrate the text with a few pictures. You shouldn’t need any kind of wireframe tools at this stage.

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– Building the website

I’m familiar with WordPress.org (how to install it and how to customise a few things) but I’m not able to do everything that I want on this platform.

Also, I didn’t want to spend too much time on creating a simple landing page (not more than a few hours).

So I chose Unbounce to do the job. Unbounce is a software allowing you to build beautiful (and now responsive) landing page in minutes. It is free to use for a month and then costs $60.

I was already familiar with Unbounce so there was no learning curve for me.

It took me a few hours to build the 2 pages on Slices.io. I used a few royalty free pictures on this website to illustrate my pages.

I could have spent more time on those pages – they could look much better – but the aim was to create a page that could help me sell, fast.

– Building the blog

Once again, I’ve chosen to keep the blog as simple to manage as possible. What matters is the content.

I’ve created my blog on Tumblr, and linked it to the subdomain blog.slices.io.

I’ve chosen a free minimalist theme and the Slices.io blog was set up!

– Enabling payment

I could have chosen to incorporate this after talking to a few potential customers but I chose to create a payment method straight away onto my page for 2 reasons:

  • it builds a little bit of credibility,
  • and it takes only 15 minutes.

I registered a business account with Paypal, created a subscription plan, copied and pasted the embed code into my pricing page – et voila!

4) Next steps

The next steps for me is to talk to potential customers, ecommerce experts, and influencers in order to sell my first MVP.

I will give an update on this very soon.

5) Questions

Do you think creating a SaaS MVP with no software is a good idea?

How did you come up with your first MVP?

I’d love to hear your story!

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