Bounce screenshot

What is an MVP?

Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) are tricky:

  • How “minimal” should yours be?
  • What does “viable” mean?
  • How do you keep it simple, without ruining your reputation?

MVPs only need to only do one thing. To understand that one thing, you want to understand the definition of MVP.

MVP is the new Beta?

Remember when “betas” were a thing – as in, “we’re working on our beta version”, “we just launched our private beta”, etc.?

In the last few years, that term has been replaced with “MVP” – “we’re working on our MVP”, “we just launched our MVP”, etc.

This is where the confusion around MVPs stems from…

MVP is *not* the new beta Click To Tweet

The original definition of MVP from Frank Robinson is:

A version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

In other words, your MVP is the version of your product with the highest ROI when you optimize for “validated learning.”

So how do you optimize for validated learning?

Test your “Riskiest Assumption”

For your business model to be successful, there are a number of assumptions that need to be true:

  • Customers know they have a problem
  • They want your help solving it
  • They will pay you to solve it
  • You can solve it
  • etc.

All of your assumptions can be prioritized in terms of “riskiness” where the assumptions that are most critical to the success of your startup, and/or are least likely to be true, are considered more “risky” than the other assumptions.

For example, “you can solve your customers’ problems” is critical to your startup’s success, but it’s very likely to be true (humans are natural problem solvers and since you’re a human, I’m confident you can solve your customers’ problems). On the other hand, “customers will pay you to solve the problem” is not only critical to your success, it’s also (unfortunately) less likely to be true – so you would consider that assumption more “risky” than the former.

Once you order your assumptions by their “riskiness”, to build an MVP, you build the simplest version of your product, that tests your riskiest assumption.

In other words, an MVP is:

A version of a product that allows a team to collect a maximum amount of validated learning of customers test their riskiest assumption with the least effort.

Notice how this definition changes the focus of an MVP from building a product, to running an experiment. That’s critical to understanding what an MVP is – remember that.

MVP or Not an MVP?

Use the examples to test whether you understand what an MVP is…

Example 1: Explainer video

Dropbox famously gauged demand for their product via a demo video that, thanks to some video editing, demonstrated functionality they hadn’t built yet.

What do you think? MVP or not an MVP?

Let’s look at the definition again:

A version of a product that allows a team to test their riskiest assumption with the least effort.

Does a demo video of functionality that doesn’t exist represent a:

  1. Version of a product that
  2. Tests the team’s riskiest assumption with the
  3. Least effort?

If Dropbox’s riskiest assumption was “people want a new service to sync/share files” and if it took less effort to edit video than it did to write code for the functionality that didn’t exist, then yes, this is an MVP!

As long as the riskiest assumption is being tested with the least effort, it’s an MVP.

If instead they’d built a simple version of their product (i.e. a pilot, a beta, etc.) and measured how many people used it everyday, the wouldn’t have been testing their riskiest assumption, and they wouldn’t have done it with the least amount of effort.

Example 2 – PowerPoint Demo

PowerPoint Slides

Let’s say you are going into a pitch meeting with a customer using a slide deck with mockups of your software. You’re not going to demo any functionality at all, you’re just going to talk about the problems you’ll solve while showing them some pictures, what do you think, MVP or not an MVP?

Recall the definition of MVP:

A version of a product that allows a team to test their riskiest assumption with the least effort.

As long as you’re testing the riskiest assumption during that meeting (e.g. “customers will pay us to solve this problem”) with the least effort (a slide deck is less effort than even making a video), it’s an MVP.

Keep in mind that a slide deck is just like a video – minus fancy transitions. If a video meets your team’s criteria for an MVP, a slide deck might too – especially in B2B scenarios.

If on the other hand you went into that meeting hoping the customer would create an account on your platform and try it during the meeting – you’d be testing the wrong assumption, and you’d have done so with far more effort than a simple slide deck. A working prototype wouldn’t be an MVP.

Example 3 – Landing Page

Landing Page

If you imagine a landing page is just like a PowerPoint deck that you scroll through instead of click through, then you can already tell, a landing page can be an MVP as well.

Again, you want to use the least amount of effort to test your riskiest assumption – as long as you’re doing that, you’re building an MVP.

Anything more than that, and you’re getting closer to a “beta” product, than an experiment.

Example 4 – Facebook Advertisement

Facebook Ad

If you capture the essence of a landing page in a FB ad, with a title, image, description etc., then…what do you think: MVP or not an MVP?

What was that definition again?

A version of a product that allows a team to test their riskiest assumption with the least effort.

So really, as long as you’re testing the riskiest assumption with the least amount of effort…you get the picture.

If we go back to the Dropbox example we can even see that depending on their riskiest assumption, they too could have used a Facebook ad to test this out.

If their riskiest assumption was, say, “people have problems syncing/sharing files” the Dropbox team may have been able to test that with a Facebook ad!

Example 5 – Simple App

Bounce screenshotA friend and I gave ourselves 24 hours to build a proof-of-concept app that would help people get to their appointments on time. It had basic GPS, traffic and calendar integration, rudimentary UI, and we only built it for Android.

It got written-up Forbes and as a result, we were able to collect the email addresses of 3,000 people who wanted the iPhone version.

What do you think? MVP or not an MVP?

To know the answer, we have to look where we always look…our riskiest assumption.

If our riskiest assumption was genuinely, “We can build the app”, then it would have been an MVP. The truth is though, our riskiest assumption was, “People will pay for this app” and there was no way for us to test that with this app.

So, no, despite the app being simple, newsworthy, and popular…it wasn’t an MVP.

If it doesn't test the riskiest assumption call it a beta/pilot/POC - just don't call it an MVP Click To Tweet

What’s your Riskiest Assumption?

Now that you know what your MVP needs to do, you just need to figure out your riskiest assumption so you can build one.

Good news! My post next week will tell you your riskiest assumption and the best MVP is to test it! Subscribe to get it in your inbox.

To Recap

  • MVP is not the new beta
  • Definition of MVP = (Say it with me…) The simplest version of a product that tests your riskiest assumption.
  • Before you build an MVP, you have to know your riskiest assumption.

Want More MVP Help?

This is the first of a four part-series on MVPs:

  1. (This one) What is an MVP?
  2. What Kind of MVP Should you Build?
  3. My 8 Favorite Tools for Building MVPs
  4. I’ll Fix your MVP: Send me your MVP and I’ll tell you what, if anything, to tweak to make it perfect.

Stay tuned for those.

Bonus: Want me to Review your MVP?

Leave a comment below with a link to your landing page MVP and if it provides a good lesson for others to learn from, I’ll post a video review of what you’re doing well, and what you might consider changing.

The videos will be public so you and the rest of the Customer Development Labs community will learn from them which this is an ideal opportunity for startups who are:

  1. Confident in their landing page MVPs and want other startups to see it or
  2. Not confident in their landing page MVPs and want help fixing it.

9 Landing Page MVP Tools You Should be Using

When it’s time to build your landing page MVP, make sure you’re familiar with each these tools. They’ll help you make the most of your experiment – without costing you much money.

Tool #1: Definition of MVP

Before you go crazy building a landing page MVP, let’s make sure you have an empowering definition of MVP.

If you’ve got the wrong idea about MVPs, not only will the rest of this article not make much sense, you won’t be able to leverage the true power that is the Minimum Viable Product.

Ready for MVP Tools #2 – 9? Take this 1 question quiz to find out!

What is an MVP?

  1. The simplest, valuable, version of your product.
  2. A functional prototype requiring the least development time possible.
  3. A version of your product that tests your riskiest assumption with the least effort.
  4. All of the above.

If you answered #1…congratulations, you get to read this blog post to get a more useful definition of MVP!

If you answered #4…good news! You also get to read a more practical definition of MVP – it will serve you well.

If you answered #3, you get the best news of all…you get to be correct!

Your MVP is any version of a product that tests your riskiest assumption with the least amount of effort.

For full details on why that is, read this article: What is an MVP?

As I discuss in the article above, there are several types of MVPs. This list of tools is covering one type of MVP: Landing Page MVPs.

You’ll use Landing Page MVPs for Currency Testing, which test the assumption…

Your customers want you to solve their problem so badly, they’ll “pay” to solve it.

In other words, Landing Page MVPs help you determine if you’ll be able to get what you need to achieve Product-Market Fit (e.g. revenue, usage, eye balls, data, etc.) in exchange for solving your customers’ problems.

Now that we’re all on the same (landing) page (you’re welcome ;), let’s talk tools…

Tool #2: Instapage


Instapage: A really great Landing Page creation tool which requires you know nothing about coding – plus it comes with A/B testing out of the box!


  • You can do just about anything with this platform (changing colors, text, headings, adding sections, images, video). Very flexible and sleek.
  • Mobile version is explicitly available for you to edit. You have full control over the look of your landing page on both desktop and mobile.
  • A/B testing is a first class citizen. It’s a lot like Unbounce – but prettier and mobile friendly.


  • No free plans. There is a 30 day trial though, and because they’re nice guys/girls, any of the links in this article will get you 20% off your first two months.
  • No sticky navigation bars at the top (but with basic knowledge of java script or html, you can get this)

Want to see Instapage in action and watch me create an A/B test in less than 2 minutes? Skip to the 5:40 mark in the video above.

Tool #3: Strikingly


Srikingly: Another landing page creation tool with some key difference from Instapage.


  • Really nice, polished templates and beautiful images
  • Sexier, sleeker feel to this website
  • Sticky navigation bars
  • Free account option (and other plans if you want more customizability)


  • No clicking-and-dragging (don’t have full control for changing the layout)
  • No A/B Testing built-in (but you can add it with…)

Check out the 8:40 mark of the video above to see a beautiful Strikingly landing page created before your very eyes.

Tool #4: Google Analytics Content Experiments


Content Experiments: Get yourself some free A/B testing.

You can keep your data in one spot (instead of spread across different platforms) and get all the benefits of Google Analytics functionality and tons of power.

Now, full-disclosure, I haven’t got to play with Optimizely yet, which I’ve heard good things about, but really, Google Analytics Experiments is such a great, free, tool, I haven’t needed to find another one.


  • Did I mention it was free?
  • No coding required
  • Integrates with the rest of your Google Analytics data (i.e. measure the success of your test using your Google Analytics goals/conversions)


  • Requires two separate versions of your landing page (other tools let you swap in individual components of a single page)
  • The URL gets messy (e.g. includes a bunch of parameters which can clue savvy users into the fact you’re running an experiment)

While I’ll definitely be playing around with other A/B testing tools in the future, I’ve used Google Analytics Contents Experiments in the past, will happily use them again, and can highly recommend them.

Check them out at the 10:20 mark in the video above.

Tool #5: Celery


Celery is, hands down, one of my favorites – the tool, not the vegetable. (The vegetable is gross)

Celery allows you to accept credit card-based pre-orders now, without actually charging someone’s credit card. Say what?!

With Celery you’ll validate that, not only will someone visit your landing page and click on your buy button, you’ll validate they’ll pull out their credit card and pay you for the product…before you’ve built it!

Best of all…

Celery lets you take payment information now, but charge later Click To Tweet

Celery lets you ethically test to see if you should create a product, based on customer behavior without accepting any prepayment money until you’ve proven that you’ve meet your success metrics.

The trick with Celery is to make sure you’re never misleading your customers. Your order process should mention that they are pre-ordering for a product, and after they’ve purchased you should tell them you haven’t charged them, but you will as soon as the product is launched.

If you end up achieving your MVP’s success criteria, great! You’ll build the product and charge the credit cards you’ve collected during your pre-order process.

If you don’t meet your MVP’s success criteria the product, email the few people who did pre-order your product that there wasn’t enough demand for the product and they won’t be charged.

Hint: Spending a little extra time working with this customer segment to solve their problem after giving them the disappointing news that you won’t be building the product they want will go a long way to ensure you don’t tarnish your reputation with them.

Like I say, I love Celery and used it for more than a year was testing the FOCUS Framework.

To see how you can take pre-orders from your new landing page in less than 60 seconds, check out the 12:15 mark of the video above.

Tool #6: PowToon


Powtoon is PowerPoint for explainer videos.

If you’re looking to create an animated video detailing your customer’s problems and how you’re going to solve – and don’t want to pay for a motion graphics artist – definitely check out PowToon.

PowToon has a free version that will let you create some very testable videos – perfect for optimizing your message.

It’s super easy to set up, customize and get a professional video for your product ready within minutes. To see me demo PowToon, click check out the 15:40 mark in the video above.

Tool #7: SumoMe Content Analytics


SumoMe has a fantastic set of tool for optimzing all kinds of things, but mainly I find that it’s great for it’s Content Analytics plugin which measures how far down your landing page customers read. This is super helpful for MVP -especially landing page- validation.

Content Analytics Shot

For a visual example using my own website, click check out the 18:50 mark in the video above.

This tool is great at helping you determine why your MVP isn’t converting at the rate that you need it to. Plus, when you use it with different versions of your website, you’ll be able to easily compare exactly where you’re losing users and where they’re sticking with you.

Tool #8: Product-Market Fit Assessment

These tools are tons of fun to play with, and can build some incredible landing pages – but how do you know if you should building a Landing Page MVP?

  • Should you be building a false door instead?
  • Maybe you should be building a Wizard of Oz MVP
  • Or maybe you’re ready to build a prototype..

How do you know which MVP you should be building? I built the Product-Market Fit Assessment to answer all these questions and tell you what validation phase you’re in:

For more information on any of these steps, check out the 5 Phases of Product-Market Fit or check out the 19:45 mark in the video above.

Tool #9: FOCUS Framework

All-BookshopsAt this point you know all the tools needed to create a fantastic landing page MVP. If you feel comfortable running an experiment with them, by all means, go forth and test!

Of course…

There’s a difference between knowing which tools to use – and how to use them.

Wood TurningI know I would use a lathe to make a set of table legs; that doesn’t mean I’d feel confident using it.

At the same token, if you want some help figuring out:

  • How to get people to visit your landing page MVP
  • What marketing copy you should test on it
  • What metrics your MVP should measure
  • How to determine the success of your landing page MVP (and what to do once you achieve it)

Ultimately, you already know that you should be building an MVP – the FOCUS Framework offers step-by-step instructions on how to do it.

In particular, the Currency Testing workbook will show you how to use Landing Page MVPs to:

  • Pre-sell anything (including B2B products)
  • Test your price without losing customers
  • Increase your conversion rate by charging more, not less

You can find more about the FOCUS Framework here or check out the 25:15 mark of the video above.

Time to Start Testing!

Armed with these tools, you’re ready to start measuring if you’ve got something your customers are willing to pay for.

Note: Except for FOCUS, which I authored, I have no relationships with these companies other than being a user/fan of their products (i.e. no kickbacks/referral/affiliate bonuses). These products made this list because I like them :)

What’s Next?

This is the third post in my MVP series:

  1. What is an MVP?
  2. What MVP Should You be Building?
  3. (This one) 9 Landing Page MVP Tools You Should Be Using
  4. Want MVP Help? Comment with a link to your landing page MVP and I’ll tell you what, if anything, to tweak to make it perfect.

Subscribe to get all of these posts in your inbox.

Get MVP Help

If you leave a comment below with a link to your landing page MVP, and if it provides a good lesson for others to learn from, I’ll post a (public) video review of what you’re doing well, and what you might consider changing.

  • Great opportunity for startups who want to share their MVP with other founders
  • Or for startups who are hungry for feedback

My next post will be a recap of what I see in the landing pages – and how to improve them!

The Sales Pitch is Dead. Long Live Solution Interviews!

You know the #1 Rule of Validating the Problem is…to not talk about your solution.

If that’s the case, how and when, do you pitch your solution? Watch this video for a quick walk-through on how to sell, without pitching (i.e. how to nail a solution interview).

When do you Pitch your Product?

The answer, for me, is easy:

The perfect time to pitch your solution is…never. Tweet this

Solving a customer’s problems, especially in the early stages, is a collaborative effort.

You need feedback on your solution. You need to know when it’s going to fail. You need to know who will use it, and who won’t. You need to know how much they’re willing to “pay” for it. That information won’t be found “pitching” a solution.

Pitching is inherently a one-sided affair – it’s a monologue, not a dialogue. We want a solution dialog.

Instead of pitching, try solution interviewing.

The Sales Pitch is Dead

In the B2B scenario, I replace traditional pitching with Solution Interviews.

Problem interviews validate problems. Solution interviews validate… Tweet this

Solution interviews provide insight on:

  • Will the solution work?
  • Where are the solution’s weaknesses?
  • Is your marketing copy right?
  • Is the price right?
  • Is she ready to buy?

The solution interview is where you move from “do my customers have a problem they’re trying to solve” to “can I build a business solving this problem?”

Pitching is dead. Long live the Solution Interview! Tweet this

The 3 P‘s of Solution Interviews

Note: watch the video for a full description of these phases.

  1. Problem Reflection – This is a chance to recap the points from your Problem Interview and allow the customer to refocus on the problems that they need fixed. The problems reflected should of course be carefully selected from all the problems you discussed in the Problem Interview. They should be the problems that you know you have a solution for!
  2. Proposing a solution  – Your aim here is a discussion, a consultative approach as opposed to a one way, one-woman show! You are starting a conversation based on the common ground established in the Problem Interview and honestly asking for feedback on the potential solution/s you have come up with.
  3. Progress – Once you have the problems recapped and you’ve discussed the potential solution, it’s time to agree on the next steps. This will be your common “To Do” list featuring all the key moves to get you and your customer to A Problem Solved!

You will want to run the Solution Interview at a different time, post the Problem Interview. This will allow you the time to reflect on issues raised and identify the problems you can solve. The time to come up with the optimum solutions for the customer and put together a viable action plan. This type of approach will ensure you NEVER have to pitch again and as a result, eliminate the uncertainty of will they/won’t they get back to me.

Monologue : Dialogue :: Sales Pitches : Solution Interviews Tweet this

With a dialogue, you can identify any “glitches in the Matrix” there and then. It allows for more flexibility and also a more personal approach. You have already had contact and obtained agreement for future contact with the Problem Interview so the Solution Interview is all about trust and an honest delivery of an end to the customer’s problems! Prepare to be the one who Saves the Day!

Customer Development Made Easy…


The Solution Interview is about building trust, to solve a problem. Tweet this

Watch this video for a walk-through on selling without pitching and how to nail your solution interview. Solution Interviews are the ideal way to open up communication, offer potential solutions and gain the trust, and business, of your customers. Because you have taken the time to establish their problems, expressed in their own words, they now know you’re not just proposing something “off the shelf”, something for everyone.

Forget all about the art of Pitching, you want the art of Dialogue. Tweet this

A Better Way to Interview Enterprise Customers

If you’re doing B2B Problem Interviews, I’ve got some tweaks to our traditional interview script that I’ve been using to great effect in the enterprise space. I wanted to pass them along.

Step 1: Define the Role

I now start off my B2B interviews with, “How do you describe your role?” I dig this question for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives you both a common foundation to build on during the interview.
  2. It gets the customer describing her world, using her words.

If you already know your customer’s role (e.g. job responsibilities) is, asking them to describe it gives you an easy way into the conversation while providing a shared context to work from for the rest of your interview.

If you don’t fully understand your customer’s role, asking her to use “her own words” gives you clearance to ask what might otherwise be an intimidating question.

“Oh, I’m not asking because I don’t know. I just want to hear you describe it.”

It’s her words you’ll use throughout the interview to establish an relationship. It’s her words you’ll use to demonstrate trust when asking for interviews with other B2B customers. And it’s her words you’ll use when it’s time to start pitching her a solution.

In cust interviews, words matters. Reflect them back for killer rapport (and marketing copy). Tweet this

Step 2: Define Success

You’ve just asked about her role, now you want to know how to help her kill it in that role, so you ask, “What does success look like for you?”

You’re on the lookout for metrics used to evaluate her performance – both the measures her manager uses, and she uses. The success criteria she calls out is what we’re going to help her achieve!

Again pay attention to the words she uses – you’ll play these back again, verbatim, when it’s time for your solution interview.

Your customer’s success criteria, is your success criteria. Tweet this

Step 3: Define the Problems

Now that you’ve established what success looks like to your customer, we want to find out the hardest part in achieving it. These “hard parts” are the problems we’re going to solve!

This is essentially the beginning of our traditional interview script, but now that you understand her role intimately, and what she’s striving for, you’ll have a fantastic context to ask in-depth questions from throughout the interview.

The key here is to tie any problems they mention to a specific success criteria so during your solution interview, you can draw a direct line from their problem, to your solution, and that results in their success criteria.

Solution interviews = 1 part problem + 1 part solution + 1 part success criteria.  Tweet this


Using these three questions, in conjunction with the traditional interview script will provide the context, and the customer’s words, to set you up for success in your B2B solution interviews.

B2B Problem Interview Script
1. How do you describe your role?
2. What does success look like for you?
3. What’s the hardest part about achieving that success?
4. Can you tell me about the last time that happened?
5. Why was that hard?
6. What, if anything, have you done to solve that problem?
7. What don’t you love about the solutions you’ve tried?

What are solution interviews and how do you knock them out of the park? We’ll answer that in our next blog post. Subscribe here to get it! :)

Customer Development Made Easy…

When are you Done Interviewing Customers?

I love this question. I remember asking it myself, and now every time I run an interview workshop some kindred spirit asks, “How do I know when I’m done?”


I love this question not just because I used to ask it, and not even because I have a wicked answer. I love it because my answer has changed over time.

I used to think you interview “until you stop learning new things about your customers’ problems.” Truth is, I still believe that.

You’re done interviewing customers when you bet $100 you know what the next one will say…and win. Tweet this

Customer discovery problem interviews are hands down the best way to source your early adopters, marketing copy, marketing channels, UVPs, etc. so don’t throw away the tool before you’ve exhausted it.

But like I say, my answer has changed. While I used to just stop with the above, my thinking has evolved and I’ve got a more concrete answer for you.

The answer is 5 (and 20)

If you interview 5 customers and don’t start hearing the same things over and over, something is wrong. Tweet this

After 5 interviews, you’ll a signal will start to emerge from the noise. After 5 interviews, you’ll hear customers repeat themselves. After 5 interviews, you’ll get a sense of whether you’re on the right track.

That’s not to say after 5 you’ll have learned everything about your customers (that’ll take 15-20). If however you’re not connecting the dots after 5…you’ve probably done something wrong.

Check yo’ Segment

my segment is too big

When I’ve interviewed customers in the past and couldn’t quickly get a clear picture on their answers (i.e. interviewed more than 5 people and “everyone had different problems”) it was because I was interviewing people across customer segments.

I was interviewing “small and medium sized businesses” when I should have been interviewing, “US law firms specializing in IP law with 5 – 25 lawyers, and who are LexisNexis customers.”

I was interviewing “friends and family members of people with ADHD” when I should have been interviewing “working age people with smart phones who live within 50 miles of US urban centers and within an hour of a sibling diagnosed with ADHD.”

Those Aren’t Segments

You can see how my first set of customer segments weren’t segments at all. They were all of my potential customers…not a segment of them. These groups of people have nothing in common with one another, so when I asked about their problems, I was getting answers all over the map.

While the guy who owns 3 gas stations and the woman who owns a 500-person financial consulting firm are both SMB owners, they’re facing drastically different problems – interviewing both of them would only serve to confuse things.

Instead, if I interviewed multiple owners of “US law firms specializing in IP law with 5 – 25 lawyers, and who are LexisNexis customers” I can assure you, their answers will be almost identical.


If you’re asking “How many customer interviews do I do?” you probably haven’t niched enough. Tweet this

We’ll discuss how to niche/segment in a future post (subscribe here to get it), but for now know that you should see patterns within 5 interviews, and have all your questions answered within 20. If that’s not the case, focus your efforts on a subset of your customers and try again.

Customer Development Made Easy…