How to Plan and Launch an MVP: A Go-to-Market Strategy
Imagine you're a kid who pieced together a model rocket. When everything's all set for launch and it's time for the "count down", you get excited and worried at the same time about hitting the "start" button. What if it falls apart or something else goes wrong? Did you miss anything? Or what if it blasts off across the sky as you expected
The feelings are quite similar with startups. Releasing the product for the world to see is very exhilarating. A lot is at stake, but there are a few best practices to minimize your chances of an unsuccessful product launch.
We'll go over the most popular product launch approaches, discuss why this process is important, how to launch an MVP successfully, and share tips.
What Is a Product Launch?
A product launch is a vital step in the journey of a startup or new product. What is an MVP launch or product launch? The MVP launch meaning implies the process of introducing a new product to the target audience or the public in general. In other words, be it a tech product or not, you may get its minimal or pilot version out there, so it becomes available to users.
What is this needed for? Well, although you've done your research and worked on building an MVP, you still need to validate the released product and ensure that it's getting the expected results. This evaluation will let you validate hypotheses and give you a clearer picture of what needs to be done better and in which direction to move next.
What does product launch usually involve? It may entail various activities for driving awareness and raising interest in the product-to-be, for instance, using multiple marketing promotion tactics. Plus, it presupposes having not only a developed MVP to present to the world but also a detailed plan for making the agile minimum viable product that might include:
- a clear idea;
- market research;
- a launch strategy;
- a communication plan with consumers;
- ways to evaluate success.
In any event, you need to ascertain that the product will be well-received by the customers and live up to their demands, needs, and expectations.
MVP Launch Approaches
There are several main approaches to MVP release and product launch. They include the friends-and-family launch (which is quite self-explanatory), soft launch, hard launch, and silent launch. Let's find out how they differ and in which cases they are best applicable.
Feedback matters above all. So you may start with a "closed launch", demonstrating the product to your family or friends. Then you may proceed with an MVP soft launch and show the product to early adopters before presenting it to the general public. An "early adopter" is a popular startup term that refers to the first people to explore the product who might even become your first customers.
As such, the soft launch strategy often implies giving select people access to an early version of the product with the aim of getting feedback. As a rule, this is a small targeted group, meaning that it's much less risky than showing the product to everyone. There are many MVP examples of famous brands that started this way.
By introducing the product to a limited audience, you get to overview the received feedback, find areas that need improvement, and tweak the product before launching it to a wider audience. This approach is a good fit for new businesses since a startup's budget and resources are usually limited.
Unlike the previous one, this large-scale product rollout strategy mostly makes sense for larger companies that want to reach a vast audience. This is plausible for enterprises with a loyal and "mature" target audience (i.e., those who already have customers who have proven to be engaged with the company) and often have a full-scale product to demonstrate.
Nonetheless, a hard launch implies a significant upfront investment and additional resources on multiple marketing channels and other launch subcomponents, such as fancy promo events and ubiquitous ad campaigns. This is done to create some hype and make customers anticipate the product launch.
Yet, on the downside, if the product fails to meet user expectations, there's a threat of losing sizeable startup funding and taking a reputational hit. Hence, this is considered not the best way to go if you're a startup that's still trying to get traction but is a model that such giants as Apple commonly use.
Also referred to as dark launching or the stealth mode, this approach emphasizes a somewhat incognito release. You don't make it official or get media coverage, and you don't publicly announce the launch or let users know the product will be available. Instead, the release takes place on the down-low, and your potential audience can either stumble across the product by accident or hear about it via word of mouth.
Why may a silent launch be a smart move? Well, this allows for additional product testing in a limited capacity before showing it to a larger audience. You may become an observer and roll out the product slowly and in small "portions" to ensure that it's well-configured. It can also be a reasonable choice if:
- the product assumes lots of setup work prior to a full launch;
- the release regards something small (e.g., a new feature that might not be noticeable for users or it doesn't make sense to promote or create buzz around it);
- you need a way to test the product on a new market or in a new region.
What Is Included in an MVP Launch?
There's more to releasing a product than hitting the "deploy" button. Let's go over what to include in the MVP launch strategy.
Of course, it all begins at the pre-launch MVP stage. A lot needs to be done to formulate a clear vision of what product you're bringing to life. To achieve this, you have to study the market and your users, do tons of research, and make hypotheses. If the discovery phase is completed successfully, you'll have a precise picture of:
- who you're targeting;
- which problem you're aiming to solve;
- how you're going to solve it;
- and what makes your product stand out.
This will lead you to define the value proposition and compose a business model and plan. By the way, all aspects mentioned above are vital points when creating a pitch deck, as investors should know about such crucial information.
Surely, you'll need a plan for bringing the product to life. You'll move from proof of concept to prototyping to MVP creation and testing. But your go-to-market strategy has to include not only your development and product expansion plans.
You must be certain about the chosen MVP type, your sales, marketing, and startup branding activities, as well as pricing and monetization. Give thought to how you're going to hit the market and draw a timeline. Then, put down your goals and hypotheses for the after-launch, as well as which markers will help you measure success or failure.
You also have to think about the user touchpoints. How are people going to learn about your product? As such, you need to shortlist the most appropriate channels for spreading the word about your product release. For instance, you may utilize professional forums and entrepreneur groups, pages like Product Hunt, social media like LinkedIn, or any other places that'll allow you to connect with your target audience, build in public, and spread your promotional materials.
In fact, you can even put together a pre-product launch MVP landing page before the release. This way, you can start collecting data on early users who have an interest in your product.
Apart from that, your communication plan should consider the ways to stay in touch with the target audience that's on board. Newsletters sent via e-mail, regular posts on relevant channels, or even a request form on the landing page can be a starting point.
Product Launch Checklist
An MVP launch checklist can be a great way to organize the process. What needs to be done prior to, during, and after the release? Jot down all the constituents and then arrange these activities logically, possibly noting the assignees and/or deadlines.
For example, you can note which content and media distribution is required to claim that you'll launch the product soon. Or put down the post-release features to create in the future on the product development roadmap.
Making such a systematic startup launch checklist will take time, yet it'll simplify things down the line. The same rule applies if you're planning a Product Hunt launch too. The process can get hectic sometimes, so having a specific plan to stick to can alleviate the pressure.
System to Measure Success
What can assist you in evaluating your launch? Feedback, of course. You need to utilize handy MVP tools and come up with a system for gathering, storing, and assessing the feedback, testimonials, and user generated content (UGC). Some best practices in this respect include:
- browsing multiple channels (customer support requests, review blocks, chats, etc.);
- being on the lookout for patterns or trends, pointing at areas for improvement;
- reviewing the feedback regularly;
- taking action to address the identified issues or changes or using feedback for feature prioritization and product planning.
What else can help you know for sure whether your launch was effective or not? You can use various startup analytics tools, such as Amplitude or Mixpanel, to monitor whether your product is gaining the needed traction.
After all, if something goes wrong, you'll have the chance to roll back the release, fix the flaws, or rethink the functionality or MVP design.
This can be achieved by tracking key performance indicators and metrics. Every KPI case is unique, and you should choose the ones that best fit your goals. But perhaps, keeping an eye on engagement and studying user behavior can be a start to help you get a better understanding of the results. For example, you could measure the following criteria for determining success:
- number of daily active users;
- conversion rate (i.e., the number of downloads, filled-out forms, completed orders, etc.);
- click-through rate;
- average session duration;
- retention rate.
More Product Launch Tips
We've looked through the steps to launch an MVP and the things that should be part of the MVP launch plan. What else should you keep in mind? Here are a few more recommendations.
Faster Is Better Than Perfect
As an MVP development company with years of experience in successful project implementation, we can indeed state that timing matters. When it comes to minimum viable products, a quick release can influence the outcomes and really make a difference. Yes, the solution should be bug-free, but since an MVP is prone to many iterations, the faster you hit the market, the better.
Even if you have limited functionality at first, a launch will allow the product to gain traction, and you can make changes along the way. Either way, your ideas have to stand the test of time. So think of the MVP launch as one of many test runs you'll go through as you move towards finding product-market fit. And as an extra tip, consider using the sprint-based development model to accelerate production.
Test the Product Thoroughly
Once again, if you're launching an MVP, most likely it'll only have the core functionality. Yet, although the features could be scarce, they must work flawlessly without any glitches. Otherwise, you won't be able to reap the many MVP benefits.
The role of QA testing in a successful product launch shouldn't be underestimated. Make sure you've tested every nook and corner of the solution, then test it again. By allocating the red flags and fixing them before the MVP release, you'll ensure a smoother user experience with the product.
Be Prepared for the Worst Outcomes
There's a very high chance that something will go wrong with the release, it's practically inevitable. Therefore, you need to be in all arms and ready for the possible roadblocks and obstacles that'll come your way.
Think about the potential issues that you can face. Say, ones with the infrastructure, non-standard sign-in cases, or some browser peculiarities that you didn't take into consideration initially. What can you do to mitigate such risks?
Then map out how you could prevent such issues or how you'll act on them if they occur. Ideally, you need a detailed plan or strategy for coping with the most unsought-for circumstances. Such preparation will aid your prompt response in the worst-case scenarios.
Organize Your Backlog
Ideally, once you've launched the MVP, you'll receive feedback and learn about what to improve. If you come across issues after the release, you have to make time to fix them. This means you need a flexible enough product plan to make the required iterations and improvements after MVP or product release.
Yet, to stay on track and ensure that nothing gets lost, get a well-organized feature backlog. It is also considered good practice to use data visualization like timelines which simplify perception and keep everyone on the same page.
Final Say on MVP Product Launch
Falling back on the model rocket analogy, although piecing together the model was fun and engaging, seeing it soar in the sky was why you built it in the first place.
Once you launch your MVP, you'll get to make numerous discoveries about the product. This will allow for adjusting your hypotheses and making conclusions about how to add value and enhance it. You'll find out whether the delivered product (or specific features) serves its main purpose of solving a user problem and utilize the received feedback to your benefit.
In any case, having a well-functioning and glitch-free MVP is essential for a product launch. Plus, you need an effective strategy for introducing the product to the world and measuring success.
Upsilon has spent years developing and launching MVPs for partners, and we deliver minimum viable products in under three months. We believe that our product thinking approach (instead of "blind feature creation") has helped our partners succeed, get funding, and later become nine-digit businesses.
So if you're in search of a trustworthy tech partner who gets startup needs and can help elevate your ideas, reach out to us to discuss your project. We provide MVP development services for early-stage startups, chaperoning the product from idea initiation to full-scale product development. And if you'd like to get a hint of how much it might cost, feel free to use our MVP calculator to get a quick estimate.