What Is a Maximum Viable Product?
Most entrepreneurs know the golden rule of developing products successfully and staying on the safe side. The lean startup framework teaches us to start small and gradually build the product up, iterating and changing it based on observations, feedback, metrics, and other validation techniques instead of enrolling in a massive and expensive development project right away.
Yet, is there an extent to what can be considered minimum? And can you reach a peak with your features and products? We decided to find out whether a maximum viable product exists and how it differs.
What Is a Maximum Viable Product (MaxVP)?
A maximum viable product (MaxVP) isn't a very commonly used business or startup term. However, it generally refers to the advanced or even complete version of a product that has exceptionally delivered features that let it meet all customer needs and make it successful.
Why is it called "viable"? Because even in the mature stage of the product's life, the idea is worthy. And it's called "maximum" because you've reached the peak with its feature set. Great maximum viable product examples are when the product is continuously bringing in the desired revenue, the value proposition is first-rate, the target audience is satisfied with your offering, and everything is running like clockwork.
Can you achieve more with the product? Of course. But, at this point, this is what the user sees the most value in.
The Journey From a Minimum to a Maximum Viable Product
So, how did you get there, and where did you start? It's way too easy to get confused with the tons of "Ps" out there (the many types of MVPs alone can mix you up). Let's dot the i's by explaining the main terms in a comprehensive product "evolution" from a minimum to a maximum viable product.
We've all heard of the minimum viable product. It's a functional early version of your product that's fitted with just enough features to solve your target audience's problem and let them experience the solution's value. An MVP is the pilot you work on quickly to test your product hypotheses, collect data and feedback for analysis, gain knowledge, and make conclusions on how to best proceed with further development. This is the bare minimum that lets you make important go/no-go decisions.
What follows an MVP? A minimum marketable feature (MMF) could be considered your next step, as it implies working on more than just the essentials. These extras or improved features are what people would be willing to pay for, what will make them stick around, and let you promote the product.
Is this the only way to go? No, you can focus on making a minimum marketable or sellable product (MMP/MSP), investing in building several tangible features and upgrades, thanks to which users would like to buy the product, letting you make a profit. Alternatively, you can put additional effort into the pilot version's quality in terms of design, UX, and user value and roll it out as a minimum lovable product (MLP) so it clings with the target audience. Hence, the MVP vs MLP vs MMP differ in your aim.
But these were all "minimums" or versions of incomplete products. What goes next? Well, you gradually work your way towards product maturity, that's often referred to as a maximum viable product (MaxVP). It is full-fledged, profitable, caters to all the needs users have, delivers the expected outcomes, and has an extensive user base.
Minimum Viable Product vs Maximum Viable Product (MVP vs Max VP)
So, what's the difference between a minimum viable product vs maximum value proposition (or maximum viable product)? In simple terms, it's the entire product journey from its earliest version with only core features put together to test feasibility to its mature feature-rich version that embodies the product's purpose, has all the necessary functionality, delivers the expected value to end-users, and brings in money. Hence, the latter has (or is close to having) product-market fit.
The agile MVP approach suggests that teams place emphasis on iterative development, boosting and enhancing the functioning product little by little with every release. That is, you don't spend years rolling out something large-scale and complete before you show it to users, instead you introduce them to it and its advancements as you go. This is achievable thanks to being flexible and adaptable.
When you make it to a point when you think you've added everything possible, it's time to reassess what you have: conduct market research once again, review the competitive landscape, and evaluate your product as a whole to get a better understanding of where to move next product- and business-wise.
What Goes After Maximum Viable Products?
You've climbed to the top, you've achieved your goals. Seems like this is all a team can ever crave, right?
It's been a long ride for you from building a minimum viable product and growing it to the extent where your product stands sturdily on the market. It appears that nothing else can be added to it. Your team might be less motivated and relaxed. But, the business world is harsh, competitors can be on your tail, and you may start to worry that the spotlight won't last forever.
What's the common scenario? You decide to push the limits of your smoothly running machine (but most likely in a way that might not take you to the point of more profit or success).
Case in point: you start reviewing the solution and looking for what to improve. You conclude that you have to offer something extra to "wow" your customers with and decide that you need additional features to demonstrate that your product continues evolving. Or you think it's a great idea to try to max out the possible limits of the product by adding another 5% "extra something" to your feature in an attempt to gain another competitive advantage.
To keep the level of interest this high as long as possible, you end up piling more "cherries" on top. Spoiler: squeezing in as many features as possible might not give you the impact you're hoping for. Likewise, adding those 5% "whatever" probably won't improve your product significantly, make it more viable or successful. In fact, all of this might not be good for your product at all.
The truth is too many "cherries" are often excessive, unnecessary, distracting, detracting, or even contradictory to the essence of the original product. You have to prioritize features and estimate whether they'll truly make a difference. Otherwise, they might not bring in the added value you've hoped for. There might not even be demand for them, but it will cost you money either way. Not to mention that superfluous things can be detrimental and, for example:
- interfere with other functioning features;
- slow down performance;
- overcomplicate the user journey;
- harm usability;
- make you lose sight of the product's value and purpose.
Hence, improving a mature product shouldn't go down to developing more and more features or copying what the competitors are doing. Remember that improper product scaling is one of the worst paths that may lead to costly consequences and losses.
What Can You Do If You've Reached the MaxVP?
Remember that if you've rolled out all the planned features on your product development roadmap, it doesn't mean you've reached the finish line. Nor does it mean you need to "overdevelop" or invest in innovation in the form of making extra features just for the sake of doing something (even if it won't change much).
It signals that it's time to go back to square one and think about possible business pivots and expansion paths. As such, when you have maximum viability, you can try to:
- make the product better by enhancing the user experience;
- review the market and how it changed throughout this time to discover ways to evolve;
- set new goals (such as coming up with new ways to apply the product or looking for a new market segment to try entering);
- go back to where you started to reassess your product, evaluate what made it successful, and how you've reached your goals to record obtained knowledge and use it to your benefit.
Final Thoughts on Maximum Viable Products
Is there such a thing as a maximum viable product? Sure, you can call a mature and comprehensive solution and a well-preforming product with a complete feature set like that. But if you've reached the goals you've set for yourself, it doesn't mean it's time to relax and let it go.
Those businesses that wish to keep the high market positions they've managed to conquer proceed with scaling. This isn't synonymous with building additional features that may be uncalled for, though. At times, this means you'll need to reinvent yourself, in other cases, it's a signal that you may try to boost the experience, attempt to expand your reach, test out new market segments, work on additional services, or look for fresh ways to apply the product. It's never easy, and it's certainly not easier than the path you took to build the product.
If you need assistance with scaling your product, Upsilon provides various services for growth-stage startups. We've helped many teams take their products to the next level, applying the best practices of design, development, and business. So, if you need a hand with your project, feel free to reach out!