Successful SaaS Solutions Start with Minimum Product Viability (MPV)
Achieving Minimum Product Viability (MPV) is an essential first must have goal for a SaaS business, but this goal is not often measured early enough to pre-launch failure. Business leaders’ are often told is that shifting to a SaaS model’build it and they will come mentality,” but they won’t if you don’t achieve your MPV, you won’t compete. Just being an online service does not make your product achieve success. So MPV is often a misunderstood market entry goal. MPV means your software as a service actually wins target audience customers making you a player within the market.
Launching without MPV achieved
Too many companies start trading without achieving a clear MPV. They build it, launch their marketing and sales plan and start trading but the SaaS fails to deliver to their target audiences, trials do not convert, partners and channel partners do not actively resell, and cost per customer acquisition continually increases, which leads to high burn rates of cash.
SaaS MPV metrics must be clear. MPV must be a tangible goal with a viable product offering. If you take your service online is must do more than just exist. Now I am not saying it needs to be perfect, over-polishing a SaaS solution is one of those very dangerous assumptions we will come onto shortly, but simple migration of a product online is not a SaaS MPV. For Minimum Product Viability to be achieved, a SaaS solution must successfully compete within its market(s). It must win new customers for it to achieve MPV status. Too often the model of lower cost looks good on paper, to the accountant, to the competitor analysis and trend analysis but without actually being able to win target segment customers.
The built and they will come mentality often leads to the knee jerk reaction from companies to offer discounts to customers to gain traction right from the start. The downside of that tactic is that the predicted customer revenue targets aren’t met if you give it away. Giving it away also means that customers do not value your SaaS offering results in poor customer quality, poor engagement, and low retention damages the SaaS product. The other major challenge of giving it away on day one to gain traction is that once the opening price perception is set it is difficult to reset. Initial target audiences are typically early adopters who usually are your target premium customers, they expect certain valuable features within the MPV that tie them in, which if not immediately available mean that they will abandon the SaaS solution. It is also difficult to recover your market or premium market price unless you have large marketing budget to support the opening offer discount.
Measuring MPV requires leaders to not only check it works (and that is never a given with IT) but also that it achieves MPV as an offering. Does it do what it needs to do for the customer. Does it meet the complete customer requirement of the value proposition, so do not just focus on the pure IT but on the whole value proposition to measure the MPV status. Test it with pilot groups, measure not only it looks good, but does it replace what they were doing? If not it needs to do more.
Over-polishing your SaaS MPV
I have worked with several SaaS start-ups and migration brands who face the eternal problem of over polishing their MPV. Failing to set a MPV goal with a timeline means that many companies keep playing and tinkering with their SaaS product rather than get it out there.
The challenge is that everyone has thoughts, features and layouts they want to see, so the more people involved the more the pull and push from 3rd parties to meet their expectations or perceptions. The nature of every increasing committees is to tinker and therefore delay. Continuing to over-polish is a major issue for many SaaS businesses. They ask too many people to review it and each has a view, but continual reviews and tweaks delay the acid test ill it work in teh real world.
Everyone has an opinion and no matter how valuable it is the MPV goal must define the MINIMUM, not the optimum or the ideally would like. These should be in secondary releases onwards as upgrades and add-ons. An MPV must to have a launch deadline in place with clarity of what that SaaS will deliver and how it will be upgraded over time to meet specific needs. A soft Beta test launch to a target audience will test and validate the MPV objective, which if you have followed the classic MPV creation model (below) will enable you to get to market with a credible SaaS solution.
MVP The Key Elements To Undertake:-
1. Identify and Understand The Business Needs
1a. Firstly identify the success criteria that will indicate whether or not the SaaS solution will be successful
1b. Then identify the business needs of the sector today and over the long-term.
2. Find The Opportunities
2a. Map out the user journey(s)
2b. Then segment the core user groups (called the actors)
2c. Clarify the journey end point (end goal)
2d. Then mark all actions the user must take to meet that end goal, and then simplify them as much as possible, less is more.
3 Create a “PAIN and GAIN” map for each action
3a. Write down the action the user completes when using the product
3b. Write down the pain points for each action
3c. Write down the gains for each action
3d. Summarise the pains and gains into opportunity statements
3e. Use “How might we” statements or a similar method to summarise the pains and gains you have identified, prioritise and
4. Decide What Features To Build in to MVP launch
4a. Use opportunity statements to finalise your core “must have” features and ensure they are built into a coherent MPV model.
4b. Provide a breakdown of the features to include in the product roadmap, identifying each feature element.
4c. Use a prioritisation matrix (or similar method) to prioritise features creating a complete MPV customer journey to build and launch with.
4d. Identify other features to be launched as 2nd phase onwards and use target customer audience or beta test launch feedback to validate these feature in subsequent launches.
4e. Identify Key SaaS metrics including UX, channel partner and disputer effect metrics to measure your MPV launch with.
SaaS MPV: Don’t underestimate its importance.
Get your MPV wrong and it is difficult to make a comeback. Understanding your core audience (it may not be big but it must be defined and reachable. Many SaaS MPV are done below the radar, with soft launches to target audiences either directly or through selected or exclusive channel partners to provide validity of model and ensure MPV has been achieved.
Going big too soon is often appealing but rarely successful. Think about achieving viability then scaleability with a proven model to solve a tangible issue for a target audience and you are more likely to succeed. Research your target audiences’ specific needs and plan points and ensure that your MPV focuses on delivering the results they need, rather than trying to do too much. Add value and then keep on adding more value is what makes a successful MPV for a SaaS business.
Richard works with SaaS entrepreneurs in developing their SaaS solutions, learn more and how at www.richardgourlay.com