The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product

By Roman Pichler, 9th October 2013
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The minimum viable product (MVP) is a powerful concept that allows you to test your ideas. It is not to be confused with the minimal marketable product (MMP), the product with the smallest feature set that still addresses the user needs and creates the right user experience. The MVP helps you acquire the relevant knowledge and address key risks; the MMP reduces time-to-market and enables you to launch your product faster. This post discusses both concepts, and it shows how you can use the minimum viable product to create a minimal marketable one.


The Minimum Viable Product

The minimum viable product (MVP), as originally defined by Eric Ries, is a learning vehicle. It allows you to test an idea by exposing an early version of your product to the target users and customers, to collect the relevant data, and to learn from it. For instance, to test the viability of using ads as the major revenue source, you could release an early product increment with fake ads, and measure if and how often people click on them.

As lack of knowledge, uncertainty, and risk are closely related, you can view the MVP as a risk reduction tool. In the example above, the MVP addresses the risk of developing a product that is not economically viable.

Since the MVP is about learning, it’s no surprise that it plays a key part in Lean Startup’s build-measure-learn cycle, as the following picture shows:

Build Measure LearnThe MVP is called minimum, as you should spend as little time and effort to create it. But this does not mean that it has to be quick and dirty. How long it takes to create an MVP and how feature-rich it should be depends on your product and market. But try to keep the feature set as small as possible to accelerate learning, and to avoid wasting time and money–your idea may turn out to be wrong!

While the MVP should facilitate validated learning, I find it perfectly OK to work with MVPs such as paper prototypes and clickable mockups that do not generate quantitative but qualitative data, as long as they help to test the idea and to acquire the relevant knowledge.


The Minimal Marketable Product

Another concept that encourages you to create a minimal offering is the minimal marketable product (MMP). It is based on the idea that less is more: The MMP describes the product with the smallest possible feature set that addresses the needs of the initial users (innovators and early adopters), and can hence be marketed and/or sold. The MMP is a tool to reduce time-to-market: It can be launched more quickly than a fat, feature-rich one.

Minimal Marketable Product and the Porduct Life Cycle

Creating a product with just the right amount of features sounds like common sense. Why would we offer more features than necessary? Sadly, I have seen many projects develop over-engineered products with lots of shiny features that provided little value to the users, but cluttered the product and increased the maintenance cost. And it’s not just the others: I am constantly tempted to add just another cool feature to a product, or to write a few extra lines in a blog post. Using the concept of an MMP helps me focus on what really matters, and remove unnecessary features (and lines).

A great example of an MMP is Apple’s original iPhone launched in 2007. I understand that the first iPhone was a complex product, and that many people worked incredibly hard on it. But I find it amazing how many features the phone did not provide compared to its competitors: no copy-and-paste, no video, and no Outlook integration, to name just a few. Nevertheless the phone was still a staggering success. How come?

The key to creating a successful MMP is to “develop the product for the few, not the many,” as Steve Blank puts it, and to focus on those features that make a real difference to the users. To discover the right features, the MVP is a fantastic tool.


Combining the Two Concepts

To combine the two concepts, develop one or more MVPs to test your ideas and to acquire the relevant knowledge. Then use your new insights to create and launch the MMP – a product with just the right

Minimum Viable Product and Minimal Marketable ProductNote that a minimal marketable product differs from a viable one: It is complete enough to be ready for general release, as indicated by the gift wrapping in the picture above. What’s more, launch preparation activities have to take place for an MMP, for instance, creating advertising campaigns, or gaining certification. Some of your MVPs are likely to be throwaway prototypes that only serve to acquire the necessary knowledge; others are reusable product increments that morph into a marketable product.


Post Scriptum 2 November 2017

Since I wrote this post, the meaning of the term minimum viable product has started to change. People like Ash Maurya view it as the smallest offering that can be launched, which essentially equates the MVP with the minimal marketable product.

Whichever definition you prefer, aim to launch the smallest possible product that is still good enough to serve its early market. Then inspect and adapt to achieve product-market fit and growth. This may require smaller changes like adding or optimising features, adjusting the business model, and enhancing the user experience. But it might also require a pivot, a drastic change. Flickr, for example, was launched as an online role-playing game and changed to a photo-sharing website; YouTube evolved from a video-dating site to a video-sharing product.

Summary
Article Name
The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product
Description
Find out what the Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product are and how they help you create a successful product.
Author
Pichler Consulting Limited

Learn More

You can learn more about minimum viable and minimal marketable products with the following:

Source: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/minimum-viable-product-and-minimal-marketable-product/

RSS Feed

27 comments on “The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product

  1. Bruce Chalupsky

    Roman,

    Thanks for the breakdown of the goal for an MVP and MMP. My question is, once you’ve gone through the entire process, released an MMP into the market, what is the next step called? If you are adding the features that were not included in the “minimum”, I assume these also require inspection and learning prior to merging with the live product. However this process can no longer be called MMP (ex. MMP 2, 3, etc) once the product has been released – or can it? I lean towards calling each planned release MVF, or Minimal Viable Feature, but this screams antipattern.

    Any advice?

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Bruce, Thanks for your question. Once you’ve released an initial offering, you should tray to achieve product-market fit (PMF). To do so, gather feedback and data from the product’s initial users and adapt the product so that it becomes attractive to a larger group of people (aka the mainstream market). This may involve adding, enhancing, and removing features; adjusting the business model; and improving the customer experience. Sometimes, it involves a pivot, a significant change in the product strategy–think of YouTube, Flickr, and Google Glass, for example. Some product, however, never reach PMF and die young like Google Wave. Does this help?

      • Umang

        Great article Roman. Have a question on your response to Bruce above.

        So say a product has moved beyond its Problem/ Solution Fit -> Product/ Market Fit stages and its in scaling mode. Or put it in other words its in maturity phase, I would think the product is beyond MVP, isn’t it. But would you recommend Product Managers to be leveraging MMP or at that stage you have a different recommendation for defining their features for such products?

        BTW: I have your book STRATEGIZE on my shelf and I am yet to read it.:(

        • Roman Pichler

          Thanks for your feedback and sharing your question Umang. Personally I don’t find it valuable to use the MVP concept once a product has entered the growth stage. But you are right that it is desirable to prevent the product from becoming too feature-rich and bloated. I find that techniques like creating variants and unbundling major features keep the product focused and the value proposition crisp. I cover the two techniques in Strategize btw 🙂

  2. Gabriel Velazquez

    Excellent description of the key concepts. Thanks Roman!

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks for your feedback, Gabriel.

  3. Mateusz Warcholinski

    Great Job Roman. I was not thinking so much more about the aspect of MMP, but it’s a concept worth mentioning! I wrote an article that explained how to build an MVP as a non-developer with examples http://brainhub.eu/blog/2015/12/24/what-is-mvp/

  4. Andrzej Winnicki

    I find the distinction you presented quite blurry.

    You said that:

    “Some of your MVPs are likely to be throwaway prototypes that only serve to acquire the necessary knowledge; others are reusable product increments that morph into a marketable product.”

    For me, one of the ideas of MVP is to not treat it as: throwaway prototype. It should not be even treated as base for your “future product” but as your “current product”.

    It is a way to bootstrap project and start validated learning. And each next modified version of your MVP should be treated as MMP, not as a stage to some distant “future product”.

    For instance: you launched your MVP and started learning, people like it and purchase your product – is it already MMP?

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Andrzej, Thanks for your comment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with equating MVP and MMP – as long as you are aware of what you are doing. My intention was to bring some attention to the fact that originally, an MVP was defined as a learning vehicle not as the first major release or product version and that it should hence only big enough to facilitate the desired learning. Does this help?

    • kevin

      Yeah totally agree with you there, you would not throw away a MVP. If it wasn’t viable then it wouldn’t be MVP.

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks for the comment, David. Glad you find the post helpful. Have a great discussion at the meetup!

  5. Daniil

    Thank you Roman !
    I was looking for such comparison and your article is the best piece I’ve found.

    To start a small debate I am wondering if it makes sense to associate MMP with money aspect ? Like an emphasis on marketable word – MMP is not only when its out there , but when customers are actually paying for it.

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Daniil, Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you find my distinction between MVP and MMP helpful. I like your suggestion to consider the monetary aspects / business goals. I would say that MVPs help validate the business model, but an MMP should execute it and generate the desired revenue. Do you agree?

  6. Antonio Romero

    I like this idea. Unfortunately I’ve sometimes seen what some would call a “minimum marketable product” be “one that looks good enough to be described in a datasheet or a five minute demo”… what ships is not actually going to provide an adequate customer experience.

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi Antonio, Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree that the concept of a minimal marketable product can be misunderstood and misapplied. As a wise man once said: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.” MVP and MMP are concepts that have to be applied carefully.

  7. Huimin

    Love the distinction and the linking of the two concepts. In our team, we are using qualitative interviews and quantitative analytical metrics to validate MVP, it worked out very well. When moving to define MMP, it become less “scientific”, how to “create a product with just the right amount of features” sometimes is an art. Now, we rely on keep checking, and asking ourselves: “Is it enough? Do we really need more?”

    Thanks, Roman

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Huimin!

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks, Eugene. I enjoyed reading your article.

  8. sandra

    Excellent distinction!

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks for the feedback, Sandra. Glad you found the post helpful.

  9. Srinath

    Great explanation of these two concepts .. Thanks

    • Roman Pichler

      Thanks for your feedback, Srinath.

  10. John Coleman

    Roman,

    Great post. My only warning would be that early MVPs implemented via Lean Start Up like Build Measure Learn iterations might not comply with any decent “definition of done”. One almost needs a MVP team handing over to a doing it properly team with a decent definition of done. It’s hard to see how a team can switch quality standard radically between iterations. That said, the ability to pivot at milestones is compelling.

    I like the distinction in your post between MVP and MMP. Thank you.

    • Roman Pichler

      Hi John, Thanks for your feedback. You are right that the “doneness” of an MVP is likely to differ from a shippable product increment (which is closer to an MMP). But you can easily adjust the definition of done, making it stronger as you run more iterations and understand better how to meet the user needs. You may also find my post on combining Lean Startup and Scrum helpful, as it shows at which stage in the process I employ MVPs: http://www.romanpichler.com/blog/new-product-development-with-lean-startup-and-scrum/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *