The Minimum Viable Product and the Minimal Marketable Product

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:

The MVP is called minimum, as you should spend as little time and effort to create it as possible. But this does not mean that it has to be quick and dirty. But try to keep it as small as possible to accelerate learning and avoid the possibility of wasting time and money, as 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.

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 organisations develop over-engineered products with lots of shiny features that provided little value to the users, but cluttered the product and increased its 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 POP email 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 aforementioned 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. This is typically done as part of your product discovery activities. Then use your new insights to create and launch the MMP – a simple product with the right user experience and feature set.

Note 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.

Roman Pichler

View Comments

  • Hi Roman,

    Thank you for this post. How would you approach scoping MVP, MMP and full product functionality if you had to replace an existing, very successful product, that has to be re-implemented on a new technology basis. Would you rather spend more time implementing more features to replace the old with the new as seamless as possible with regards to functionality or would you try to change to the new version as quick as possible? Obviously, that is also a strategic decision, but nevertheless ... what are your thoughts?

    Thank you!
    Felix

  • Hi Roman,

    What are your thoughts on the idea that some people have started using MVP and MMP interchangeably; do you believe it is correct to do so? In my opinion it is a confusion of the concepts perhaps caused by a lack of understanding the distinction between them, and I am curious about how others view the matter.

    Many thanks.

    • Hi Geert,

      What matters most, in my mind, is that you have a shared understanding of what the term minimum viable product means in your organisation. Additionally, aim to launch a minimal, good-enough product and adapt it to the market response, as suggested in the post scriptum of the article.

      Hope this helps!

  • Hello Roman,

    This piece is a very good explanation of the two different concepts MVP and MMP, and I am especially noticing your P.S. where you mention that the term MVP has started to change, and you refer to an article where MVP is defined as "The smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value", which to me seems to be the very definition of MMP.

    Keeping in mind that the focus in MVP is learning, and in MMP the focus is on earning, the MVP provides value to a business by learning from early users of a product/system, and the MMP provides value to a business that will use the learning from MVP to build an MMP whereby the focus shifts to earning.

    Could it just be that some have confused the two concepts and, wrongly, use them interchangeably, which is a mistake in my view? From the Agile Alliance we know that "the primary benefit of an MVP is to gain an understanding of your customers' interest in a product without fully developing the product", which to me is the MMP, meaning that they are in fact two different concepts. What are your thoughts on this?

    Again, many thanks for a great article about the topic, I have bookmarked your article for later reference :-)

  • Thank you Roman to publish this post. I know well about MVP but not knew MMP after reading this post it help me to understand about MMP.
    In last it would be further informative if you cover these topics in this article.
    1- Why do you need to build MVP?
    2- MVP vs Prototype
    3- Types of MVP models
    4- Factors to keep in while building MVP
    5- MVP testing practices
    Thanks

  • Hi Roman,
    Once I had discussion with a colleague and he shared his opinion that every product, even existing one should have MVP and then you can iteratively improve it, build up etc. Even if you start to work with a product that already exists but never had an MVP - your first step should be to define MVP and go from there. What do you think? Does it make sense?

    • Hi Lana,

      Thank you for sharing your question. The answer depends on your product strategy. Say you address a new market or market segment with your product, then I would recommend creating an MVP-type variant, a good enough variation of your product, that meets the needs of some of the target users. Take YouTube Kids, for example, which is aimed at younger children as far as I know, but does not (yet) cater for older children and teenagers. Then inspect the market response and adapt the product, similarly to what you would do with a brand-new one. But if you want to keep your product growing by adding a new feature or optimising existing ones like Apple did with face recognition on the iPhone X, then the concept of an MVP is not helpful in my mind.

      Does this help?

  • So as a UX designer and researcher, I'm trying to jive with the MVP versus MMP. A couple questions:

    1. Should I assume that MVP's will always preceed MMP's? Are MVP's the domain of Planning before the concept /idea/design gets transitioned to Build? Does advancing to MMP's implicitly assume that the product idea has been vetted with users and substantiated as viable?

    2. When would usability studies more likely be conducted? In the MVP stage or the MMP stage? If in MMP, isn't that a little late? Don't you want to qualify and identify issues before you start getting into build?

  • Amazing article! Really enjoyed the reading. We at ANODA also 100% sure that MVP is the right model to build an app.

  • Great blog Roman, In your view which is more important MVP or MMP, can we have the third stage further before releasing our product i.e MRP ( Minimum Releasable Product). Thoughts?

  • 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?

    • 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?

      • 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.:(

        • 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 :-)

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