When Launching A Minimally Viable Product Is A Bad Idea

Tech sector advice doesn't always work for everyone

by Jason Falls |
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You can gain a fair amount of knowledge and benefit from incredible energy and enthusiasm when you surround yourself with entrepreneurs and those in the start-up culture, particularly in the tech sector. There’s a good reason co-working spaces and even some coffee shops are great venues to write, work and just look and listen. When the startup crowd is around, energy, passion and innovation become osmotic.

But when you’re not in the tech sector, heeding the advice and following the conventional wisdom (which I’m sure the entrepreneur types would insist is not conventional wisdom, but they’re wrong) of the tech sector can kill your business. The reason: technology companies only have to appeal to early tech adopters. Once they get that segment mastered, they grow, find their mainstream niche and the hipster founders typically get replaced by experienced business people to move the company forward.

Suit and tie
Suit and tie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Non-technology companies, even one like mine – a digital marketing agency and information products company, which is better categorized as a professional services company – have to appeal to a more mainstream audience out of the gate. Tech hipsters aren’t going to meet our revenue needs and so the technology culture cues can work against you.

The best example of the type of tech sector advice that can kill a mainstream business has to do with launching products.

Launch A Minimally Viable Product

Aaron Marshall and I worked hard to produce The Conversation Report which will *hopefully* launch next week. There was so much work that went into the research and design of the report that we were exhausted by the time we got to the second half of the project: building the marketing plan and materials. Aaron’s tech sector tendencies produced the idea of launching a minimally viable product, or as he says, “MVP.”

But The Conversation Report isn’t a dynamic piece of software we can correct over and over again. And our audience for the report – banks and bank marketers – isn’t one that would pay $300 for a product only to have it not be good enough. Our audience isn’t 20-somethings in hoodies, jeans and flip-flops. They are the three-piece-suit-and-tie set. To them, “MVP” may as well stand for, “minimally viable professional.” And unprofessional is not something they’ll pay for.

Similar to the minimally viable product, you can’t make something for the mainstream you’ll continually revamp and recall. Yes, you can do this in cloud-based software solutions where the improvements are added unbeknownst to the audience. You can even do it with non-cloud-based software as long as a web-connected “update check” can happen and the software can update itself when needed.

But you can’t produce a pair of blue jeans and sew on the back pockets after someone’s wearing them.

Technology startups are fun to be around. And some great business advice has come from non-traditional business people of late. I love Jason Fried’s stuff. Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup is pretty awesome, too.

But if your audience isn’t hip to the hipster, tech world and your product isn’t software, take that tech talk with a grain of salt. Or you might find yourself looking for a new challenge.

What other technology startup advice can you think of that may not work for every business? The comments are yours.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).