Updated: Feb 2
A lot of product companies focus on the MVP or minimum viable product when what they should be focussing on is (what I've personally coined as) the Minimum Viable “Business” or MVB for short.
This is important because the goal of a startup or even a new product team is not just to create a product, it is to create a sustainable business around a product/ solution or service.
I define an MVB, as the minimum work that you can do to check if your customer will pay for your service or product!
The reason I want to check if people will pay for something is because that is a very good indication of whether it solves a real pain point, or is something valuable to the customer.
There is a big difference between somebody saying that they will buy something and they actually buying it.
The MVB model prevents you from wasting time building a product BEFORE you can confirm whether anyone actually wants it.
It forces you to focus on a thin slice of all aspects of a business like marketing, research, and sales and not just product development.
You don’t want to spend months building complicated algorithms and a beautiful interface, just to discover no sane user wants your product and your company’s entire premise is misguided.
The Services MVB Model
The Services MVB Model is a clever technique that replaces complicated technical products with humans. With minimal engineering time, you’ll be able to test the key question of your business: “does anyone even want what you’re building?
The Services MVB Model involves manually helping your users accomplish their goals as a means of validating whether or not they have a need for what you’re offering. When you envision your company’s ideal product, you might imagine a powerful web app that gives users a smooth onboarding experience, gives them smart recommendations about what to do, follows up with nice personalized emails, and automates a high level of support.
Throw that all out. Replace it with a human. That’s a SERVICES MVB MODEL. Building a product is not even necessary.
The point of the SERVICES MVB is to simplify the product by replacing automated components with humans and evaluating if customers really need your solution. Every customer receives the white-glove treatment, with humans front and center delivering the service.
In the book Lean Startup, Eric Ries uses the anecdote of Food on the Table, a grocery shopping service that figures out what you like eating, then compiles the shopping list at specific stores that will save you the most money. Manuel Rosso, CEO of Food on the Table, didn’t even have a product or website in the beginning because he would sell the service for $10 a month in-person to shoppers, then generate the recipes and grocery lists for them in person while accompanying them around the store.
Clearly, this isn’t scalable in the long run, but the Services MVB Model is not designed to be a solution by itself, it’s meant to only validate your hypotheses of the customer’s pain points and learn more about your user’s real problems and what your business’s gaps are.
In the process of delivering the Services MVB Model, you’ll learn a ton about your users and the value you’re offering.
The beauty of the Services MVB Model is that you can test your product hypotheses without building a product at all.
Because humans are delivering the service manually, you can interact personally with customers and deeply understand what they’re dealing with. This will give you a strong foundation to iterate on your product offering. This will move your company in a promising new direction.
To evaluate alternative ways to evaluate your product value offering, you can hire me by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.