What is ‘The Minimum Marketable Product’?

You have heard of the minimum viable product(MVP) no doubt, well product managers have what is called the minimum marketable product (MMP). MMP is a product or service that meets the selected customer’s needs.

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. (Source: Roman Pitchler)

Take the Apple Watch for example, it’s marketable customer needs are indeed narrow, and rather than being a device for the masses, it satisfies a particular niche market. As opposed to regular watches, Apple’s smart watch provides the ability to receive notifications from your iPhone, an extension that notifies the user through a vibration, when a text message, or phone call is coming in, or an in-app push notification is happening.

Whilst limited, the users can also use their smart-watch to send pre-baked text messages back, as well, and whilst it has an app ecosystem, the apps are meant to be a mere extension rather than replacement to one’s phone.

The obvious benefits of an MPP is that it speeds up development-time-to-market, with lower development effort and larger return on investment. An even greater benefit, is the quick time-to-market means product owners can listen to their users quickly. Even if in the case of Apple they are mostly early-adopters, that vital early and rapid feedback especially in a new category of products means the company is able to respond, adjust and pivot more rapidly.

The least rigid the future roadmap of the product, the better it is, because your roadmap should pivot and adjust dynamically, based on user feedback and reactions, and a minimal product as far as functionality means precise and targeted feedback is more readily available, more focused with the allowance for each individual features and components to be individually validated.

MMP is more focused on less is more, smallest feature-set. That addresses the users needs, with the right level of simplistic UI t hat can be sold and marketed successfully.

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. (Cited in Roman Pitchler)

3 Ways a PM can help the team De-stress

With Project deadlines looming, stress is often a factor that project managers have to deal with, especially with the team they are managing, with a clear correlation between the level of stress indured and the quality of work produced, not to mention emotional endurance. Let’s face it, almost every project (most likely every project) is under the pump at one stage or another during the lifecycle, and duress is something, as a Project Manager, you certainly need to deal with. 

With fixed resources, fixed time and budget, things tend to go awry, whether it is a strong dependency of a delivery from one team, a technical difficulty that cannot be resolved, scope changes, resource changes, and your job is to make sure things don’t go belly-up. Negative stress influences teams by de-optimizing their work efficiencies, resulting in lower-than-expected sprint velocities, dampen creativity and constructive thinking, resulting in mental fatigue, resulting in even simple coding errors creeping in.

There are of course specific PM courses of action you can take to address the problems, and this article isn’t about that, it’s more about how you can leverage your influence to act as a mentor, or guru to project positivity, in order to boost the morale of your team. Here are 3 Ways a PM can help the team De-stress.

#1.Empathy

The most important attribute I believe a project manager should possess is empathy. Empathy – em·pa·thy – the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings (source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Measured as emotional intelligence, a powerful leadership quality is the ability to connect with each of your team-members on a non-technical, but emotional level, and understanding their needs, concerns and helping build a stronger and safer mental state for your team-member.

“Leaders with empathy,” according to Dr Daniel Goleman of the Harvard Business Review (“What Makes a Great Leader”), “do more than sympathize with people around them: they use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle, but important ways.”

This tool, empathy is powerful not just in the sense that it allows you to help console a team-member, but also a strong negotiating tool. That is, empathy doesn’t infer you need to agree with someone, but rather substitute agreement for empathy, showing a genuine concern for the other person’s concerns, feeling and motives, thereby portraying a greater level of reasoning that leads to a response that is in tune with what the person is going through.

#2. Rallying Your Team

Empathy should not just in the form of words, but actions, and you know the saying work hard, play hard, that’s something that PMs should always do. Ideally, you want your team to bond and gell well, in order to build a strong sense of synergy and dynamics, and while that takes some time to form, you need to help facilitate the fostering of positive relationships. One way of achieving this, is through providing down-time, or socializing activities for your team. 

For instance, start with something simple as pizza Fridays, catered lunches during meetings, and lunches outside of the office. Allow your team members to get to know each other on a more personal level, and the bond will directly translate into the team rallying together for a common cause, or goal. 

One analogy I like to give is to compare it to the ancient Roman or Greek battle-cries, where a strong army morale with inspiring rallying, leads to armies defeating other armies of even greater sizes. Morale therefore is one of the most powerful emotional states a team can have. 

“Schedule monthly get-togethers to reaffirm the project goals, congratulate the team on their successes to date and boost their confidence in doing what it takes to complete the project successfully. Make sure that each person leaves the meeting energized and passionate about finishing the remainder of the project.” (source: Jason Westland. “Managing Projects of all Sizes.” ProjectManager.com, 2014)

With sprints, this is also where retrospectives come in, where you always make sure that you recognize success, and attribute success to each member always. 

#3 Prevent Negative Members from Influencing the Team

Sometimes its not external influences but internal influences that causes stress in the team. It could be someone from another team, say a product owner, that is the instigator. As a Project Manager, you play a fundamental role in shielding your team from negative outside influences, you bat for the team, advocate for the team (I’m looking at you, overzealous product owners).

Identify the instigator and use your personal negotiation skills (remember we talkd about empathy as a tool as well) and directly come to agreements so that they go through you. While listening to his or her perspective on the matter, you also put forward a strong stance that you won’t tolerate negative influences on the team, to hinder their performances. 

If the instigator is someone from within your team, you need to quickly pin-point the stress point (weak points) early on, provide a concrete action plan that will improve the situation. Of course, to be respectful of that person and everyone else, do this in a private manner. 

Remember, as a PM you need to always practice what you preach, and be a positive influencer, for others to follow. You don’t lead through authority but rather through influence, so your charismatic and empathetic attributes as a great leader will greatly determine whether your team is performing at its optimal or not. Rubbing out negiative influences, and instead rallying around your team, with positive re-inforcement, will allow you to achieve more, with less, all thanks to the comradership of each of your team-members.

Increase User Acquisition Prospects with Buy-In

It seems like an obvious notion, right? Like in life, your relationships with businesses or friends revoles around reciprocity, the equality-framework of giving and taking. User Acquisition follows the same principles, you need to demonstrate app value to the customer, in order to receive ‘buy-in’ from them.

The term Reprocity Principle is one of the basic laws of psychology, whereby one would pay back what she or he receives, or another way of putting it, returning the favor for doing something for someone.

Users are most usually hesitant when it comes to providing a lot of detailed personal information, whether it be a registration information, email address, phone numbers, or even keeping the app, upfront, if they don’t recognize a perceived imminent and obvious value in the app, to them. In fact, when apps ask users for system-permissions to access user locations, to receive push notifiations or access your address book, is a barrier if the user doesn’t trust the app.

This is where the concept of app-rewarding comes in, whereby in order to solicitate buy-in from potential users, and we have some ideas on how you can generate the so-called buy-in.

Defer User Registration & Credit Card Information to increase Buy-In

Open up your app to users without requiring them to register. If you are a navigation app maker, allow the users to use basic navigation features, rewarding them with the ability to use the app from the get-go. If you need users to buy-something, such as to book a parking spot from your app, defer credit card information requests until they are about to make the booking.

Once the users see the value of the app, they will feel more comfortable, in which case after they have achieved their first purchase, you can ask them for their registration information. Of course, if you are a social media app, you probably would need to identify your users immediately, but either way, if you do need their registration information up-front, or you are going to defer asking them, you will need to on-board them into it.

On-board Users to increase Buy-in

Never underestimate the power of onboarding, and the influence it has in acquiring and retaining users. You need to design onboarding processes that are contextually sensitive, and onboard the users with the right information for them. If it’s at the start of the app, you onboard what the app does, clearly and succinctly, and if you need their registration information, explain why you need it at that very moment.

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A highly interactive onboarding process, with animation (source: Helpshift)

If you need credit card information from your users, at a specific time later on, on-board them to explain why you need it. Your onboarding process should not just target your new users but your regulars as well, as you should provide constant engagement, and re-engagement to maintain your relationship with your users. Speaking of engagement, push notifications is another important process that needs carefuly management.

Send Engaging and Timely Push Notifications to increase Buy-in

No user wants to receive dozens of unsolicitated push notifications, because they are just as annoying (in fact more annoying) as receiving unsolicitated emails. Push notifications work in conjunction with onboarding, to provide an immediate signal to users, as well as an action for users to react to the notification.

For instance, you can send a push notification with a call-to-action to onboard a user to change a setting in your app, to register their phone number for added protection, and engaging the push notification will result in the onboarding sequence that will provide further information to the user, before she or he decides one way or another.

The more you learn about your users, the more contextual the push notifications can be. If you know your users read a certain category of articles, you can start to push more curated push notifications. If a user has been absent for two weeks, you can send a push notification query to the user to remind them (reward them) for coming back, perhaps with a voucher or coupon.

Defer Asking for Permissions Upfront to increase Buy-in

Finally, don’t ask for user permissions, whether it be for addressbook contact access, push notification permission, location access, health information access, upfront. Once again, if you do need a permission up-front, you on-board users, and explain first-up why you need permission x, and if the user says no, you should still let the user use the app.

For example, if the user doesn’t accept location permission, provide less accurate geo-related information and then prompt the user later on, with reasons why it would benefit them. If you don’t need any of the permissions at the start, defer asking until you need it. Say, you need to access the user’s camera, you ask for camera permissions right when the user presses the camera button for the first-time, so the user knows she or he initiated a process that directly led to a permission request, and is not out of the blue.

In Summary

So, to increase user acquisition and buy-in, there are certain steps app developers need to take, in order to provide a more solicitated environment. You reward users, or give in order to take, thus enabling buy-in, and in this article I mentioned a few ways in which you can do that.

Privacy reserves a huge real-estate in savvy mobile users’ minds, and thus ensuring you maintain user trust, especially early on in the user-engagement cycle is pivotal. Therefore, taking the right steps will lead to a greater level of expectation between you and your users.

Co-Founder Conflict is the #1 Startup Killer. How Can You Protect Your Startup

Conflict Resolution Management is a skill that many trained project managers learn, when working with stakeholders, but something that young entrepreneurs never learn, until it really happens. In fact 62% of startups fail because of co-founder conflicts, and it’s something that really scares venture capitalists. In fact, there’s a saying in Silicon Valley that it’s better to have an A team with a B idea, than a B team with an A idea

The composition of co-founders vary, from two best friends who decide to work on an idea together, to ex-college classmates who decide to form a company, to colleagues at work who decide to co-found a company. Picking a co-founder is critical to the success of a project, and in most cases, you pick someone you really know and can work with, with a proven track record of collaborating together, but still, conflicts inevitably happen sooner or later, so what can you do about? Firstly, let’s identify the types of conflicts that co-founders commonly get suckered into, and the common conflict resolutions to solve those. 

Delegation of decisions

Say one co-founder may like an idea, but the other doesn’t, we suddenly have conflict. This usually occors when you don’t divvy up the duties and responsibilities clearly enough, to have boundaries that you can each respect. Usually a good composition of co-founders is one where each of their skills are complementary, say one is more tech-savvy whereas the other is more business-savvy. 

By setting clear deliniation of responsibilities, you should trust in the other’s capabilities to make decisions. You should of course provide a diplomatic mentality to set out your reasons why you may disagree, but ultimately, once you’ve done your best to convince, show your faith and trust in the other co-founder by letting him have ownership over his decisions. The worst that can happen is, you try the decision and if it doesn’t work out, pivot, because one thing startups have over larger companies, is that they can pivot more rapidly because they are far more in-tune with their markets. 

A Co-founder works harder than the other

So, we aren’t really going to envisige a modern startup with punch-cards right? I don’t think in any scenario you will find each co-founder working the exact amount of hours, all the time, consistently. So get that expectation out of your heads right away!

Comparing a technical co-founder and her programming efforts, up against a marketing co-founder that is working on cultivating a user-base, is like comparing apples and oranges. There may be quiet times for business co-founders, or designers, whereas the coding effort is still going at full-steam, but the next week things may change, and they may end up doing crazy hours trying to reel in new deals. 

This goes back to the first point above, where co-founders need to trust each other, and delegate responsibilities appropriately, and if it seems like there is a continual uneaveness in workload, discuss that and see if you can offload anything to even out the work. 

Equality in Equity

Related to the previous point, discussing who gets how many shares in the company. This is a very contentious issue and something that really riles up co-founders. Does the co-founder that came up with the idea get more than the rest? Does the CTO get more than the CFO? 

Well, I can tell you, if you all started out at the same time, divide it up equally, it’s that simple! It won’t matter in the end if you distrust each other, or let greed give one person more equity, because you won’t even have a product, and venture capitalists won’t even want to touch your toxic environment.

When Diplomacy Fails

When all things fail, seek outside counsel. I always recommend companies have at least 5 mentors, as well as board directors outside of the company, because it adds an outsider’s perspective, balance and wisdom that you definitely don’t have. 

Getting an outsider to broker your disagreement will allow you to move on, so think of it as couples therapy for co-founders. You hate to be in this situation, but you have to agree to the outcomes, and going through the tough times with respect and civility will make you greater negotiators. 

In Conclusion

Nothing venture capitalists hate more is co-founders who cannot get along, and if they sense anything like that, they will pull-out as soon as they can. Maturity and conflict resolution are not attributes that young co-founders have instilled in themselves, but something that needs to be learned quickly. Being civil, open-minded and remembering that you don’t convince with authority but rather by selling your points makes for a healther debate, than being abrasive. 

Everyone co-founders options should matter, but you should also have a structure in place where responsibilities are delegated clearly, and co-founders lean on each other for consel. Ideas will change, and companies pivot many times, but if you turn your relationship with your other co-founders into a toxic one, it will eventually break your company, and will be part of your resume when you work on another startup.