I was trying to think of an analogy for this post. And then it came to me. Products launched to market should be compelling. They should quickly capture the hearts and minds of users (even an initial first adopter segment) and delight. When I moved my agency into WeWork Moorgate many years ago we really dug the inspirational slogan ‘Do What You Love’. This conjured up a passionate and driven mindset. I doubt very much ‘Do What You Like’ would have had the same effect! And just like the WeWork slogan, think about an MVP as the ‘Like’ – just meh, ‘good enough’. Will that really cut it in today’s competitive market? Read on!
The term MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, has become a mantra for startups and established companies alike. The idea behind MVP is simple: create a bare-bones version of your product, just enough to test the waters and gather user feedback. However, as the landscape evolves and customer expectations rise, it’s time to consider a more compelling approach: building MLPs, or Minimum Loveable Products.
What is an MLP?
An MLP goes beyond the basic functionality of an MVP. It not only solves a problem but also elicits genuine love and excitement from users. It’s a product that users not only need but one they genuinely enjoy using. This shift in focus from “viable” to “loveable” can make all the difference in today’s competitive market.
Here’s why you should prioritise building MLPs over MVPs:
1 Building Stronger Customer Relationships
User engagement and loyalty are crucial in today’s hyper-competitive market. An MLP is more likely to capture your users’ hearts, creating a strong emotional connection. This connection translates into loyal customers who not only stick around but also become advocates for your product. Take Slack, for instance. Instead of just creating a chat platform, they designed a product that users genuinely loved, with a friendly interface and customisable features, which led to rapid adoption and loyalty.
2 Differentiating from the Competition
In crowded markets, an MVP may get lost in the noise. But an MLP stands out. By focusing on user experience, design, and the “wow” factor, your product can differentiate itself from competitors. Apple’s iPhone is a prime example. Instead of releasing a basic phone with minimal functionality, they launched a product that was not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, setting new standards in the industry.
3 Early Adoption and Word of Mouth
An MVP may attract early adopters who are willing to give it a try. However, an MLP generates organic excitement and encourages users to spread the word. When Dropbox launched, they provided a simple and user-friendly file-sharing experience that users loved. This led to exponential growth through word-of-mouth marketing.
4 Reducing Churn and User Frustration
An MVP may leave users frustrated due to missing features or a lacklustre user experience. This frustration can lead to high churn rates. In contrast, an MLP provides a more complete and enjoyable experience, reducing user frustration and churn. Netflix started as a DVD-by-mail service but transformed into a streaming platform with a vast library of content, ensuring users had more reasons to stay and less motivation to cancel their subscriptions. Bear in mind that shortcuts you take now with your MVP may cost you dearly – by the time you’re addressing churn and revamping your product you would have burnt through vital resource, only to have to build what you should have done in the first place.
5 Faster Iteration and Scalability
The bar is high with software. Remember – the core products your customers use have often been through countless iterations to provide a great and seamless user experience. It’s no longer enough to create a basic MVP. To succeed, you need to capture the hearts and minds of your users with a Minimum Loveable Product. Prioritising user experience, emotional engagement, and a product that users genuinely love can lead to stronger customer relationships, differentiation from competitors, early adoption, reduced churn, and faster iteration. In a world where love for a product can translate into long-term success, building MLPs is the path forward.
By shifting our focus from viability to lovability, we not only meet user needs but also create products that users can’t help but fall in love with. So, let’s aim for MLPs, and in doing so, we can build not just successful products, but products that people adore.
MVP vs MLP – Real world case study
❌ Example 1: MVP That Didn’t Work – Color.com
MVP Description: Color.com, a healthcare startup, created an MVP in the form of a mobile app that aimed to revolutionise healthcare by offering genetic testing and personalized health insights. The app allowed users to take photos and share them with medical professionals for analysis.
Why It Didn’t Work: While Color.com had ambitious goals and a well-designed app, they faced several issues with their initial MVP:
Lack of Market Fit: The app failed to gain significant traction because it didn’t address a pressing need for users. Genetic testing and health insights were not perceived as an immediate priority by the general public.
Overemphasis on Technology: The MVP placed too much emphasis on the technological aspect, assuming that a sophisticated app alone would attract users.
Misaligned User Expectations: Users expected more value and guidance in their healthcare decisions but found the app’s offerings to be shallow and lacking personalised insights.
✅ Example 2: MLP That Succeeded – Airbnb
MLP Description: Airbnb started as a simple website in 2007 that allowed people to rent out their spare rooms or properties to travelers. The founders, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, created a basic website with listings and photos, but what made it an MLP was the focus on creating a delightful user experience:
High-Quality Photography: Airbnb offered free professional photography for hosts, ensuring that listings looked appealing and trustworthy.
Personalised Host and Guest Profiles: Hosts and guests had the opportunity to create profiles with photos and detailed information, fostering trust and connection between users.
User Reviews and Ratings: Airbnb incorporated a robust review system that allowed guests to rate their stays and share feedback. This transparency built trust within the community.
Why It Succeeded:
Emotional Connection: Airbnb’s MLP emphasised the emotional aspect of travel and human connection. It went beyond providing a place to stay and created an experience that people loved and cherished.
Addressed Pain Points: Airbnb addressed the pain points of both hosts (earning extra income) and travelers (finding unique and affordable accommodations) effectively.
Rapid Growth: By focusing on creating a loveable product, Airbnb achieved rapid growth, with users not only returning but also becoming advocates who recommended the platform to others.
Iteration and Expansion: Over time, Airbnb expanded its offerings and services based on user feedback, evolving into a global platform for unique travel experiences.
In contrast to Color.com’s MVP, which failed to resonate with users due to a lack of market fit and a shallow value proposition, Airbnb’s MLP succeeded by addressing user needs, building trust, and creating an emotional connection. The emphasis on delivering a loveable experience played a pivotal role in Airbnb’s remarkable growth and success.