Would you ever eat a can of cat food? Under the right conditions, perhaps. On a dare or if you were hungry enough with nothing else to reach for. But cat food is created with felines in mind. For most humans, it would undoubtedly be edible, but nauseating. And you would probably not be inspired to crack open another can anytime soon.
This is how I have always thought about the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — highly unsatisfying and unlikely to earn loyalty from humans. And it is exactly how I described it nearly four years ago. Some people appreciated that I wrote what — others were appalled. (And I am not sure what their cats thought.)
Here is why I wrote what I did: I have seen the outcome of MVP-thinking over the last 20 years as it has developed in popularity. Obsessed with getting to market fast and reducing risk, teams often pushed to build the bare minimum. Just for the sake of getting a product out the door and meeting a commitment. But it only resulted in unsatisfactory results for both the customer and team. I knew there was a better way.
When we founded Aha! we adopted a new approach — I suggested that we were building a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) for product managers and their teams. We believed we needed more than just the bare minimum to succeed. So, we rejected the idea that business software could be merely tolerated and nothing more. We put all our effort into creating one that customers would love.
Our efforts paid off. The more we invested in building a product that our customers truly loved, the more we saw our business grow.
This love-forward approach has led us to become one fastest growing software companies in the U.S. We are fortunate to serve more than 100,000 users. And they continually tell us they “love” our product via emails, social media, instant messages, referrals, and review sites.
Sure. That sounds like chest thumping. But I do not share these stats with you to boast. I share them because we knew what we wanted to do, but we were not sure everyone would appreciate our efforts. Yet they did. So, we set out to define this “better way” and write down how our theories have proven out in practice. Because we think that our approach could work for you too.
I write about the MLP mindset extensively in my new book, Lovability. And I explain how building products with an eye towards love will lead to growth and long-term success. When you deliver customers a product they truly adore, they will cheer for you and participate in your success. Your customers will not only want to do business with you, they will want to see you become great.
Unfortunately, many companies are stuck in the old bare-minimum MVP thinking. But whether you are a leader in title or action, you can be part of igniting a change for the better. You can and should pursue lovability.
Here is how to foster the MLP mindset at your organization:
Building a MLP requires a deep curiosity — you need to keep digging to understand your customers’ needs and motivations. Never guess at what they value. Instead, reach out and get the answers straight from them. Start with these questions: What do they care about? What problems do they have? What would make their lives better?
Once you have these insights, you can zero in on your purpose — building a product that not only solves your customer’s specific problem but brings them happiness and mojo in the process. Make a plan for how you are going to deliver on this. (And please share it with your team so they know too.)
Creating a product that people cannot live without is a bold endeavor. Some might tell you it cannot be done. Do not listen to them. Tune out critics and stay focused on building a lovable product. Ward off distractions that do not align with this focus. And remember that the objective is not to appease everyone — it is to serve valuable customers.
Lines of code? Bits of hardware? Not quite. Your product is not just what you ship or the basic service that you provide. It is the complete experience of using your product and the relationship you share with your customer. So yes, you need to build a product that is delightfully reliable. But you also need to ensure that every part of the customer journey reinforces this — from marketing and sales to third-party integrations and support.
We live in a world with seemingly unlimited product choices, so consumers no longer have to choose an option that is barely “good enough.”
This is why now — more than ever — it is time to focus on building lovable products. When you do this, you will create something that is valuable and lasting. Customers have a product that brings them joy. And you and your team are happy because you are actually building something that matters.
Product and company builders should be the happiest people on earth — and they are when they focus on building products that are highly lovable.
How do you focus on lovability?