The other day I got an email from a woman that was trying to figure out how to build a business. Notice I didn't say she was trying to build a website.
Sure, the site would be a big part of the business, but there's a pretty big difference between the two – and one I really appreciate. Because, after all, I'm a business and product guy more than I'm a code guy.
So she came to me to talk a little about business models.
But then she asked some critical questions:
- Should I pay someone to create a custom theme?
- Should I pay for someone to create a custom plugin?
- Where do I find the resources that I can trust to do this?
- How do I know how much to spend?
These were great questions and fortunately, my answers (in this case) weren't expensive.
Introducing an MVP
That's when I introduced her to the idea of a minimum viable product. It's the bare essentials of an business concept that has enough flesh on the bones for people to really “get” it.
But it's not every feature you ever wanted. It's not feature-complete. And it's rarely something you're proud of.
But if you do it right, it's a careful expenditure of funds. Because if you do it right, it's a limited expenditure of funds. You only spend just enough to get something that you can use to test.
I use WordPress to create MVPs a lot
If you know my background, you know that I worked in five startups before getting married and starting our family. Eight years ago I left the startup world as an active participant.
But in those years, I've coached over thirty startups – using the experience I had building and launching products and companies.
And every time I helped someone test out a concept, I would go back to WordPress – which is the reason I decided to step into the community. (I finally decided it would be more fun to help WordPress companies than to only help companies leverage WordPress.)
Creating a Minimum Viable Product using WordPress
To create an MVP using WordPress, I find you have to do four things really well.
1. You have to be clear on what you're actually trying to test.
This means that if you're testing, as in this case, whether someone will purchase a membership to create a featured profile, then you test that. You don't test amazing theme designs.
A lot of people get caught testing forty things at once. Not all things are equal when it comes to validating a business model.
2. You have to limit how much energy you spend on your test.
This means that you don't want to spend a long time on the MPV. I normally try to keep it under 10 hours. Keeping it under 5 hours is preferable (mostly because I can do it over a weekend in the afternoons when people are napping).
3. You need to validate whether the plugins you think will work, will actually work.
It's one thing to have an idea that a plugin (or set of plugins) will work together. It's another notion completely to test them and know that they work together.
Again, the whole point is mitigating risk. So testing the components of a solution together is a key way to mitigate some of that risk.
4. You need to validate whether the user experience is simple enough to make the MVP useful.
It's no good if you create an MVP that no one can use. If you're creating a solution that has 12 steps to it, simply because you're trying to patch too many plugins together, you need to take a step back.
An Example – a Business Directory
As an example, I created this video to show you how I assembled, in less than 2 hours, an MVP around a business directory concept – the exact concept that the woman I spoke with earlier this week asked about.
You'll see how I focused in on four key elements:
- Picking a theme that was clean and trustworthy, that I could manipulate when needed.
- Using Gravity Forms to create posts automatically.
- Using Restrict Content Pro to protect a Gravity Form and test pricing/charging for featured profiles.
- Adding a search element (in gui and with a plugin) that would let me easily modify search weights while making tags available.
Can't see the video? View it here.
Creating this example business directory may not be the way you would do it. It was specific to the conversation I was having with a single person.
But what it did was show them what was possible. Quickly. Easily. And in a way (because it uses WordPress) that they could keep and use as a model for going forward.
So the next time you want to test an idea, or the economics of an idea, consider using WordPress.