We’re often approached by potential clients of all sizes: Fortune 500s, enterprises, startups, small businesses, etc. Though all need a mobile app to solve a problem, each of these potential clients presents major differences in how we might approach the development of their product. In this post, we’ll discuss the difference between a minimum marketable product (MMP) and a minimum viable product (MVP), two common approaches.

“When do we get started?”

After “How much will this cost? ” this is probably the second most common question we hear during the first sales conversation. Before discussing “when” and “how much,” we need to step back, gain more context on a client’s business, and first decide “where do we start?” In this case, we need to determine the appropriate starting and end points for the path of product development and establish if the first release product should be an MMP or MVP.

MVP: Minimum Viable Product

The concept of the MVP became widely used after its inclusion and promotion in Eric Ries’ Lean Startup. In his book, Ries encourages the Build-Measure-Learn model as an approach to lean product development for startups. The Build-Measure-Learn model encourages experimentation guided by a feedback loop and validated learning. The MVP is the mechanism by which the Build-Measure-Learn model is applied and “is th[e] version of the product that enables a full turn of the Build-Measure-Learn loop with a minimum amount of effort and the least amount of development time.” While this concept has become a popular product development approach for startups, it can still be a useful approach for established businesses with existing tech products.

Let’s be clear, an MVP is NOT a Version 1.0 of your product. The point of an MVP is to test and validate assumptions and learn from disproven assumptions and unknowns, the most important of which is to learn. This is done by using a limited amount of resources to ship as little code and design as possible to reach a point where you can begin to iteratively test, validate and learn. An MVP could be a landing page that helps validate who your customers might be or a pricing/product offering. An MVP could also be a piece of software that delivers on a central feature or use case that validates the assumptions you’ve made about how to solve the problem facing your users.

Related: The Fundamentals of Consulting – Part I

MMP: Minimum Marketable Product

While an MVP approach focuses on validating assumptions, learning who your users are and how to solve their problems, an MMP could be seen as the practical next step in a product development path. An MMP, also known as Minimum Marketable Feature (MMF), was introduced as a product development concept in 2003 by Mark Denne and Jane Cleland-Huang in their 2003 book Software by Numbers. By their definition, an MMP/MMF is a core set of functionalities that addresses target customer’s immediate needs, while also capable of delivering quantifiable value back to the business. In other words, an MMP delivers the must-have functionality that can evolve to include nice-to-have functionality and enhanced user experience.

Let’s say you own a home-cleaning business and you want to develop an application that allows your current customers to book an appointment. The MMP of this product might only allow users to request the appointment with the app by auto-assigning the date, time and a standard cleaning package/plan. Future versions of this product might allow users to pick their date, time and cleaner, as well as customize their cleaning or service package.

In contrast to an MVP, an MMP can be a version 1 that you’ll release into the market. Starting with an MMP implies that you’ve already established your target users and market, and you have a solid understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve with a software product.


How to Choose?

When clients come to us, we start with what they know about their users and their users’ problems and what’s they’ve validated. By definition, a startup starts with an idea or hypothesis aimed at a problem, identifies who experiences the problem and builds a business and product from the ground up that solves the problem. This implies a need to experiment, test, validate and narrow focus so the best place to start would be with an MVP or a series of MVP experiments to validate multiple assumptions. If you’re so early in the startup phase that you have not yet secured long-term funding or investors, an MVP is also a great way to validate your value proposition and go to investors with a stronger business and product plan.

Related: The Fundamentals of Consulting – Part II

The early-stage startup

I once had a startup client that came into the sales process with 45 pages of requirements they wrote themselves. They were ready to build an app based on 45 pages of assumptions without any validation of their target users, the problems they wanted to solve or if the functionality met the actual needs of users. This approach would have cost an enormous amount of money. On top of this, the app involved monetized services, which meant user-generated revenue and building something with the intention of going straight to market, yet without any understanding of how the product would make money.

Our solution was to start with a lean MVP, which was a much lower cost and focused on validating a core set of assumptions. Upon this MVP we could build a much more targeted, validated product that had already proven itself valuable in user and market testing in the MVP phase.

From web app to mobile app

Let’s say you have an established business, but also see a need to expand how you deliver your products and services to your customers. Even businesses that already service customers via web app get major pressure from users to add a mobile app. In this case, the right approach could be an MMP.

You already know your market, you understand how your current product or service meets a need and you know your customers, which means you’re past the point of needing to prove viability. Instead, you need to narrow focus and deliver immediate, must-have value with a go-to-market version of a mobile app, which is the Minimum. The product has to be Marketable because you have expectations from current customers that could otherwise jeopardize your business and brand if not met.

MVP & MMP together

Another option is to map out a development plan that includes an MVP and MMP. Mobile has saturated the public products and services market across all verticals and industries and many businesses feel the demand to get on board. What if the innovation that you’re seeing in your business’ market means mobile needs to be the entry-point to your products and services? And what if your transition to mobile means you might acquire an entirely new market of users or customers? An MVP and MMP together might make the most sense.

An MVP is the smartest approach if you are navigating significant change to the product/content, service design models, pricing and means of delivery. Testing and learning with an MVP can give you better guidance for moving your existing customers into a new arena such as mobile, while also making sure you capture the attention and acquisition of dedicated mobile users. Test and validate your MVP among both existing and potential users and you’ll find an MMP that can meet the needs of both, thus maintaining an existing revenue outlet while expanding into a new one.

No matter where you are on your journey to creating a mobile product, stable|kernel can help get you there with quality consulting, expertise, creativity and strategy.

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