The landscape of product development has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. Once considered a mere novelty, technology has rapidly evolved from the days of keypad-equipped phones and the familiar act of blowing into video game cartridges to get them working. Indeed, times have changed.
Today, customers have become exceedingly more discerning and demanding to satisfy. Product design has soared to unprecedented heights, defying all expectations. It is no longer sufficient for products to merely fulfil basic needs; they must now captivate and enchant customers. The goal is not just for customers to use a product, but for them to wholeheartedly embrace it with love and admiration.
What is a Minimum Lovable Product?
Introducing the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP), a groundbreaking approach where users fall in love with a product right from the start. Unlike its counterpart, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which focuses on the bare minimum for market viability, the MLP sets a higher standard by delivering what is necessary for customers to not just tolerate, but truly adore a product.
While an MVP allows companies to swiftly launch a product with basic functionality, it often falls short of meeting customer expectations, leaving them dissatisfied and searching for better alternatives. Recognizing this gap, numerous experts have explored the concept of creating a product that goes beyond viability to inspire genuine affection.
Brian de Haaff, co-founder and CEO of Aha!, introduced the MLP concept in 2013 and further expounded upon it in his bestselling book, “Lovability,” published in 2016. De Haaff emphasises that striving for an MLP is crucial in fostering customer happiness, which, in turn, fuels sustained business growth. By aiming to create a product that customers truly love, companies can cultivate lasting connexions and unlock the full potential of their offerings.
The Differences Between a Minimum Viable Product, Minimum Marketable Product and Minimum Lovable Product
The concept of the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was developed by Eric Ries. He defined it as the earliest version of a new product that enables a team to gather the maximum amount of validated learning about customers while putting in the least amount of effort. While some companies choose to utilise their MVP exclusively for closed beta testing, other lean startups actually launch their MVP as the initial iteration of their product.
- MVP: Minimum Viable Product is the first version of your product that you release to customers. It includes the essential features required to address their problem and is primarily used as a testing tool. Its purpose is to gather valuable feedback and insights.
- MLP: Minimum Lovable Product shares similarities with an MVP, but places greater emphasis on thoughtful design and user interface. It aims not only to solve the problem at hand but also to delight customers, creating an emotional connexion and fostering a sense of love and admiration.
- MMP: Minimum Marketable Product represents the version of your MVP (or MLP) that you will push to the market. It is the culmination of the development process, incorporating feedback and improvements, and ready to be introduced to a wider audience for commercial success.
Why is a Minimum Lovable Product Important?
In today’s competitive landscape, customers have a plethora of choices, and their interaction with technology is largely transactional. If a customer’s encounter with your product leaves them dissatisfied, unheard, or unappreciated, they will swiftly seek out a superior alternative. That’s precisely why it’s crucial to set yourself apart from the very first interaction a customer has with your company, extending to the product experience itself. An MLP (Minimum Lovable Product) can serve as a means to differentiate your product within a crowded marketplace.
To create an MLP, you must deeply understand what truly matters to customers, the challenges they face, and how to enhance their lives. Take a holistic approach to the customer experience and strive to evoke affection at every stage. Consequently, customers will not only make purchases of your product or service but will also actively support your company’s success. Adopting an MLP mindset from the start also guides your approach to further developing your initial product offering. Throughout the iterative process, your focus remains on delighting customers rather than simply meeting the bare minimum requirements.
Minimum Lovable Product Burnt Pizza Analogy
Zhang employs an analogy with her Stanford students to illustrate an important point. Imagine you’re conducting a pizza taste test to determine people’s preferences. If you offer them burnt pizza, their feedback will solely reflect their dislike for burnt pizza, not their true opinion of pizza as a whole.
Likewise, when you solely rely on the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is a quick and inexpensive functional prototype, you run the risk of testing an inadequate or defective version of your product rather than truly evaluating its potential.
What Are The Benefits of Minimum Lovable Products?
The concept of a minimum viable product (MVP) revolves around creating a “test” version of a product that can be put into the hands of target users. Its purpose is to gather feedback and assess the viability of the core product idea. This approach reduces risks and enables agile product development, allowing teams to iterate rapidly instead of investing resources in a fully idealised product that may ultimately fail. However, I believe that the effectiveness of the MVP has diminished in today’s landscape for two primary reasons.
- Firstly, markets have become highly saturated. Unless your idea is truly unique, disruptive, and innovative, it is likely that you will face competition with established user bases. Merely solving the same problem without a distinct identity will not foster growth.
- Secondly, customers are no longer easily impressed by simplistic technology. Advancements in technology, product design, and the emergence of a new generation of digital natives have created an environment where “mediocre” products no longer suffice. Individuals are now capable of building entire video games in their spare time and producing high-quality content using their smartphones. If you intend to sell something to them, it must meet or exceed the standards of what these consumers can create themselves.
To address these challenges, the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) approach offers a solution. By emphasising uniqueness, whether through innovative user experience design, seamless integration with other tools, or compelling branding and marketing, an MLP provides users with a solution to their problems while simultaneously building brand awareness within the target market. By offering something interesting rather than purely functional, you provide users with an additional reason to choose your product over that of your competitors.
What Exactly is a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP)?
A Minimum Lovable Product (MLP), also referred to as a Minimum Loveable Product, goes beyond addressing customers’ problems and focuses on how to delight them throughout the journey. The appeal of the Minimum Viable Product was its cost-effectiveness and faster time to market. However, in a world with heightened competition, MVPs are no longer sufficient. To truly differentiate themselves, startups must strive to create a product that is not just minimal but also lovable.
To illustrate this, let’s imagine visiting a friend’s house where you’re offered a cup of coffee. You requested a coffee, and they bring you a cup of black, instant coffee. Does it meet your request? Yes. Will it provide the caffeine boost you need? Yes. But does it delight you? Probably not. It lacks the experience that would leave a lasting impression and certainly doesn’t bring you joy.
If your friend had taken the time to inquire about your preferences, not just your request, they would have known enough to delight you. Similarly, in product development, it is essential to conduct thorough research to effectively meet the user’s needs. When building an MLP, this research entails discovering what users love. It could involve incorporating a visually pleasing design aesthetic, creating an innovative user onboarding experience, or integrating seamlessly with other tools.
Earning the love of your users is crucial for the early success of a product. It provides a competitive advantage and ensures that your product remains memorable in the minds of users.
How Do I Create a Minimum Lovable Product?
When it comes to constructing a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP), the principles align closely with those of building a traditional Minimum Viable Product (MVP). That’s why we’d recommend reading our guide to building the best minimum viable product before continuing with this section. However, if you’re new to the concept, there are a few essential considerations to bear in mind:
Focus on ‘The Why’
While creating something aesthetically pleasing is important, it is equally crucial for it to solve the intended problem. Regardless of the product, it should serve a purpose. Consider the coffee analogy from earlier. If the coffee your friend served you was adorned with cream, sprinkles, and a fudge brownie on top, it would no longer fulfil its primary purpose as a coffee.
Align Your Team with Your Lovable Goals
Creating a lovable product requires the collective effort of the entire development team, and it is essential to infuse that love into every aspect of the product. As a Product Manager, it falls upon you to align your teams towards a shared objective.
Whether it’s user experience, sales, marketing, design, or technology, all departments must be dedicated to crafting something that resonates with and delights users. Although you may need to leverage the power of influence without direct authority, the investment will yield significant long-term benefits.
Stay Lean and Agile
While striving to delight users in an MLP, it is crucial not to overlook the “M” (Minimum) aspect. Despite the focus on creating a lovable product, it is still essential to maintain agility. Select the minimal set of features necessary to solve users’ problems while ensuring they are as delightful as possible.
Avoid assuming that building a lovable product means providing users with every possible feature they desire. Not only will this consume valuable time, but it will also make future iterations more challenging.
Achieving the right balance between underinvestment and overinvestment in an MLP is key. Being too minimal might result in missed opportunities or failure to differentiate from competitors. Conversely, overinvesting by incorporating excessive features can lead to wasted time and resources if the product misses the mark and requires a pivot.
Gather (The Right) Qualitative Research
Engage in conversations with your early adopters and delve deeper into their experiences beyond product performance. Discover how the product made them feel. When conducting user surveys, incorporate open-ended questions that encourage users to express themselves rather than providing mere yes/no answers or checkboxes.
Additionally, it’s crucial to consider the audience you are testing with. Ensure that your MLP reaches the hands of your target users rather than solely relying on feedback from tech-savvy individuals. The same features and designs that may impress technologists might not have the same impact on the average consumer.
Test, Iterate, Repeat
Your MLP should not be viewed as the ultimate version of your product. Similar to an MVP, it serves as a valuable learning tool to uncover user preferences. Once you have collected qualitative and quantitative feedback, it’s time to start strategizing the next phase of your product’s evolution.
How Do I Evolve a Minimum Viable Product Into A Minimum Lovable Product?
Does this mean that MVPs no longer hold value in product development? Absolutely not. They remain a crucial initial step and an effective way to validate your idea. When resources are limited, it’s better to release something rather than nothing at all. However, in the current landscape, I believe that MLPs are paving the way forward. Today, it is essential to infuse life into your product and create an emotional connexion with users. Here’s how you can transform your MVP into an MLP:
- Involve design early on: Instead of treating design as an afterthought, collaborate with designers right from the start. Even if your product is technically impressive, a poor UX design can lead to failure. Prioritize the integration of design throughout the development process.
- Cultivate your community: Building a loyal and enthusiastic community is invaluable for any company. Work alongside your marketing team to establish online spaces that foster engagement and connexion among your users.
- Embrace storytelling: Infuse your “why” into the core of your product. Your purpose should shine through, serving as a guiding star that reflects your identity to users.
- Gather relevant qualitative feedback: Lovability is subjective, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be data-driven. Listen to your customers and understand how they feel about your product. Provide them with what they both want and need, ensuring their feedback informs your improvements.
- Don’t forget the ‘M’ in MLP: Remember that the focus remains on launching the minimum, allowing flexibility for potential pivots. Concentrate on incorporating lovable features and design elements that don’t require excessive costs.
While MVPs continue to be valuable, the emphasis on MLPs recognises the importance of evoking emotions, building communities, and delivering an exceptional user experience.
Minimum Lovable Product Examples
Amazon’s Minimum Lovable Product
Amazon is renowned for its philosophy of building “minimum lovable products” instead of settling for minimum viable products. This distinctive approach involves taking into account the context and preferences of various customer segments when determining feature prioritisation during product development.
While many companies focus on quick wins based on factors such as value and effort, Amazon goes a step further by actively engaging in customer research and conversations. By doing so, they gain insights into the combinations of features that would genuinely delight each specific market segment.
How Do I Build a Minimum Loveable Product?
Identify the needs that your competitors fail to address and utilise them as opportunities. Select the necessary features that make your MLP functional and appealing to users. Incorporate user-friendly and intuitive UX, captivating UI, and a multitude of benefits to cultivate a community that remains loyal to your product for the long haul.
What Are The Benefits Of A Minimum Lovable Product?
When aiming to develop a product that deeply resonates with your customers, the Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) approach is your ideal option. By investing minimal effort and cost, you can create a product that is ready to be launched in the market. Through the MLP, you have the opportunity to cultivate a loyal community that continues to derive satisfaction from using your product over the long term.
What is The Difference Between an MVP and MLP?
MLP and MVP diverge in their purpose and development timeline. While an MLP aims to attract followers, it incorporates the essential features of the product alongside an appealing design. On the other hand, an MVP is focused on testing the core idea, placing a stronger emphasis on product functionality. As a result, developing an MLP typically requires more time compared to an MVP.
What Comes After a Minimum Lovable Product?
Once your MLP has successfully established itself in the market, you can begin iterating on its functionality. This allows you to enhance your product by adding additional features that further engage and retain your audience with your solution.
In order to achieve a successful product launch, it is crucial to adopt the MLP approach, which involves understanding the genuine needs and preferences of your customers. Additionally, it is important to prioritise the business objectives of your web product and identify the minimum set of features required to initiate the journey.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of Minimum Lovable Products (MLPs), check out our guide to achieving a solid product-market fit for your business or learn more about how to find your perfect Minimum Viable Audience (MVA).