Minimal Viable Offer (MVO): Road to the Prototype
Now that you’ve identified the value propositions you intend to offer to your customers, and you’ve pinpointed the ways in which you intend to package said values (revenue generators), you will need to determine your minimal viable offer (MVO). In other words, ask yourself: “What is the minimum combination of value propositions I must offer to my customers in order for them to pay me?
The idea here is to minimize the upfront costs and risks associated with launching a new venture. You want to spend the least amount of money at this stage, but still be able to get enough feedback and information from your market to shape your offering into a better answer to your customers’ needs and wants. The only way you can do this is by allowing your customers to experience your value propositions first hand the most efficient way to do this is by creating a prototype.
A prototype is the ‘rough draft’ representation of what your tangible offering will be to your customers. Your prototype can be as simple as the sketching of a business model on a piece of scrap paper, a detailed CAD drawing of a trouser design, or finished ‘production run’ samples of a handbag. Don’t get too bogged down with trying to make it overly elaborate. Just make sure it encompasses the MVO that your customers will likely find valuable.
Getting Feedback from Your Market
Once your prototype is in the hands of your customers, you’ll want to gather as much information from them as possible. The amount of insight you gain here will will help you improve your offering over the long run, making your product more likely to be bought repeatedly, which is what you need to maintain business solvency (ie: making enough money to keep operating).
Below is a list of specific things you can do to help maximize this feedback process:
For obvious reasons, feedback from a potential customer is more valuable than from friends or family, unless your friends or family members fall within the scope of your target audience. Yet, even in this case, it’s best to use strangers because they are less likely to ‘sugarcoat’ their responses to you.
Open Ended Questions
Ask the kind of questions that will get someone talking for a while. Questions that do not have a short, finite answer such as yes or no.
Consider Both Conservative & Extreme Answers
Entertain both reserved and outlandish responses to your questions especially where your customer’s needs and wants are concerned. Don’t dismiss anything. I’m not saying that you will incorporate everything into your offering, but wrapped in your customers grandiose or “it’s nothing” responses, may be the seed to a future innovation or improvement for your business.
Collect Letters of Intent
If your customers are interested in your offering, take the orders right then and there, even if you don’t have the rest of the business figured out yet. Don’t waste your customer’s purchase intent this is something that is often very difficult to create. In my experience, worrying about filling orders is a great worry to have. Plus, the pressure to ‘make good’ on your promise to your customer will likely serve as ‘fuel’ to meet your new found demand, and help fill out the rest of your business building blocks.
Kaizen: Continuous Improvement?
If Kaizen had a motto, it would either be “Always Be Improving (ABI)” or “Always Be Innovating (ABI).” Kaizen, whose literal translation in Japanese means “Good Change,” is more widely known as the business philosophy that denotes continuous improvement and innovation within an organization. I believe an investment in the philosophy of Kaizen is a requirement for all those who aim at consistently creating value for their customers over the long term.
In the End…
At the heart of every successful fashion business, lives a clear understanding of it’s customers needs and wants. A clear view of their aspirations, hopes, fears, and concerns. Value propositions flow from this understanding. The structure or form that value takes on will likely change over time. The manner in which this value is delivered will change too. But what should not change is your devotion to your customer. It is this relationship that will support the life of your business over the long term.
On the road to propositions that your customers find valuable, you will encounter setbacks, you will be confused, and, sometimes, you will be discouraged. You will start, fail, start all over, pause, pivot, and start again. But if you remain transfixed on your customers, or more importantly, their deepest needs, wants and desires, you will increase your chances of having a proverbial ‘seat at their table.’
Successful value creation lives not in the final offering you create for your customers, but rather in the dynamic mindset developed as a result of the value creation process It’s the lessons you learn along the way.
Artwork Credit: @Urbanimal