NEF 2-Day Workshop: Minimum Viable Product (Day 1)


Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February 2014, UCL Idea London, Shoreditch, London.

The first part of this workshop, we spent with Chris Coleridge from UCL, looking at ‘Intangibles’ for our business ideas. By ‘intangibles’, what we’re talking about are the additional benefits or value our proposition can generate, beyond the traditional and easily measured financial benefits.

The first intangible we looked at was Trust. Security, safety and reputation are all big parts of a customer trusting you, your company and your products/services. If you don’t build trust into your business and offerings, good luck retaining valuable customers or users in the future!

Building partnerships with other well known players within your industry is a good way to build trust. I’m interested in entering the endurance sports and cycling industries, so partnering with and becoming familiar with existing and well thought of companies such as Chain Reaction Cycles, Wiggle, Rapha, or Cycling Weekly might be a good idea. Prospective customers would likely view the partnership as a validation that my company and offering is real, honest, secure, and to some extent endorsed by those companies they already know well and trust daily.

Design. Whether physical product or service, a high quality design is vital. Appropriate visuals, and attractive design tailored to your target audience are a must have, along with a brilliant User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). If you’re building a website or app, then the layout and UI has to be brilliant and easy to navigate, built well and reliable.

Being present with communications in your customers ‘home’ channels is important too. It’s no good having a Pinterest account and pushing all your comms through that if your customer base doesn’t use Pinterest but typically uses forums or LinkedIn instead for example. Look to where your user base hangs out already. Is it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn? Just pick and focus on the relevant channels.

Having an offline presence can play a big part in building trust as well. Identifying your team, and being contactable and visible to your users can instil a sense that you are approachable, and not a ‘faceless’ corporate or similar.

Try pull together and publish some testimonials from existing customers, or even better – from key people of influence in your industry! For me, that might be a sports star in cycling – Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish for example, but equally there might be a brilliant and well know sports blogger or journalist who would be a great ally and advocate of my products, if only I could reach out and get them on board.

Intangible 2: Experience

  • 24/7 customer service
  • It’s you! – Founder involvement
  • How to make the most of the proposition
  • UX
  • Setting Expectations

Intangible 3: Relationship

What can you do to give those who engage with you a feeling about what the future holds for your relationship?

  • Education
  • Keep the ‘human connection’
  • “Why”
  • Recommend a competitor (in the instance you can’t deliver for whatever reason)
  • Community
  • Referrals
  • “Social strategy” – being a connector/hub
  • Versioning (new releases – think iPod/iPhone)
  • Information content / problem solving
  • Scouting (staying ahead of the game, the competition)
  • Gamification / loyalty.

Intangible 4: Symbolism

  • Give a larger (more enriched) meaning to the engagement with the customer. One that creates affiliation and allows your value proposition to be a reflection of the customer’s “tribe” or place in society.

We then had a quick look at storytelling, and why telling a story as part of your MVP can be a great way to capture the attention of your target audience and start providing value  and entertainment before your product even delivers.

  • Why stories? – gain attention in the ‘attention economy’
  • Be the Hero or Villain (of your industry)
  • Champion to your customers?
  • Rule-breaker on behalf of your customers?
  • Hated or loved is fine, boring is not!

The typical 5 ‘beats’ of a story:

  • Introduction
  • Incident
  • Stakes
  • Event
  • Resolution