Minimum viable communities (MVC) are on the rise. But what are they and how do you build one?
Much like how a minimal viable product (MVP) is the smallest thing you can build that delivers customer value, an MVC is a temporary product community that enables entrepreneurs to test their ideas and iterate based on customer feedback.
It's not an arbitrary exercise, but rather a strategy of smart risk-taking based on the idea that it's better to put something out there, even if it's not perfect than to wait until you've done everything perfectly.
Benefits of an MVC
Building an MVC helps you to focus on the core value proposition of your business and gives you an opportunity to increase the stickiness of your product. The goal of an MVC is to provide entrepreneurs with real customer feedback as quickly as possible.
There are multiple benefits to launching an MVC:
- Validate assumptions of a target market
- Minimal time & resources used
- Getting customer feedback
- Create buzz through word-of-mouth
- Determining the right MVP
Launching an MVC is a great way to validate your idea. It's also a great way to build a community around your product or service.
Here's how, step by step:
Step 1: Purpose: Why does your community exist?
Why you exist is the most important part of any community. What problem are you trying to solve? What is the unmet need that you are looking to satisfy?
Clarify the value you wish to bring to your members. Provide the knowledge, access, and emotion that aligns with the purpose. Once this is established, find the tool that can deliver on the unmet need:
- Sharing content: build an email list
- IRL events: use MeetUp/Eventbrite
- NFT project: start a Discord
Use the tools available to you to launch the MVC that people currently use.
Step 2: People: Who is your community for?
A community's members not only engage with the Practice but help drive the direction as it evolves. What type of person would be interested in joining? What are their motivations?
Start broad, say startups, and dive deeper from there - startup founders > tech founders > fintech founders > fintech founders in New York > fintech founders in NY interested in Web3 (and so on). Knowing "who" the MVC is for influences your marketing in a number of ways:
- Social Channel (start in 1 place)
- Messaging (speak their lingo)
- Content (aligned with exp. level & goals)
The MVC speaks directly to this targeted group and gives it a better chance of receiving both interest and engagement.
Step 3: Practice: What is the member experience look like?
The member experience is the key to making your community viable. What recurring activities take place? What does engagement by members look like?
If you exist to help founders fundraise, then you may set up a resource channel for people to share information or host VC fireside chats or weekly pitch reviews. Almost all activities can be grouped into three buckets:
- Single occurrence (onboarding experience)
- Recurring, planned (weekly meetups)
- Unplanned (social engagement/community-led)
Experiences are based on the "why" of the community.
The MVC only establishes a starting point.
Trying to find out what the customers want, before actually building anything and getting feedback, is a tough task. But with MVC you can do just that! Talk to your potential customers, get their feedback, analyze it and build something that they actually want.
Building an MVC comes with an understanding that you may not only abandon it if unsuccessful, but you're open to its evolution.
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