Lean Startup | What Is It and How to Apply It?

Lean Startup

Lean Startup is a method of developing companies and products that aims to shorten product development cycles. Lean Startup consists a company and product development method that aims to shorten the product development cycle. By using the Lean Startup Model, they can use it repeatedly and successively to verify that the applied offer meets market demand. It enables companies (start-up or not, existing or in-progress, large and small,…) to organize projects quickly, with greatly reduced failure rates and at lower costs…

This is a method of starting a business, based on the validation of concepts with future customers through an iterative process: the idea being to obtain a product or service perfectly suited to the market. In short, it is about exploring the customer base.

Initially developed by an American entrepreneur, Eric Ries, “The Lean Startup”, in a book of the same name, is a well-known method for iteratively validating an offer, a product or a service with the target clientele. A method, which has proven itself with large companies, is also adopted by a large number of founders of startups offering an innovative product or service. This method can of course be used by any project leader.
Do not go headlong into the development of your solution, features, or the ergonomics of your product or service … The fundamental question first is whether your product will be of interest to the customer.

Before starting…

Before developing a prototype, a software, a new service offer … Define your starting hypotheses:

  • what problem (s) do you want to solve?
  • what solution do you provide to solve it? And what makes this solution relevant / interesting or even unique for your customers?
  • who are the actors, challenges…
  • who will be your main target customers?
  • what will be your performance indicators…

Lean Startup in 3 steps

1. BUILD – Construction phase

Do not wait for your product to be finalized to put it on the market: develop your Minimum Viable Product or MVP (minimum viable product in French), having as a backbone the solution of the problem to which you are responding.

This involves developing a first, simplified version of your product, incorporating only the main functions, and submitting it to potential customers in order to measure demand. The aesthetics and secondary functionalities must be integrated as a second step. This will prevent you from investing in a product / service that no one has an interest in.

Read also: Quality Management and its System QMS | Total quality and compliance control

If you are not a “developer”, it can be a simple presentation of your product / service via a website, a presentation page, a video, a webinar, an image of the prototype, a screenshot, an infographic … Show that the product / service exists and almost market-ready. This real-world learning system will allow you to test your product / service on a small scale.

2. MEASURE – Observation and measurement phase

It’s about quickly collecting as much feedback as possible from users in order to understand your target audience and improve your MVP.

During this discovery phase, you will need to listen to your target:

Who are your clients ? (The buyer, the user, the profile …)
Have they understood what you are offering them? What caught their attention?
What are the client’s sorrows, pains and frustrations?
What did he like? What are the sources of your client’s motivation?
Why your product and not that of your competitors?

Here are some ideas for experimenting with your product / service:

Create a landing page that explains what you do and who you are. Now is the time to collect customer reviews and contact, via a dedicated space, a chat, or a form.
Make presales via your landing page, website, or with your own network.
Launch a crowdfunding campaign. This is a way to test if your product / service interests your target audience, and to build a community.
Launch a crowdtesting campaign, via an online platform to test a product / service.
Put an advertising budget on social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.), but in a short period of time.
Test customer engagement, through interactions, comments, shares, downloads, contact details, etc.
Offer a free trial over a limited period if your solution is sufficiently advanced.
Use several distribution channels (webinars, shows, networks…).
Solicit your own network by encouraging the sharing of your presentations, tools, campaigns, etc.
ALL opinions are good to take, and especially the bad ones! Tell yourself that if a user is spending time giving you feedback, they have a potential interest in your product / service! You will be more open to criticism and discussion at this point. Once your product / service launches, you will be less available.

Take this time to build a list of “early adopters” who are usually willing to pay when your product / service is released. It’s customer-driven development.

3. LEARN – Learning phase

After collecting valuable feedback from your users, you need to understand what has sparked interest or frustration. Then target the various areas for improvement: product / service offer, target, communication, distribution channels, storytelling, positioning … and check the relevance of the solution provided in relation to the problem posed.

Thanks to these initial feedbacks, you will therefore be able to adjust, supplement, develop your offer or completely modify your business model. If this has a significant impact on your business model, we will talk about “pivot”.

Repeat the operation by iteration:

1. Adjust your MVP to what is of value to the user (eg: features, service, ergonomics, etc.).
2. Resubmit your MVP to the market.
3. Record new user notices.

This step can be repeated until the right match is found with the product and the market: the “product market fit”.

To achieve a perfect match between your product / service and its market, ask yourself these three key questions:

• Does your target understand what you are doing?
• Is your target ready to buy your product / service?
• Is your target ready to recommend your offer to their network?
If the product / market fit works, scale it up by deploying to the market and industrializing your product / service.

The origin of Lean Startup

The Lean Startup finds its origin in the Lean Manufacturing developed by Toyota just after the war. At that time, Japan wanted to rebuild quickly and again play an important economic role with little means.

The method is to ask all employees of a company to help eliminate waste in all its forms by chasing away anything that contributes to creating “non-added value”.

The difficulty of creating an innovative business

What is Lean Startup? It is in his bestseller “The Lean Startup” that Eric Ries discusses the concept of Lean Startup for the first time. His analysis of young companies and startups leads him to notice that one of the difficulties they encounter is that they create the company from an existing technology rather than designing it from the needs of the users.

By following this approach, the creator most of the time skews the process by projecting his interpretation of the needs which can be removed from the users’ perception. By following this approach, companies design products that are used little or not.

Furthermore, it is difficult for an entrepreneur to imagine a structured approach allowing him to implement his project and create a business. The vast majority of innovative business creators are faced with at least 3 difficulties:

  • Lack of time,
  • The initial idea is not sufficiently confronted with the market and does not evolve during the creation process,
  • Lack of clients; these are not always there!

While it is always possible to change things, solutions are often costly in terms of budget and time.

Sources: PinterPandaiUniversity Lab Partners, Investopedia

Photo credit: Author Rebeca Zuñiga / Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Title: The Lean Startup Methodology. “My visual notes for The #Lean #Startup #Methodology by @ericries www.theleanstartup.com


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