When you have a great new idea for a product, whether a completely new business or an add on to a current product line, it is exciting and the temptation is just to dive right in with product specifications and development. New options for crowd funding, like KickStarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo are great if you’re in the investment stages as a way to prove the viability of your product and begin collecting customers.

What is Minimum Viable Product?

Somewhere in the middle you’re likely to build a prototype, also called an MVP or Minimum Viable Product, and look for feedback, suggestions and product enhancement ideas. While MVP is often used as a technique for software or features of software and apps, the same principal can be applied to all types of products. In some cases a company will not even build a functioning version, but will create a link or promo for a product to see if users click on the link, which helps them understand whether there is interest in it being built.

This is an ideal stage to bring your product to a closed audience and generate excitement with a giveaway, particularly for digital content, services or subscription based products. While the solution is ideal for an initial version of a website or app, it can also be applied to digital mediums, such as an online course or eBook. You can gather feedback on your initial version (or draft) and revise before going into the public and charging for the product or service.

MVP giveaway versus BETA invitation

Many companies use giveaways or waiting lists to provide BETA access (where purchases or sign ups are limited) to a new product or service in order to generate interest prior to their open launch. The difference between an MVP and a BETA product is that an MVP version is typically very basic with little to no bells or whistles. The product design has likely not been a priority and users should expect some small issues to arise here and there.

A product’s BETA launch, however, is more often used as a tool for users to help the company find and isolate bugs that are edge cases. A BETA launch is often also used as a way to throttle new customers so that the company can ensure that they have the resources in place to handle the expected volume once the product is open to the public.

Why you should run giveaways for MVPs

In comparison to a BETA launch, where more resources (and often funds) have been devoted to the product, running a giveaway at the MVP stage also helps you to answer the most important question: Does anyone want this? If you’re giving it away for free and no one signs up to win it you might need to rethink the product, or at the very least the positioning that you’re using to describe and promote it.

Promoting giveaways for MVPs

When you have an MVP that you’re ready for a small group of users to begin testing and providing feedback on, the giveaway should be promoted to what will (hopefully) be your target audience after you’ve launched the product. By inviting these early adopters to provide feedback on your product you may realize that there’s a vitally important feature that is missing or that their critique may help you redirect your focus to an area that you didn’t previously delve into as deeply at the customers would like you to.

Gathering feedback from users

Your giveaway can also be used as a tool to collect feedback by including survey and poll questions. Since the winners of your giveaway will be receiving the product or service for free, you may want to use a question within your giveaway to inquire as to the price range that users expect the product to be available for when it does launch. Similarly, add in poll questions to ask users what features or topics the product must cover before they would be interested.

(hint: these may be features you’d planned for the future or ones you’ve already built in and want to confirm that your direction and previous research assumptions were on track).

Build your email list

At the point where you’ve launched a Minimum Viable Product you’re not likely to be focused on social media or heavy promotion of the product. However, by including an option for entrants of your giveaway to subscribe to an email list you can begin building your potential customer pool before you’ve even gotten to the point of having a stable, polished product. Allowing users to opt into your email gives you access to a list of potential customers that you can contact minutes after deploying your first public iteration.

Research and development giveaways

If you don’t have an MVP ready for user testing and feedback try running a giveaway that includes poll and survey questions to learn from potential users what they would want to see by offering a prize that would appeal to that same audience. For instance, if you’re building an iPhone App for travelers, try running a giveaway that asks for feedback about features you plan to build while offering a gift card for a hotel chain or airline.