New Product Development: 5 steps to creating an “MLP”

Would you rather be viable or lovable?


If you are involved with your credit union’s new product development efforts, you’re likely familiar with the term Minimal Viable Product (MVP). MVP is a deployment process in which you give your users a functioning product that delivers the expected business value and then relies upon users to flush out the remaining features for the whole product. While the MVP model can definitely be a great approach to take for product development it may not be the best for products involving your members’ financial needs.

The threat of technology firms, often focusing exclusively on the needs of the user—without the burdens of legacy processes, systems and compliance concerns—is real. They are winning financial transactions from your members by building solutions that connect with them at a level that makes them want to share their experiences with their friends and family.

Many organizations fall into the trap of simply building an “okay” product—it’s functional, cheap, and meets the deadline. The problem with that—their customers don’t love it. And, since they don’t love it, they don’t use it and they definitely don’t want to talk about it with others. So what’s the solution? How can your organization be more than viable and regularly deliver lovable results? Start guiding your team to develop products as an MLP—Minimum Loveable Product: the best possible version of a product that generates the maximum amount of love from your beta testers and early adapters.

When it comes to product development, heed these famous words from John Lydgate, famous English poet and monk, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” A successful product will be loved by your key audience enough to get them talking about it and sharing it with their networks. Furthermore, it’s way more efficient and economical to make enhancements to a product that is engaging and addresses critical user needs, as opposed to having to start all over from a sub-par product.

Know Your Audience

In order to build the right product, knowing your audience is a critical step. What are their banking/lending/technology needs? How do they want/need to interact with the product? What are the non-negotiables to their “dream” product? How would this product affect their day-to-day interactions with your credit union? It’s best to get the answers to these questions “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Talk to your members: have your loan officers and service representatives ask questions when they make routine service requests, or send out a survey via email with some kind of incentive for completing. Research can be time-consuming and tedious, but it is a vital step in the product development cycle.

Thorough research will give you the information you need to develop a unique buyer persona of your members, which will allow you to develop a product that meets the needs of the majority of your members, without attempting to cover every edge case.

So, How Do I Create an MLP?

As you’re developing your new product(s), follow these five steps and you’ll be well on your way to creating an MLP that your ideal member will love.

  1. Appeal to your members’ emotionsWhen developing a product, think about the ‘why’ instead of focusing completely on the solution. When you start to consider the ‘why,’ you increase your chances that your members create an emotional connection with your product. For example, Suburu makes vehicles. The purpose of a vehicle is to get you from point A to B, but when Suburu markets their vehicles, they appeal to their customers’ and prospects’ emotions by communicating that their mission is to protect the people that ride in their cars.
  1. “Put your eggs in one basket”This cliche’ statement has a negative connotation, but when it comes to product development, you can’t be everything to everybody. Focus on the core of what you want to accomplish, and make sure you knock that out of the park.
  1. PrioritizeSometimes, time can be a detriment. If product development drags on for months on end, not only does the product ultimately get watered-down in features and enhancements that are not critical, but it can also push you over budget. Prioritize what is important, based on your long-term strategic goals, set a realistic time frame, and push forward.
  1. Make user experience a priorityLet’s face it—looks matter. Yes, functionality and features are critical, but the way your end-product looks and operates is just as important. Making sure that every interaction with your member is taken into consideration and is intentionally designed to address their needs and concerns.
  1. Keep them coming backGetting your members to become habitual users of your product is one of the integral ways to build loyalty. Credit Unions have a large number of opportunities to tackle this initiative since you’re involved with an individual’s finances; a very intimate and prevalent aspect of our daily lives. Additionally, the old way of marketing and advertising to consumers is all but dead. Consumers don’t want to be talked at anymore; they, particularly millennials, want to partake in the conversation. Find a way to build the kind of product that will encourage your most passionate users to engage in open dialogue with you—preferably via a public venue, such as a landing page or social media network—and share their experiences with their friends and family.

Product development is very hard work and often has you venturing into unknown territory with your members, but when done well, it can lead to your credit union reaching your goals—the ones you defined earlier in step three—and increased member loyalty. I’ll add one last thing: keep in mind, your initial product is not the end of the road; it’s merely your starting point. But, if you build an MLP, the focus will keep your members engaged and position you for success on your continued development efforts.

Victoria Penn

Victoria Penn

Victoria Penn is the Content Manager for SWBC. She manages the content marketing strategies for the company by producing and maintaining fresh digital and print content across multiple platforms such ... Web: Details