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Out of Touch With Your Customers? Try BML

On the quest for a sustainable business model the top priority is learning
by Caitlin Schiller | Oct 7 2014

Every startup needs to determine which product to build and how to earn money from it. Though much of the high-minded concepting may occur in futuristic offices well removed from humanity’s press and clutch, the only way to figure out what works is getting out into the real world. What successful startups do particularly well is ship a not-quite-perfect product fast and improve from there.

There’s a handy 3-letter acronym to describe this process: BML, or Build, Measure, Learn. Here’s the basic process:

Step 1: Build a simple version of your product – a prototype, like Dropbox’s explainer video, will do.
Step 2: Bring this product to its actual market and gather customer feedback.
Step 3: Take home what you’ve learned in this one cycle, then conceptualize and build a new, optimized product based on your new intel.
Then, repeat until you’ve struck sustainable-business-model gold.

A note about using BML: You’ve got to be quick. Each BML loop helps you improve your product and gives you valuable insights about what your customers actually want. The more loops you can manage, the closer you’re likely to come to your sustainable business model.

Can you apply this tack if you don’t work at a startup? Yes. It actually might be even more useful to those of you in a bigger corporation where innovation tends to get sluggish. You can use BML for creative projects within your business, like development of a new brainstorming process for your sales team, or crafting a new campaign with your in-house marketing team.

It starts with you alone at your desk: sit down and take a critical look at the problem you want to solve and come up with the MVP (Most Viable Product, or Plan). When you’re ready with a draft, gather some feedback from within your team or test it in a smaller group. Finally, use what you’ve learned to improve your prototype and enter the next cycle until you have a partially crowd-sourced, well-vetted product.

Learn more about how you can take startups’ most innovative processes and make them work where you work by checking out The Lean Startup.

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