"Finally a way to follow-up, without me."
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Have you ever had an idea for a technology company (web/mobile app, SaaS system, etc.) and wondered if it would be successful?
Albeit physical products can be articulated via a PowerPoint Prototype (PPP) this post will focus specifically on building a PPP for a technology related company.
‘Practice’ is a pillar of The PolitePersistence System.
Practice is simply a repeating form of improving action.
There is no excuse, then, for not taking action and practicing your minimum viable product (MVP) on real people for your business idea.
Lucky for you, the PPP is a tool to help you do just that.
This post will examine three aspects of a PPP:
1) Prototyping Importance
2) How to PowerPoint Prototype
3) Uses for Your PPP
No matter your growth stage (Proving, Initializing, Crowdfunding or Scaling AKA PICS), being able to articulate your core unique selling proposition quickly and effectively, as close to the real thing, is vital for success.
Although my appreciation for coders and developers is on par with that of a fine wine I am not a developer. However, I will dabble in Code Academy when the interest moves me.
With that said, it was paramount that I find a strong development team to bring our product, PolitePersistence, to life.
So I created a PPP to help articulate to developers our desired functionality. Also, our PPP doubled as a vetting tool with potential users… more on that in a second.
Here is a link to download our original PPP. www.PolitePersistence.com/media/PolitePersistence_DRAFT_Walk_Through.ppt
Note that this was our first concept of our MVP. This concept of PolitePersistence was to be a standalone platform. In other words, a user would:
1) visit www.PolitePersistence.com
2) create an account
3) access a dashboard and
4) send emails via our PolitePersistence server.
This was similar to how LetterMeLater.com operates except all of the user emails would be sent from an email address like: [Your Name]@PolitePersistence.com.
In retrospect, having a standalone platform was such a horrific idea I still have nightmares of what would have happened if we continued down this path.
It wasn’t until I shared our PPP with a few contacts that I discovered a standalone PolitePersistence platform would never work.
As one of my friends described it to me, “When I email someone with PolitePersistence it’s kind of like I’m a magician. I create the illusion that I’m attentive and following up with him or her on a regular basis when really it’s all automated. Having my emails come from an @PolitePersistence.com email address is like me revealing my secrets. And a magician never reveals his secrets. I’ll never use it if this is the case.”
I never would have realized this if it wasn’t for the PPP.
From this feedback, we restructured as a Gmail browser extension (more platforms to come).
I know our technical readers are saying, “But what if I am technical and can actually create a prototype without the need of a PPP?”
I will answer your question with a question. How important is your time?
Depending on the functionality you want to articulate, it’s a hell of a lot easier to spend a couple hours putting a PPP together to prove a concept rather than a couple of days.
The goal in all of this is to land subscribers and potential customers before dedicating months of time and significant resources to the real thing.
A PPP is perfect for doing just that.
Your PPP can be as detailed or as simple as you need. Although most have access to PowerPoint, those who don’t can utilize the Google Drive Drawing feature to create a similar experience.
Without getting bogged down into the details, a PPP is simply a combination of hyperlinks throughout various slides within your PowerPoint in order to create the sense of a product flow.
This post could get very long if I was to describe all of the techniques that go into creating fancy and professional grade PPPs but for our purpose, that being an introduction to PPPs, I’ll keep it high level.
You can use my PPP as a template from above because I’m one of those people who learn by doing and diving in the deep end.
So to save you time I’ve included other PPP examples below along with another site for helping you create sharp PPP:
To create a PPP, you will need to set up a few things:
1) Commonly Used Interface Elements Toolkit. These are things like window frames, buttons, controls, mouse cursors, etc. Put these on a separate slide that you can reference (copy and paste from) as you build out your PPP.
2) Highlight Hyperlink Buttons. You will notice in my PPP for PolitePersistence, I highlight every active button with a lightly shaded yellow box. This helps the user know what is clickable if you don’t have time to make every variable in your PPP an active link.
3) Turn off the “Advance Slide - On Mouse Click” - This just prevents the user from going to the next slide by clicking anywhere on the screen in presentation mode. Your user should always click on a button or action item to advance the prototype flow.
4) User Master Slides. - For instance, in our PPP we had three main interfaces (1) Home Page (2) User Dashboard (3) Admin Dashboard. We created a Master Slide for each and worked from there.
5) Consider Callouts. Depending on your PPP audience (user vs. developer) you may want to include notes or callouts in the margins to help articulate your desired functionality for the PPP.
6) Always Create From the User Perspective. Your PPP should flow the way you would want it to once live.
There are three main actions you will take once you have a first draft of your PPP.
First Step - Prove Your MVP
1) Save your PPP as a PDF and either send it to your own email or Dropbox it so you can access the PDF prototype on your tablet.
2) Take your tablet with you to events, conferences, etc. and ask real people if they wouldn’t mind trying out your prototype. You will be surprised how many more people will be interested to play with your prototype rather than hear you describe the functionality. (if you don't own a tablet simply send them the document over email)
3) Prior to your prototype tester diving in, provide him or her the context of the prototype and a simple goal for testing. For instance, I would have said, “We are building the fastest and easiest way to send follow up emails The goal of our prototype is to allow you to quickly and simply send your follow up emails to a recipient.”
4) Watch how they use your PPP. Take note of the following: where does your tester get hung up, what is your tester confused about, what prevents your tester from achieving the goal you set for him or her?
Once you have politely persisted with real folks and proved your MVP (i.e. you get the feeling that people wanted to use your product or service yesterday) then it is time to move into the next step…
Second Step - Lay the Development Foundation
1) Gather your findings from proving your MVP and make the proper adjustments.
2) What areas of your prototype are not necessary for allowing your tester to achieve the goal you laid for him or her. For instance, when we had testers run through our PPP we uncovered that we didn’t need to include certain social engagement functionality since it had absolutely nothing to do with our user being able to send the fastest and easiest follow up email. Any unecessary functionality will add time and cost to your MVP. Scrap it.
3) Sit with your development team and watch them use your PPP. Brainstorm simpler ways to do pieces of functionality, if necessary. Let them ask questions. Make sure they understand your desired outcome.
Once development begins it is time to begin marketing and spreading the word. My favorite.
Third Step - Generate Subscribers and Leads
1) Create a free account on Mailchimp if you don’t already have an email marketing solution.
2) Place your polished prototype (you should have gone through 3-5 versions by this point) behind an email newsletter subscription wall. Inform interested individuals that by subscribing for your launch update newsletter he or she will get their hands on your prototype.
3) Grab your email marketing sign up link and share it over social media. Post something like this: “[State your one-line unique selling proposition]. Test our prototype now: [Link to subscribe]”
4) Create a modified version of your PPP that only contains the first handful of slides and upload to Slideshare. Make sure the last slide of this modified version states something like, “Want to see the rest of our prototype? Download it here: [Link to subscribe]”
Regardless of technical ability, having a PPP in your back pocket before any significant time and resources are spent will help you accelerate your business growth.
The next time you feel compelled to talk about your idea, be politely persistent and take the next step by turning your idea into a PPP and secure true interest before beginning.