5 things they don’t tell you about product-market fit

Product-market fit is one of the many jargons that you might have heard being thrown around in any startup environment. Conceptually, it is quite simple. In the words of the man who coined the term, Marc Andreesen said, “Product-market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” It is one of the founding blocks that you build your startup on. However, as intuitive as the concept may sound, it is the one thing that we have seen founders have the most difficult time understanding. A google search will take you down a nauseating rabbit-hole of all the over-complicated theories. However, when you’re standing at the starting line with a fine idea and burning passion to take your first leap, all this mumbo-jumbo can make the path seem never-ending. We’ve been at that very position numerous times with our brilliant startups and have deciphered the key points that are the absolute bare bone elements to consider when thinking about your product-market fit.

“A good sign to see if you should start a business is when you feel like a small wheel in a large machine.”- Lex Ouburg

1.Listen to customers

The first order of business for any successful startup is to find hidden needs in an existing market, better even if you can create a new market. Coming into a market with a solution when there is no problem is the biggest mistake we often see startups make. Doing extensive market research also is often just a waste of time and effort. Instead, talk to the customers who you want to serve. What  are they pulling you towards? What is their need? Let them show you where they want to go and your goal is to find a way to get them there. If they already know how to get there, come up with a way they can do it more easily, more cost efficiently. Listen to their experiences and complaints. LISTEN.

2. Find out their problems, not what they THINK is the solution

Having told you to listen in caps, it is however important to also emphasise that you do have to draw a line somewhere when talking to your customers. Often, whilst talking to your target audience, when they elaborate on their problems they themselves will begin to suggest what they think is the solution. This part of the conversation is quite disposable as each person will offer a solution from their individualistic point of view whereas your aim is  to create a product that can serve a collective. Of course you hear what they have to say but you can ease out on the note-taking in this part. Try to find the pattern.

3. Prototype and test…quick, quick, quick

You aren’t going to find your diamond in the rough with the first hit, so you need to start making hits rapidly. Create as many versions of your prototype as you possibly can and test them with your customers, make iterations and test again. Watch them use your product, see where they get stuck or what they seem to like, take every feedback into account and get working on creating the best version that you can with the knowledge and resources that are currently available to you.

4. Create your MVP

All that hard-work should bring you to the doorstep of the Minimal Viable Product– the working prototype that you are ready to launch to your customer base. Now is when you find out whether the problem you wanted to eradicate with your product really does its job.

5. Test your solution

Finally it’s time for the big reality check. This is when you find out how your customers react to your product, how they use it, whether they feel the need to use it. Another common phenomena to look out for is that sometimes your customers will hack your product to use it for some other purpose than it was made for. For example, Frisbee was actually created to serve as a pie container before people started throwing it around and it became your common childhood summertime leisure activity. If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, you know all the steps already so then you just have to readjust and do it all over again. The best products come out of failures so, don’t fret and keep working smart!

So, which of the five tips do you think is the most important to find a product-market fit? Are there any that you think we missed? We are more than eager to know!