Finding Product-Market Fit
A few tips, tricks, and common mistakes.
In my experience building products, people have usually built a product in hopes of finding a fit in the market for it.
I think we have it backward, and I want to share a simple way to avoid building a product that has no market.
Market — Fit — Product
In order to turn this goal into an actionable plan, let’s rearrange the order of the words.
Step 1: Market
Pick a Market. Who is your product for? Venture-backed companies go for billions dollar markets. There are tons of ways to calculate market size, but simply put it is: how many of your “who’s” you can sell to. To get a dollar amount for your market you then multiply that by how much they would spend on your solution (at this point you are just finding a good guess). I believe not every product worth building has a billion dollar market. You should pick a market based on your goals and priorities for your business.
Step 2: Fit
A. Find Common Problem. You can pick a problem based on experience, interviews, or observation.
B. Solve it #IRL for 100 people. You should try to find 100 people in your market with your problem and do whatever you can to solve their problem for them. In the case of Uber, this means giving 100 people rides yourself. This should be the lowest tech (and by that I mean fastest/cheapest) solution possible. In this step you are working towards:
- Intimate familiarity with the problem.
- Understanding of the weaknesses of the solution.
- Low cost iterations on the solution.
- Building a community for your brand.
C. Automate it to help 1000 people. Now that you have a ton of experience with the problem, start adding technology to scale yourself. This is still not building a product, but instead automating certain parts of it.
D. Advertise a Solution to get 10k people onboard. Now that you have a ton of experience solving the problem you can describe your technical solution in order to get 10k commitments from real people who want to pay you to solve their problem for them. These are the people you will send the “We are live!” email once you have a product.
This step is iterative by nature. If you can’t get 10k people excited about the solution, then rinse and repeat.
Note: These numbers could change based on your industry, these are the numbers I would use for a consumer product. If you are building something for executives who are breastfeeding, for example, a smaller sample size would probably be fine.
Step 3: Product
Built the Product. Now you have no doubt that this is something worth building and you can invest into development with the certainty of the existence of the market you will fit into.
Harsh Truth #1
You DON’T know what your product will be. You need to focus on WHO it’s for and what their PROBLEM is.
Harsh Truth #2
Your first version will be wrong, so it should be the lowest cost and the lowest fidelity of them all.
Harsh Truth #3
If you get attached to a solution you will build the wrong thing. Don’t get attached. 🙅🙅🙅
Practical Product Tips
In between finding Fit and building Product a practical way to focus your development is making a list of features and divide them into two buckets:
Nothing Special: These are the parts of the app that have currently existing versions. A typical example is a login screen, a payment portal, a calendar, etc. For these parts, you should find an existing implementation that you like and copy it. People will give you feedback on it, but this is the feedback that you should ignore because it won’t make or break your app. You can invest in making these better or more unique once you have product-market fit.
Secret Sauce: These are the features that contain your value add. For these features, you should ideate tons of potential solutions, A/B test, iterate, and take all the feedback you can get. Get. It. Right. Don’t get attached to versions and be very analytical about finding the best solutions here.
The only way to guarantee failure is to build something no one wants. The way to solve this issue is tricking people into giving you honest feedback about the realities of their problem. If you pick a market, solve their problem, sell them a solution, and then build it you can be sure that you are building something people want, or better yet, something they need. One of the most harmful things you can do is get attached to a solution without data to back it up. If you are systematically picky about which feedback to listen to and analytical about how you address it you will be on a fast track to product-market fit.
Do you want help or guidance through this process? We provide structural support for this process as well as technical services that help you move forward with your idea quickly. Here is a list of our services. If you want to learn more don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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