A friend, who probably heard the term product-market fit too many times without fully getting it, asked me what book to read. I immediately replied with “The Lean Startup”. The first time I read it, I actually stopped halfway, feeling hammered, but it’s call for testing and iterating as a key to finding product-market fit proved to be the real deal when I tried it.
First, let’s give this buzz term a simple definition: finding product-market fit simply means you’ve found enough proof that you’ve built something people really want. The best proof is to have enough people paying for your product to indicate there’s a real market for it.
This might sound like a specific milestone you need to reach, but it’s not. It’s not because this milestone can be anywhere. You have no idea what product changes, client changes, and hard of all, personnel changes you’ll have to go through to reach product-market fit.
I joined daPulse to help with product-market fit. At the time I joined the product had zero adoption, but by the time I left sales were booming and it was clear the company found it’s product-market fit.
The first step I took regarding the no adoption status, was to investigate which customers are signing up for the product, but end up not using it. We surprisingly found that more than 50% were founders/CEOs. It was surprising because until then, the team assumed that the product is a company communication product and the market was employees from all types. Trying to figure it out, the CEO and I started digging deeper. We went out to talk with some of those founders/CEOs who tried our product, looking to understand what they were trying to solve. The conclusion was that they all tried our product because they hoped it will help their company run like a well oiled machine.
Now we had something, relying heavily on our eco-system, we went out to meet more founders and CEOs, present our product and explain how it could help them run their company like a well oiled machine. It proved to be a hard sale, they really wanted more alignment and collaboration in their company culture, but they weren’t ready to put hard work into it, it wasn’t a high enough priority. All of them hoped for a product that also persuaded employees to use it and creates the desired impact from the bottom up. Realising that, we tried selling also professional adoption services, which turned out to be very valuable, and absolutely not profitable, since we ended up giving them for free. But we learned what creates adoption. Adoption happened only when we managed to find a core company process and improve it with our product. We found a few such core processes such as product management, account management, development management and more. We chose to focus on product management which seemed the most promising use case and pivoted the product to support it, based on our new understanding of our customers’ needs. A change that caused one of the 3 founders, to leave.
Looking back, this major shift was our key to finding product-market fit, in fact soon after, we started getting a steady stream of paying customers. Changing wasn’t easy, it was hard and full of heated arguments and stepping out of comfort zones, but it took us to the next stage and secured the additional funding to support the required scaling.
It may sound like a planned path, but believe me it wasn’t. It was an up-hill battle to figure out how to change next.
So, this is what finding product-market fit is all about , it’s solving a mystery with no certain solution. If you do manage to solve it, you’re rewarded with the ultimate product appreciation: people who are willing to pay to use it.
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