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PRODUCT-MARKET FIT: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE FOR PRODUCT MANAGERS

Marketing Manager
Anastasia Shevchuk

INTRODUCTION

Let's imagine: you are a successful startup founder with a brilliant product idea (you think so). You spent many nights, consuming a lot of coffee with your co-founders and writing thousands of lines of code. Finally, you have an MVP ready.

Once the product is live, you contact co-workers, family, friends, friends of friends and start telling everyone how fantastic your idea is. You get pretty lovely feedback from them. Things like:

"Perfect idea, man!"
"Wow, great! I'll definitely use it!"

Then you give them access to your beta version, but after several weeks, you see that these guys are not that passionate about your product.

When launching startups, founders usually believe that they solve a problem of an incredible size that the market needs to be solved. Sometimes, the problem is not so huge.
This is an indication that a startup doesn't have a product-market fit.

Finding real customer pain takes time, hard work, dedication, the right strategy, and flexibility.

Taking all the above mentioned into account, give chances to succeed. But this is just the beginning of a long journey.

Achieving the product-market fit is one of the most important goals for startups.
Let's have a look at what product-market fit means and how to make a product that customers will buy!

WHAT IS A PRODUCT - MARKET FIT?

Product-Market Fit is the degree to which a product satisfies strong market demand.
When making products, you always have a problem to solve, make something easier or better. Product-market fit can be achieved when your products meet customer needs better than other alternatives in the market.

The indicators of a fascinating product-market fit include:

Customers buy your products faster than you can produce them;
Lots of repeated sales;
The need to hire more people to meet demand;
40% of your customers will be very disappointed if your product vanishes from the market;
A big community of brand ambassadors;
A well-designed product increases the possibility of building a loyal customer base, increasing brand visibility, and generating conversions.

THE PRODUCT-MARKET FIT PYRAMID

The Product-Market Fit Pyramid is an actionable model that defines product-market fit using five key components. From bottom to top, the five layers of the Product-Market Fit Pyramid are your target customer, your customer's underserved needs, your value proposition, your feature set, and your user experience (UX).

In the process of building a successful product, form hypotheses in all five of these areas. The Product-Market Fit Pyramid helps you be more explicit and accurate about your hypotheses.
Whom are you selling to?

This component provides you with an understanding of your target customers and their specific needs. Do market research and segmentation (divide customers into smaller groups based on shared characteristics (similar needs, interests, lifestyles, or demographic profiles))

to get more specific about who your target customer is. Define "buyer personas" to find out for whom you are going to design and build a product.

Ask yourself:

1. Who will benefit from this product? It can be consumers or companies.
2. What are the attributes of these people?
3. What challenges do the target customers face?

Identify Underserved Customer Needs

What problems do your customers face?

Once you know who your target customers are, move on with identifying their problems that your product can solve. If an existing product is tending to their needs, creating a similar product would make no sense.

Similarly, if an existing product is falling short of satisfying a customer need, you have an opportunity to cover up that need to gain a competitive advantage.

Know what you offer as a Value Proposition

How will you do things differently?

A value proposition is your plan for how your product will meet customer needs better than the competitors.

Figure out how your product will be differentiated from competitive products. How will your product outperform the others? What unique features of your product will delight customers? This is the essence of product strategy.

Define the MVP Feature Set

What are the must-have features you can't skip?

MVP should support all the product's must-have features.

Refer to the MosCow method for feature prioritization. This method works to specify requirements based on:






Why include full feature set in an MVP is a bad idea? FInd the answer it the article: "MVP or why you shouldn't create a "perfect" product right away"

Target audience research

Create an MVP Prototype

How will the UI/UX of the product look?

This part focuses on validating the UI/UX design of the product. The emphasis should be on usability, findability, and discoverability — the three elements of a good UI/UX design.

Test MVP

Gather initial feedback from customers.

Give free access to your design prototype to anyone who you want to test it with, for instance, potential users, people who might end up buying the product later on when it's ready.

During any kind of interaction with the potential user, make sure to observe what they say or do while using the prototype. Ask questions to clarify things for you, try to get more insights. Don't ask closed questions that involve Yes or No answers. Instead, encourage participation, brainstorming, idea generation, and find ways for improvement of the product.

Iterate, iterate, iterate

In each iteration through the process, you will end up revising your MVP prototype. From one iteration to the next, you hope to see an increase in positive feedback from customers and a decrease in negative feedback. If you don't see much progress despite trying several iterations, take a step back and revise your hypotheses. Sometimes to achieve higher levels of product-market fit you need to pivot (change strategy without a vision change).

Consider several types of pivots:

Usability: The product should be easy to use and navigate through;

Findability: It should be easy to locate and use the product features that the customers know about;

Discoverability: It should be easy to identify and use new product features that the customers have no knowledge about initially.
Zoom-In: a single feature becomes the whole product;
Zoom-Out: the whole initial product becomes a feature of a new product;
Customer segment: Good product, bad customer segment;
Customer need: Repositioning, designing a completely new product (still sticking to the vision);
Platform: Change from an application to a platform, or vice versa.
Must-have Features — essential for the MVP
Should-have Features — essential for the MVP
Could-have Features — can be saved for later
Won't-have Features — need to be dropped off
BOOST YOUR PROJECT DEVELOPMENT WITH A DEDICATED TEAM!

HOW TO MEASURE PRODUCT-MARKET FIT?

Qualitative methods

One-to-One Customer Interviews
Communicating directly with the product users, don't just ask them to rate a product out of 10, or ask if they like it or not.

Come up with questions that will give you more informative answers, such as:

1. Would you be disappointed if you couldn't use this product anymore?
2. What are the deciding factors for using this product over other options?
3. Does anything make this product special? What do you love about it?
4. What could improve the product for you?

Reach out to Customer Support Team.

Seek a report from your customer support team to get a glimpse of the complaints and queries you have already received. This will help understand and improvise what next steps to take to ensure you achieve an ideal product-market fit.
The 40% rule

One metric to test product-market fit is the so-called "40% rule." And it's really simple: if 40% of surveyed customers say that they would be "very disappointed" if they could no longer access your product or service, then you are on the winning side. Also, if at least 40% of your surveyed customers say that they consider your product a "must-have" then again, you are still on the winning side.

Let's consider answers in detail:

Not disappointed
If the majority of customers would not be disappointed if they could no longer use your product, you've got a problem and not one you can ignore.
It is time to dig through all the responses and find out why they don't care. Also, look at the people who said "very disappointed" or "somewhat disappointed" and see if their responses can give some guidance on how to rebuild your product.

Somewhat disappointed
When the majority says "somewhat disappointed," you're close! Spend time segmenting the responses based on the other questions to identify the customers that said "somewhat" versus "very" and compare them.

Learn what the difference is between those segments, spend time talking to those customers, and make a plan for improving the product.

Very disappointed
If the majority say they would be "very disappointed", then congrats! You've got product-market fit!

Spend time optimizing marketing messaging based on the responses to the other questions in the survey. Don't hold back on resources (money, time, etc) that fuel growth and continue filling the product with new amazing features.

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit a page on your product and then leave it before taking any primary action, such as registration or starting a free demo. The bounce rate is calculated by counting the number of visits without any further action and dividing that by the total number of visits. The actual number is then represented as a percentage of total visits.

A high bounce rate typically indicates that the product is not doing a good enough job of attracting visitors. Whereas, the low bounce rate indicates that the visitor's expectations are met and that the product is giving a nice first impression to its visitors. Interestingly, the bounce rate tells a lot whether you are close to your product/market fit or not. The low bounce rate directly indicates how important is the problem you are trying to solve and how great your product is. It doesn't prove yet that your product offering has already outperformed your competitors, but it is a good starting point.

Returning Visitors

Returning visitors are the ones who have been to your website once and have decided to come back. Compare the number or percentage of returning visitors weekly and monthly for your website.
A big number of returning visitors reflects the lasting impact a product has on the customers. And if the rate of returning visitors is below 25%, then you have to work on your product harder.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

To measure how much your audience likes your product, ask them if they would be willing to recommend it to others. That's a basic technique to learn how successful your product is and how loyal your customers are.

To motivate consumers to refer your product to others and raise your NPS, add some benefits to it. Offer additional services, free trials, discounts, and other things that can influence customer decisions.
Measuring the results begins with clear goals, which you set at the prototyping stage. To find out if you've reached your desired results, define key metrics for product-market fit to track. There are qualitative and quantitative methods for measuring product-market fit.

Quantitative methods

HAVE A GREAT IDEA FOR AN MVP?

SUCCESSFUL PRODUCT-MARKET FIT EXAMPLES

Netflix

An ideal product-market fit example can be Netflix. People wished that they could get rid of the late fees they paid at DVD rental stores in earlier times. Netflix proved to be a product-market fit by mailing the DVDs to the users on a subscription basis and allowing them to keep the DVDs without any time constraints.

With the DVD trend fading, Netflix again reviewed the business model by shifting to the subscription-based model for the streaming service, thus providing a better and cheaper way for entertainment. Netflix modified the business model several times to meet the customers' changing demand, setting a perfect example of how a product-market fit should be like.

Slack

Slack, an instant messaging platform often used for workplace communication, started as a completely different business idea. The founders were in the process of developing a role-playing video game, and Slack was something they had quickly changed together as an internal communication tool for the team.

The team soon realized that the market had plenty of role-playing games, but there was nothing out there quite like Slack. So, they pivoted away from game creation.
Slack's quick turnaround proves that changing your focus towards a better product-market fit can be worth your time.

Uber

Uber captured product-market fit by initially offering free rides between regional tech events in San Francisco. Uber's co-founders recognized that the taxi system was expensive and outdated, and few people used it. Once the Uber app gained pace, Uber offered 50% discounts to first-time users.

Experts point to Uber's ability to solve a problem and create a need at the same time. Consumers weren't demanding better taxi service, but once a more convenient, simpler option emerged, users began to rely on the concept. Users were thrilled with the app and began sharing their experiences on social media, providing social proof for the startup.

SUMMARY

Product-market fit is about creating a product that solves the problems of your customers. Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers.

When following the stages of the product-market fit pyramid, it becomes easier and faster to understand the strategy of achieving it.

Your product should be life-changing, and it should excite people! Think about the difference between "Nice" and "Wow!" And keep that in mind every time you build your next product.
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS?