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Finding product-market fit doesn’t necessarily provide an aha moment, but you can think of it as when the interest from customers validates that your product satisfies a need or solves a problem.
The reason it’s important for you to find a product-market fit for your business is that it’s an early indicator of success. Businesses that achieve product-market fit can use organic marketing or word of mouth to increase their customer base and sales.
A product-market fit is a moment when a startup finally finds a widespread set of customers that resonate with its product.
The difficulty of product-market fit exists on a spectrum—with maximum difficulty products that are completely new at one extreme, and undifferentiated but well understood, products on the other. And of course, there are simply more variables to tweak and adjust in a mobile app than in a coffee cup, which people already know about.
To fit your product, simplify your product idea, compare that version with your current plan, and find a version that exists between the two, one that customers will definitely understand.
Finding product-market fit often means identifying a good market (one that is large and has demand) and molding your product to fit the needs of that market. You could build the best product that solves multiple pain points for customers—but if there’s no market to support it, or the market is weak, your product will fail.
The first step to achieving product-market fit is to actually prove that your product is something customers want to buy. Sounds simple, but until you get your first few sales, you won’t be able to get feedback, which limits your ability to know how you’re doing or what changes you can make to improve.
Kickstarter provides a built-in audience already interested in supporting new product ideas. It creates a low barrier to entry to try out your idea and see how the market responds. It is a great way to find and connect with your target audience early on and identify the people who are willing to work with you and spend the time giving you real feedback.
Using organic marketing channels is free, and it’s a great way to start building an engaged audience early on. If you’re still in the product development phase or you’re trying to prove the concept, consider creating a social media account on whichever channel feels better for your brand before your products (or even your official website) is ready. It’ll give you a direct line to the people most likely to buy your product in the future.
Use the jobs to be done framework to better understand if your product solves a problem for your customers:
Customers “hire” your product to do a job. You might hire a leash to keep your dog close on walks, or hire an umbrella to keep you dry in the rain. These products fulfill a need. It’s less about what you purchase a product to do (I’m going to use this hammer to put a nail in the wall) and more about the result (I’m hiring this hammer to help me put up this piece of art).
When you pivot to think about the end result, the usefulness of an item becomes more clear.
Creating an open feedback loop with your customers, especially at the beginning, is key to developing something your target audience will love early on. Those early customers are more likely to be invested in your product, more likely to stick with it while you work out the kinks, and more likely to provide honest feedback. They are the best people to lean on as you grow your business, so giving them an easy way to provide that feedback will make the process easier for everyone.
Ultimately, you need to understand your target audience and the problem they need to solve.
Elad Burko, CEO of Paperwallet, shares a good example of this during his interview with us on the Shopify podcast.
The message is not, “This wallet is made of paper yet doesn’t rip.” It’s, “This wallet is low profile, durable, water-resistant, and will last a long time.” See the difference? The first message doesn’t actually offer a solution to a problem. The second message speaks to common issues customers might have with their current wallet.
There are multiple ways to get feedback on your marketing message, like:
Product-market fit doesn’t always mean that every collection you release sells out in seconds. But it does mean that people find out about your store by word of mouth, or that you have a steady stream of customers and sales, or that your product solves a problem within a larger, lucrative market. Let us find out what product-market fit is, how to prove your product concept, and how to use marketing and customer feedback to find it.
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