Let's define what Product/Market fit really means

📅 28 February, 2019

This week, I saw a tweet from positioning and market strategy expert April Dunford. It resonated with me and lined up with some observations I’ve made recently while working with early-stage startups.

Tweet by April Dunford

Product/Market fit is often seen as the holy grail for new tech companies. The “we’ve made it” moment that is promptly followed by a big round of funding and increased ad spend.

The problem April argues is, “If you don’t have a clear grasp on what your value is, who it resonates with and why - product market isn’t a helpful concept to get you there.”

In order to repeatedly acquire paying customers who achieve their goals using your product (my view on what product market fit typically signals), you need to be more specific about the actual people you serve than a broad term like “market”.

Markets don’t buy products. Markets don’t use products. People with specific desires and goals buy products and use them to improve their lives.

People like Sarah, John, Mike, Ashley choose to spend their money (or their company’s money) in exchange for your product. And yet, how many times have you heard or said something like this yourself?

  • We’re building a solution for the {X} market.
  • People in the {Y} industry love our product.
  • I’ve talked to lots of people who are a great fit.

Who are these people?

Fortunately, you actually already know who some of these people are. They might be in your inbox, in your CRM, or best of all in a product analytics tool like Mixpanel or Amplitude that lets you see not just each person but how they are using your product.

A tangible step to improve your product is to talk to these people and ask them about the outcome your product helps them achieve.

Instead of projecting your own bias about the solution, ask for a specific story about how achieving their desired outcome is changing their life and listen intently.

Give it a try. Think less about the abstract “market” and more about the specific people you are building your product for. What are their names? What do they use your product to do that they couldn’t do before? Why do they love using your product?

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