Every business strives for product/market fit. With it, you can lead the market and eclipse competitors. But finding it is far from easy. In fact, many founders do it wrong and often at the expense of their businesses.
Why is it So Hard to Find Product/Market Fit?
Product/market fit describes the way a product satisfies a market need. Sounds simple enough, right? But it’s an abstract concept that relies almost totally on abstract data. Trying to get a grasp on the deep market values that determine product/market fit is like trying to carry around a handful of sand.
In other words, it’s hard.
It’s hard to dig deep enough into the market and hard to ask the right questions from it. It’s hard to innovate new solutions and convince a market (one that is already saturated with offerings) that YOU ARE IT. That yours is the end-all, be-all solution.
So how do you do it? How do you achieve product/market fit in a crowded marketplace of constantly evolving people and products?
Well, lucky for us, there are a few ways to pin the tail on product/market fit. You can follow in the footsteps of other successful entrepreneurs who found huge success by finding their niche. Here’s exactly what you need to do...
7 Winning Ways to Find Product/Market Fit
Whether your product appeals to businesses or to individual people, the “market” shares a lot of the same basic needs. If you can implement the following tactics into your product development strategy, you’ll position yourself as a solid market leader.
1) Do Loads of Market Research
Market research has two halves, both of which are equally important to achieving perfect product/market fit. You cannot control nor even understand your market unless you give equal attention to both who’s there and what’s there.
This means, to win the market, you have to…
research the heck out of who is in your market
and research the heck out of what products are already available to them in that market
Your goal is to know everything about who needs you, and what exactly they need.
In a nutshell, you must understand the core values of the consumers in your market, and you must know everything about the products they’re exposed to. Analyzing what’s already available to your consumer will help you develop better products and better pathways to your market’s consumption motivators.
When you know what motivates your consumers, you can trigger their consumption behavior. This is a good thing; it means you know your market intimately and that, with that intimate knowledge, you’ve developed a product that is genuinely going to improve their lives.
Get Into the Deep End of Market Research
Market research is a really big topic, and it’s important to dig a bit deeper into both of these elements. Accordingly, here’s a little more information about the “who” factor that will help you identify and serve the values of your market…
Who Comprises Your Market?
Thinking about who makes up your market as a person will help you understand and empathize with your prospects. If you can personalize your market, not only will you be able to care about them better, but you’ll be able to articulate that in more profound messaging.
To help you visualize the people within your market, create customer personas or avatars. This is a simple but intensely effective strategy that forces you to reveal the deepest ideals and motivations of the people you seek to help.
Make personas that actualize your prospects. By that, I mean BRING THEM TO LIFE!
Invent a person that represents a key segment of your market. Give that person a name, a family, a mortgage, a job, interests, dislikes, pitfalls, and all the other happy-places and pain-points that go hand-in-hand with real life.
Visualize your prospect as a real person. And make multiple personas for the different market segments that your product can serve.
Understand where these “people” are, both within the market and within their own personal worlds. Most importantly, understand where these people want to be and how it’s your product that will get them there.
To win the market, you must take 100% ownership of your relationship with your consumers. Know them, talk to them, and help them solve their pain-points.
Of course, it gets deeper still, so here’s a little more about the “what” factor. This will help you identify market need and develop a product that fits it...
What Products are Already Serving Your Market
To develop an unstoppable product, you need to know what existing products are already winning dollar votes, which products aren’t succeeding, and why.
The best way to understand what options your market already has is use them yourself. Consume competing and similar products as a consumer would. Use your competitors products on a daily basis.
Examine every feature and application to find out what products are doing right, what you can do better, and what you can do to enhance the current market offerings.
Now, “enhance” can be a tricky idea… Often, it’s correlated with similar terms like augment or expand or enlarge; but that’s a mistake.
Although in some cases enhancing a solution means filling-in gaps with new features, more often than not, it means perfecting a product by focusing it.
And yes, by focusing it, I mean simplifying it. Which leads me to the next point...
2) Offer Simpler Solutions
As Leonardo Da Vinci said (a man who was indisputably a genius), “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This is true in all scenarios, and especially true of your product.
You know as well as anyone that the market is packed. Consumers are bombarded with products, features, brands, ads, buttons, etc, and your product should NOT present the same feature-bloat.
Because feature-bloat is like carnival food; it’s stuffy, convoluted, and confusing. (Because who really needs a hot beef sundae, people?! And why are fried better balls a thing?!)
Although that’s a dramatic comparison, the point stands. We’ve all experienced some form of feature-bloat or product overload-- something that offers too much stuff and instantly turns you off. Because, ultimately, people don’t want to look at 100 options. Often, they want just 1. They want a simple, elegant, easy solution.
In fact, there are real scientific studies dedicated to such phenomena-- things like “choice paralysis” and “decision fatigue.” The truth is, consumers like it when you tell them what to do. They like it when you solve their pain-point for them.
If you offer too many things, it diminishes your core benefits. Instead, simplify your offering. Focus on the most valuable benefit you can give your market. Period.
Focus your product and perfect the solution your product offers.
Putting thoughtful limitations on yourself and your product will force unbelievable ingenuity. Really; you’ll be surprised what you can create when you restrict features. In fact, there are legitimate studies (and tons of creative exercises) on this point, too; simply put, there is a huge school of thought dedicated to the idea constraints can make you more creative.
However you achieve simplicity, doing so will help you find optimal product/market fit. Go simpler, get targeted, and people will enjoy using your product more.
Wrapping up this topic, keep in mind that you will never be able to please everyone. But let that reality be liberating! Your inability to be EVERYONE’S solution should inspire you to really, really please a smaller segment of consumers.
If you can do that, you’ll earn customers that become fans of your brand, people that will be loyal to you and your products, people that will spread positivity and user endorsements. That’s priceless.
3) Use (and Abuse) Your Own Product
Once you’ve developed a product you believe is incredible, take it to the cleaners! Be ruthless and scrutinize the way your product works, flows, delivers, and performs overtime.
Like you did for market research, use your own product the same way a consumer would. This typically means using it EVERY DAY; not for just a few minutes or hours, but every single day. Know it inside-and-out, backward-and-forward, find every nuance and every annoyance. With that level of closeness to the way your product works, you can ensure perfection in subsequent iterations.
Testing and validating your product gives you an invaluable opportunity to discover and eliminate flaws BEFORE your consumers encounter them. Don’t ask your paying customers to find problems in your product. Instead, become your consumer and solve issues before handing them to over to your users.
This is a simple step, but it’s ongoing. Take care to analyze your offering every time you “enhance.” Take care to ask questions, validate changes, remove clunky or underused features, and streamline everything to bolster your core benefits.
4) Sell! Sell! And Sell Some More!
Product/market fit is all about whether or not your market wants what you’ve got. What better way to determine that than to start selling your product?
If there is a legitimate need for your product, your market will respond with dollars. So get into the thick of it. Talk about your product to everyone you’ve ever met and every person you meet going forward. Talk to your prospects; learn what interests them about your product, learn what doesn’t interest them about your product and, most importantly, learn what they’re willing to pay for.
Once you enter the world of selling, you’ll gain totally different insights about the buying behavior of your market. You’ll understand more about how the things you do affect that behavior, and how you can use that data to inform your approach to product development and product marketing.
You see, the vision you gain from pitching, selling, and interacting with your market will improve the way you develop your offering. What’s more? It will improve the way you present your offering to your market.
That means you’re not only giving consumers something better, but you’re giving it to them in a way that’s more profound.
So don’t be scared to start “pushing” your product. Remember, you’re here to enhance lives and you can’t do that if your market doesn’t know who you are.
Before moving on to the next point, I wanted to briefly mention another benefit to selling your product early…
One word: accountability
Selling your product makes you more accountable to it! It means you have users, and those users EXPECT RESULTS. It’s your job to ensure your product does what it’s expected to and earns a user base that’s fanatic about the benefits they can’t get from anyone but you.
5) Let Your Consumer Be Your Guide
It’s scary for all of us to put perfect trust into anything. But, the fact is, you have to trust your customers.
Now, that doesn’t mean take all the “shade” people are going to throw at your product or let naysayers destroy your heart and debilitate your business. Don’t do that. But DO to look to consumer feedback to inform the way you design your business and market your products.
If you want to truly win the market, you have to trust your consumer. After all, it’s the consumer who makes the market; it’s the consumer who decides what succeeds or fails; the consumer that sets trends, makes fortunes, and the consumer who will ultimately determine whether your product is desirable.
That’s a whole lot of influence resting on the shoulders of consumers. They wield a lot of power, so listen to what they want, and give it to them.
By analyzing consumer feedback (about your own product AND about products similar to yours), you can reveal the market’s deepest pain-points. What’s even better than that, though, is they might even tell you how to solve them...
“I wish the product could…”
“I wish the product didn’t…”
“It would be nice if…”
“It makes me crazy when…”
“I love how it…”
“My favorite thing is…”
Woah! Every one of those statements can help you achieve product/market fit.
If you listen to your consumer, you’ll better understand the problem you need to solve for them. And, boom! You’ll also be able to build stronger, more unique, and more targeted solutions for a market that you know will respond.
A word of caution…
So listening can make your job easier, yes, but don’t let it get too easy. Remember, you are solving your prospect’s problems, not the other way around.
There is some controversy around this Henry Ford quote, but I think an applicable message can be pulled from it: “If I'd asked people what they wanted, they'd have asked for faster horses.”
That means it’s your job to solve your consumers needs, and your job to figure out how.
Use consumer feedback as precious clues, and ask the kind of questions that can lead you to smarter products.
6) Adhere to Your Agile Process
This is basic, guys, but a solid process is so critical. In fact, you’re not going to go very far without a process in place that can support growth and change. Study Agile product development and implement a thoughtful, structured process. Let that process be your foundation, and it will carry you towards a strong product/market fit.
Why? Because finding product/market fit depends on the strength of your process. It depends on your ability to see every task through to its end, to make healthy habits into routines and smart strategies a regular part of your day-to-day.
No matter how you look at it, a strong foundation will make your business and your products more effective. And there is no better foundation than Agile.
From on-boarding new people to scaling your software, growing your business to fostering healthy client relationships, your business and your ability to effectively penetrate the market relies on a strong, passionate process that is followed to the letter.
Accept that Growth is Gradual
image credit: Startup Marketing, the startup pyramid
Finally, smart SaaS founders know that finding perfect product/market fit is part of the long game. There are no shortcuts and no easy roads. If you want an uncontested chunk of the market, you have to earn it methodically.
Because the truth is, going too fast always gets people in trouble.
Whether you’re driving, dating, building, or anything else, getting ahead of yourself will always result in a stumbling point. And in a competitive SaaS market? Racing into avoidable speed traps is just… not smart.
Instead of rushing towards market domination, get there thoughtfully. Give yourself time to plan for growth and strategize new products that perfectly suit market need.
Focus on your customers and on perfecting your offering. The greater you can support your consumer, the more naturally, sustainably, and profitably your SaaS business will grow.
If finding a perfect product/market fit is your ultimate goal, then slow down. Make satisfying your consumer your primary measurement of success, and grow gradually into a stronger business.
At the end of the day, the key to attaining perfect product/market fit is listening to the market. Research everything, keep an ear ever to the ground, use products, talk to everyone about those products, explore what’s there, expose what’s not, and build all that data into an unstoppable product.
Be good and loyal to your consumers, and that behavior will propel success like nothing else.
Tell us how you found your niche! PLEASE share thoughts, feedback, or questions in the comments below.