For early-stage startups, to have found the right product-market fit is like you are granted a license to fly the rocket-ship or better yet, join the unicorn club. Nonetheless, no matter how innovative your startup is, product-market-fit is not given, this golden egg is as elusive as the unicorn. It’s easy to measure product-market fit after you achieve it. But how can you identify fit before it exists?
I have a few points based on insights gleaned from talking with whip-smart entrepreneurs and maverick marketers, and from my agency’s experience working with startups building their MVBs and MVPs
Why is product-market fit important?
You’ll see a variety of definitions for product-market fit, but they are all beating around one tune: successful identification of a specific customer type and providing that customer with the product that solves their most vexing problems. When this happens, it is like a floodgate is opened, it causes a water-shedding moment where sales fling off the roof with seemingly little effort.
Product-market fit is the aha moment. It’s the point of rocket-boom for a startup, it is when you can shift your energy from experimenting to truly growing.
Why product-market fit is so hard to come by?
The biggest illusion entrepreneurs often have is thinking they are solving a problem while indeed they are finding a problem to fit with their solution. Another illusion entrepreneurs have is thinking of fixing an external or the obvious functional problem is the way to go because it is tangible and measurable. However, what they can’t easily glean nor measure are customers’ internal and emotional problems, the things that pulling the heartstring of customers to buy stuff is often hidden in their subconscious.
Identifying and articulating the prospective customer’s internal emotional problem shows that you get them, you are in sympathy with them, and you understood the scourge they need to avoid, and the desire they want to fulfill, which earns you the foot in the door to engage your audience.
Product-market fit indicates your product fulfills the functional-value needs of a market. Most startups go about Product-market fit by doing some initial market research, building a product and then try to find customers. Seeing initial purchases as validation, they ramp up efforts to scale and establish a market by connecting with other, similar users. But all of this is based on a hypothesis that the initial purchases indicate product-market fit. If the hypothesis was wrong, it will require a rather costly pivot.
Why you need the Brand-Market-fit first?
COMPANIES TEND TO SELL SOLUTIONS TO EXTERNAL PROBLEMS, BUT CUSTOMERS BUY SOLUTIONS TO INTERNAL PROBLEMS.StoryBrand Founder Donald Miller
Brand-market fit means you have a message that not only resonates with your audience but also inspires passion around the emotional-value of what you have to offer. And your audience is large enough that indicates you are in a strong market.
Startups often scratch their heads about if they want to invest their time and money in this loosely defined, hard to measure, intangible, the qualitative aspect of Brand in their business.
Brand-market-fit takes a deep dive into an industry or market to fully understand the pain points, needs, and goals involved before going down the path of building a solution. It involves the art and science of talking to your early customers in this blog
It is much more cost-effective to test your message and calibrate your understanding of what is the scourge they want to avoid and what is their secret desire that you may spot on. If they resonate with your message you will see they want to sign up to receive your updates and newsletter while you are developing your product. Here are some ways to refine and test your messages
- 365+ Potent Phrases That Seduce an Audience and Convert Like Crazy
- How to Make Your Brand POP in 5 Minutes
- How to Make Your Brand Charismatic When You Are A Bootstrapped Startup
As a startup, you’ll generally start with a small segment of your identified market. Once you’ve achieved brand-market fit, and your understanding of the problem and your target market has grown, your message will continue to evolve from there.
Here are some ways on how to achieve Brand-Market-Fit:
1. Deeply engage with your target market with storytelling.
This means you are not just conducting conventional surveys to glean customer insight. Instead, engage your audience with narrative-based storytelling.
Storytelling at the heart is about connecting the “story of self” to the larger “story of us,” our humanity. The stories that we remember, no matter our cultural heritage, are the ones that we connect with personally through hidden values or beliefs, or that are a revelation of our universe.
Stories have been used for centuries as a means of teaching values because talking about values is not an easy thing. Stories equipped with metaphors and emotional narratives often bypass our conscious defense and become our psychological mirrors reflecting on our own experiences, facilitating understanding of important meanings, beliefs, and behaviors from different cultures.
When brand storytelling embodies a cherished value shared with its audience, it can seem to disseminate the value to cross the boundaries of culture and resonate on some deeper human level. Just like storytelling, mythic structures and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey have been brought to life across time and geography.
Story has these universal traits of connecting the “story of self” to the “story of us,” what varies are differences in cultural contexts of how we tell stories. The cultural contexts influence our lives—and by extension, our storytelling. In other words, the contexts of our stories are impactful to experiences of the stories and their meaning.
Here are some fine art of storytelling blogs
- Five Ways Startups Win Big in the Global Market by Changing Brands’ Playbook Part IV: Bypass Advertising, Hone in on Brand Storytelling
2. Renew your lens – kaleidoscoping
Very often, we seek new landscapes to refresh our perspective, however, a more quick and alternative way of refreshing our minds is to look at things through new lens, like through a “kaleidoscope”, reassembling those floating bits and pieces into an enticing new possibility!! Our podcast of The CoMozart Effect elaborates on this perspective.
If we hold ideas loosely and constantly scan for new ideas and new ways of thinking, we’re more likely to land on the perfect iteration of the idea.
If you’re open-minded in your approach and look at what your research shows, you’ll be able to operate with a more informed perspective and generate better ideas as a result.
3. Embrace the unfamiliar.
Easier is not always better. Building a solution based solely on your own expertise or what you’re familiar with may be easier to implement, but it’s probably not going to be the best answer for your customer’s issues.
Instead, seek outside perspectives; work with people who have strengths that complement your weaknesses, and consider all creative solutions that focus on solving the customer’s needs. You can always investigate new technologies and find the people you need to bring the perfect solution to life. Don’t hang your hat on what is, but on what could be.
If you truly understand your users’ most bothersome pain points and the impacts of their problems, you’ll be able to distinguish between the features that are merely shiny and exciting and those that will make users say, “How did I ever live without this?”
Find a path to success.
Every startup dreams about building that mega-hit that deeply resonates with an eager audience that has money to buy it. Though you may be tempted to jump right into building that great idea, don’t. Instead, take a thoughtful and human-based approach, and you’ll improve your chances of finding the elusive product-market fit that will drive your company’s success.