Product Market Fit: Part 1 – The Problem

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To be honest, I have avoided writing a post on product-market fit for a long time.


Apart from the fact I’m not a multi-exited founder who has ‘found’ product-market fit numerous times, there’s something I don’t like about #pmf.


Apart from my main contention that we should be referring to it as “market-product fit” (ie. start with a market, not with a product), I’ve bad feelings about…


It feels like a badge

Why pmf is cherished as a badge of honour of startup success is beyond me. Like it’s a point at which you cross over from doing incredibly hard, important work to hitting easy street, kicking back and watching the money roll in.


I don’t believe it’s a line you cross over where the race is suddenly won. I believe it’s a phase you enter – and a phase you can enter right at the very start of your startup journey.


It might be more obvious you’re in the phase of pmf where you’re beginning to see real traction – ie. profitable business.


But it’s a phase you never complete because it’s something you have to constantly work at and develop, as your market changes and new competition emerges.


It’s more than > demand

You’ve seen pmf visualised… as fish jumping out of the water into a waiting net or that gif of a queue of customers going round the block (on that basis I guess NHS dentistry has found pmf??!).


I don’t believe it’s purely about demand. Sure, being in demand is good but having crazy demand for what you offer might be a result of poor pricing strategy (ie. you’re pricing too low) and doesn’t take into account the issue of customer churn.


High demand and zero retention is NOT product-market fit.


So, to sum up… pmf is:

  1. Back to front (better as market-product fit)
  2. Not a badge of honour
  3. Over simplified as being about high demand

Is that the problem? No. The problem is that it often doesn’t start with…


A problem

I believe until you have identified the problem your product or service is fixing for your audience, you’re far from entering into a phase of product market fit.


You can identify the problem at the start of your startup’s journey or you can do it mid-way through after a few expensive pivots. But until you’re laser focused on the problem, I think you’re way off getting to pmf.


1] Find a problem.


2] Validate that the problem really ‘exists’ – that it’s a problem for enough people to make a market, that the solution to the problem is a pain and that enough people are willing to pay for a solution.


3] Design an MVP to fix the problem.


You’ve just entered into market-product fit. Get in touch if you’d like to chat more. 


Would you like to learn how to run your own research?



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