But it doesn’t have to be all numbers, PMF measurements can also be pretty subjective.
You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.
And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it—or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.
- Marc Andreessen
Step 2: If you don’t have PMF, this is the product’s most central problem. Obsessively correct it.
There are no algorithms here, but here’s some universally applicable advice:
Focus on adding a lot of value for some people, than some value for a lot of people.
Talk to your customers directly and deeply.
Ask open-ended and divergent questions.
Genuinely empathise and avoid leading questions.
Ask questions two or three levels deep.
Have a high speed of execution, and iterate aggressively.
Take wild swings - instead of small, measured optimisations. (Go for a six, don’t take singles)
If users aren’t playing your video game at all, and you could do two features, which of the two do you pick:
Change the structure and mechanics of the game. (vs)
Improve the time of the loading screen from 4s to 2.5s.
Prioritise ruthlessly. Omit anything that doesn’t directly lead to customer traction.
Step 3: If you have PMF, aggressively scale your product. (Growth problem)
Whenever you see a successful startup, you see one that has reached product/market fit—and usually along the way screwed up all kinds of other things, from channel model to pipeline development strategy to marketing plan to press relations to compensation policies to the CEO sleeping with the venture capitalist. And the startup is still successful.
Conversely, you see a surprising number of really well-run startups that have all aspects of operations completely buttoned down, HR policies in place, great sales model, thoroughly thought-through marketing plan, great interview processes, outstanding catered food, 30" monitors for all the programmers, top tier VCs on the board—heading straight off a cliff due to not ever finding product/market fit.
Ironically, once a startup is successful, and you ask the founders what made it successful, they will usually cite all kinds of things that had nothing to do with it. People are terrible at understanding causation. But in almost every case, the cause was actually product/market fit.
Because, really, what else could it possibly be?
- Marc Andreessen
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