Here are some valuable insights we have gained over the years of working on various digital products, helping their owners navigate the path to product-market fit.
Insight 1: Shift the focus from solution to problem
Instead of fixating on a specific solution or product idea, it is essential to deeply understand the problem your target customers are facing. This insight, although challenging, is the most important of all. It’s easy to become limited by our own solution and hope that minor improvements like adjusting the onboarding process or adding a share option will drive traction and growth. Unfortunately, this rarely works.
By placing the problem at the center of our thinking, we open ourselves to fresh perspectives and innovative solutions. We must force ourselves to become passionate about solving the problem rather than just building, designing, or developing the product. As Uri Levine says in the title of his bestselling book: Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution.
“We must force ourselves to become passionate about solving the problem rather than just building, designing, or developing the product”
Insight 2: Talk to target customers about the problem
Many companies make the mistake of engaging with customers solely to gather feedback on their existing solution. While feedback regarding new features or enhancements may seem important, it rarely leads to significant breakthroughs.
Instead, when talking to customers, start by asking them, “When was the last time you encountered this problem?” Let them guide you through the entire process they went through when trying to solve it. Seek to understand their pain points, challenges, and needs at a deep level. By delving into their experiences, you can uncover game-changing insights and identify new solutions that address the core issues they face.
Insight 3: Discuss your solution after talking about the problem
Once you have engaged in meaningful conversations with your customers about the problem they face, it is important to discuss your solution. By addressing the problem first, customers are in the right mindset to provide valuable feedback on how well your solution solves their problem.
During the discussion, encourage them to share their screens and interact with your solution as they try to solve their problem using it. Pay attention to whether all major pain points are effectively addressed and identify any important aspects that may have been overlooked. Collaborate on how to transform your existing solution into a perfect problem solver.
Remember, discussing the solution after the problem conversation helps you avoid merely conducting usability testing. It ensures that the focus remains on problem-solving and aligning your solution with the customers’ needs.
Insight 4: It’s never a fit or no-fit. It’s something in between
Product-market fit validation is not a simple “fit” or “no fit” scenario. It exists on a spectrum, where your solution can align to varying degrees with the market. Do not expect a definitive “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, view it as a collection of learnings, both positive and negative, which hold equal value.
Returning to Insight 1., where the emphasis is on focusing on the problem rather than being attached to a specific solution, this mindset will make it easier for you to make pragmatic (and possibly difficult) decisions.
Insight 5: It’s a continuous process
Validating product-market fit is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey. As your target market evolves, new problems arise, and customer expectations change, you need to adapt and refine your solution accordingly. Continuously invest in customer research, feedback loops, and market analysis to stay ahead of the curve.
Embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and problem-first thinking to ensure your product-market fit.