I’ve recently started mentoring startup companies participating in MassChallenge JLM. While this is an amazing experience providing me with the chance to meet exciting new startups, it is also an important reminder as to how critical, yet elusive, Product/Market fit is. Helping startup companies get on track to finding their P/MF has also provided me with some insights as to where many fail, and why.
Here are my tips on how to get your P/MF wrong , follow closely :-).
Tip #1: It’s All About The Product
Forget Market. All it takes is one great idea. Forget pains or needs of the market, who cares? Validating your product with the market is a total waste of time, spend it on writing code they don’t even know they need. Remember! If you think it is great, it is. If surveys show your solution is AWESOME, it is. Never mind the market is expensive to acquire, needs intensive education, regulated as hell or from Mars. Your awesome product can beat the odds.
Tip #2: Survey = Validation
There is nothing better than surveys when validating your PMF. After all people always mean (and do) what they say. Don’t bother with validation campaigns, spoofed landing pages or measuring conversions and CAC. If they say it sounds great, they will pay.
Tip #3: Trust Your Instincts, And Your Mother
So what if this is your first go, or that you never interacted with that market, if your mother says it perfect — it is. Don’t waste your time looking for other business models or outreach strategies — your gut feeling has never failed you before. Researching, brainstorming, hypothesizing, getting consultations are all huge time wasters — nothing good ever came from thinking things through or getting new perspectives.
Tip #4a: Stay In The Box
Doing standard things in the standard way is the only way to succeed. Don’t differentiate yourself, follow the crowd.
Tip #4b: Invent The Wheel
So what if it’s been done before, or this is how the market works, you’re idea IS BETTER. Spend as much time as needed reinventing the wheel and you will see the results faster than you can imagine. From how users sign up to what are your KPIs — stand out from the crowd. After all, people love buying new stuff, and these are the most loyal customers as well.
Tip #5: Pivots Are For Losers
If you hit a wall, it means you are not trying hard enough. Brute force your way in. Back doors and pivots are just another way to say “I quit!”. Give me one example for a good pivot, other than Viagra.
Tip #6: If You build It, They Will Come!
Kevin Costner nailed it. The only way to bring in customers is to have a fully functional product. Forget MVP or mock ups, you need the real thing before stepping outside. “Spoofing” landing pages or websites are a total waste of money and your customers will never ever forgive you for testing their reactions and intent to buy before actually taking their money.
Tip #7: Anecdotes Are The General Rule
If it happened once, it will probably happen again, and again, and again — forever, and ever, everywhere, every time, for everyone. After all there is no such thing as coincident, only god’s will.
Jokes aside, finding your P/MF is the most critical task you have. You will know when you have it (sales up, organic traffic is up and more) and will need to constantly look for it. Validating your P/MF is just as critical, real data from real users in real use cases. Speculate all you want (that is a good thing) but make sure you VALIDATE whatever assumptions you have until you get it right. ‘Spoof” landing pages and offers, share early preliminary mock ups, chew your own dog food, whatever it takes to make sure every dollar invested in developing is going into real value creation people will pay for. If you’re struggling to much, you should consider pivoting. Even big companies like Netflix, IBM, Apple, LEGO to name a few owe their success to past pivots. It’s not a failure but a re-positioning to better meet the needs of the ever dynamic markets.