How to Find Your Product-Market Fit: Examples, Guidelines, Definitions

Let me guess.

You’ve got a great idea for a product, but you’re not sure if it’s going to be worth the time and money. 

You have a gut feeling that this is either going to be an epic success or a total failure, but you just can’t tell which one.

Will my product be successful?”

“Will people actually buy my product?”

“Is my product solving a real problem?”.

These are just some questions that might be running through your mind. It’s more than likely that you’ve been thinking about a load of stuff for a while now. Or it may be that it’s just something gnawing at you while trying to get some sleep.

Well, I have good news for you!

There’s a way to tell if your product will be successful or not – through something called “Product-Market fit”.

This means that you are able to determine if your product is solving a real problem for people or not. You can tell how much demand there is for your product and you can determine if there is a large enough market/audience to sell it to.

It’s easier said than done, but don’t worry! I’ve got your back.

I’m going to go over what Product-Market fit is and give you some examples to illustrate my point. I’ll also go over some guidelines you can use to help you find your product-market fit. So without further ado, let’s get started.

What is Product-Market Fit?

Product-market fit means that your product matches up with the current market needs. It means that there is a large enough market/audience for your product and people are willing to pay money for it. For example, let’s say you want to create a smartphone application that allows people to talk at video conferences for free.

Product-market fit gif
What doesn’t fit, doesn’t fit.

That’s a great idea, but it might not be as valuable if there is already an abundance of video conference applications out on the market.

If there are already a million video conference applications that people have access to, then your product might not be as successful because the demand for it is not high enough.

On the other hand, if there are barely any video conference applications available for people to use and your product is the first one to hit the market, then you stand a very good chance of being successful.

That’s because there is no other product like yours available. This means that your product is filling a void in the market and people will be willing to pay for it.

That is Product-Market Fit!

Why is it important to find your product’s Product-Market Fit?

Why is it important to find your product's Product-Market Fit

Things you don’t need to launch your product: a great name, a one-word domain, a beautiful logo, an ever better website, brilliant copy, perfect code, custom illustrations, shiny buttons, optimized CSS… Things you do need: a product that solves a problem for someone. That’s it.

Sahil Lavingia

Finding your Product-Market Fit could mean the difference between failure and success.

This may sound like a bold statement, but it’s true.

If your product isn’t solving a real problem for people, then there is no point in even creating it. People are not going to pay money for a product that offers no help, solves a problem they don’t have or is useless to them.

Let’s be honest here – we all want our products to sell well and increase profit, right?

But you can’t just create a product and hope for the best.

You need to make sure you know how much demand there is for the product before you invest too much time and money into it.

If you build a product that has little to no demand, then you are basically throwing money down the drain.

Finding your Product-Market Fit allows you to make sure that people actually want and need your product before you spend money on it. That will save you a lot of time, effort, and money in the long run.

What if a business doesn’t achieve product/market fit?

The most common mistake made by startups is:

  • Attempting to tackle problems that no one has. 

If a company tries to solve problems that don’t exist or offers poor solutions that aren’t valuable, it will eventually fail.

Don’t make this same mistake.

When you set out to create a new product, always keep in mind who your target audience is and what problem your product will solve.

If you get this wrong, then it can be nearly impossible to correct the mistake later on because there is no market for the product.

It’s much easier to avoid this mistake by creating a new product that people actually need and want, rather than attempting something no one cares about.

How to measure Product-Market Fit

Now that you know what the Product-Market Fit is and why it’s important, let’s talk about how to measure it.

When measuring product-market fit, you want to look at both qualitative and quantitative product success metrics.

The qualitative metrics help you better understand the people who are buying/using your product and how they feel about it.

The quantitative metrics give you a better idea of the size and demand for your product.

Qualitative Metrics:

  • Word of mouth

If people are talking about your product and recommending it to their friends, then you know there is a high demand for the product.

  • Review and testimonials

If people are taking the time to write good reviews about your product or share their stories with you, then that’s a good sign.

  • Calls from media or industry analysts

If people in the industry or media outlets are calling you for information or interviews, then it means that they see your product as a quality solution.

Quantitative Metrics

  • NPS score

If you have a high NPS score, then it means your product is reaching the market and there’s demand for it.

A Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a score that shows how likely people are to recommend your product/business to others.

  • Churn rate

Your churn rate is the percentage of customers that stop using/paying for your product.

A high churn rate means that people are not satisfied with your product or it doesn’t meet their needs.

If you have a low churn rate, it means your product meets people’s needs and they are satisfied with it.

  • Growth rate

If your growth rate is high, it means there’s a lot of demand for the product.

This can be measured in many different ways, but the key is to compare it over time.

If your growth rate is increasing, then it means demand for your product is growing and people are using it more.

If your growth rate is decreasing, it means people are either not satisfied with the product or there isn’t enough demand for it.

  • Market share

Market share is the percentage of sales in the market that you have compared to your competitors.

If you have a high market share, it means your product satisfies the demand in the market and people are buying it.

If you have a low market share, then it means there’s not enough demand for your product and there are other options available.

6 Steps on How to find your product’s Product-Market Fit

6 Steps on How to find your product's Product-Market Fit

Now that you know what Product-Market fit is, why it’s important, and how to measure it, let’s go over some guidelines you can follow to help you find it.

When it comes to finding your product’s Product-Market fit, there are 6 steps you need to follow:

  1. Find a target audience
  2. Identify unmet customer needs
  3. Define your value proposition
  4. Specify your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) feature set
  5. Create your MVP prototype
  6. Test your MVP with target customers

Let’s now go over each of these steps in more detail.

1- Find a target audience

The first step to finding your product’s Product-Market fit is to identify a target audience.

Your product will not be successful if it does not have a target audience.

Without a clearly identified group of people that your product is aimed at, it will be nearly impossible to find out if there is a need for it.

There are many ways to identify your target audience, but the most important thing is that you find people who want and need your product.

If you launch a new product, then look for people that already buy existing solutions to the problem you are trying to solve.

For example, if you want to launch a new type of fitness tracker, then you need to find people who are already buying fitness trackers. If you don’t have a similar or competing product, then look for groups of customers who have the same pain points and problems.

Once you have a group of people in mind that would benefit from your solution, then it’s time to move on to the next step.

2- Identify unmet customer needs

As we discussed earlier, it’s important for your product to solve a real problem or need.

Unmet customer needs reflect the problems that people have, but no real solution is offered to get them fixed.

If you can identify an unmet need and then create a product that fulfills it, then you have the makings of a successful business.

Unmet needs are everywhere and all around us.

For example, there is strong demand for mobile devices that have longer battery life.

If you create an innovative new smartphone with a long-lasting battery, then you might stand a good chance of achieving success.

Just make sure that the problem you are trying to solve with your product is actually worth solving and not just something that people complain about.

3- Define your value proposition

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that a product and its features are what customers buy, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Customers buy solutions to their problems, not a product or its features.

It’s your job to identify the problem that your product is designed to solve and then communicate this message in a way that resonates with customers.

If your value proposition is clear and compelling, then you will stand a better chance of achieving success.

For example, if your product helps people get more done in their day, then your value 

The proposition might be expressed as:

“Helps people get stuff done quickly and easily.”

If you define your value proposition like this, then customers will know exactly what your product aims to do and why they should care.

4- Specify your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) feature set

Once you’ve defined your value proposition and know what problem it solves, then it’s time to specify the features of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

Your MVP is the product that you are going to launch.

It should include only those features that are necessary to solve the problem you’ve identified.

  • If your product is too complex, then it will be difficult for customers to understand it and use it.

You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to achieve their desired outcome.

For example, if your product is a mobile app that helps people track their habits, then your MVP could just include the habit-tracking feature.

If you don’t want to launch with just one feature, then you can surely include more than one.

The aim is to launch with just enough features to solve the identified problem and achieve product-market fit.

5- Create your MVP prototype

The next step is to create an MVP prototype that you can test with real customers.

This will allow you to quickly see if people want and need your product and if it solves the problem you identified earlier.

You can create a prototype in any way that is convenient for you, as long as you can test it with customers.

It is critical that you prioritize ease of use when designing your prototype because any unnecessary complexity will be a turnoff to customers. You don’t need the best design or even good design, just something that is functional enough for your MVP test.

Your MVP prototype doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does have to work. – image – pullquote

The goal is just to get feedback from real customers before you invest too much time and money into your product.

6- Test your MVP with target customers

Once you have a functional prototype, then it’s time to test your MVP with real customers.

Ideally, you will find people that fit your target customer profile and test with them.

If you don’t have the resources to find real customers, then it’s okay to test with people that are just acting as proxies for your target customers.

This is still fine because you are trying to learn as quickly as possible whether or 

not your product stands a chance of success.

If you don’t get the results that you want, then learn from your mistakes and iterate on your MVP.

And also: Iterate until customers love your MVP

Once you’ve tested your product with real customers, then it’s time to iterate on the feedback that they give you.

Customers will often provide you with very valuable insights that can improve your product and increase its chances of success.

When testing your prototype, don’t ask customers if they would use your product. Instead, ask them to complete a task using the prototype and get their reactions while you observe what works well and what doesn’t.

Try to have customers use your product in the way that they would normally use a competitor’s or alternative solution, so you can identify the strengths and weaknesses.

This way, you can learn how to position your product in the best light possible when talking with customers at this stage.

Iterate on your MVP until customers get to love it and can’t live without it.

Common Mistakes

It’s important to mention here that at times, however, you might not get the results you expected, or your product does not appeal to the customers and they don’t see the point of using it.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, but you can reduce the chances of this happening by following the guidelines I’ve mentioned and avoiding common mistakes.

Here is just a shortlist of some things to avoid:

  • Trying to make a perfect product before you get any feedback from customers can lead to wasting time and money on features that no one wants.
  • Not getting enough early customer feedback and waiting until it’s too late to make changes can lead to launching a product that is destined for failure.
  • Trying to do everything yourself and not looking for help from experts.
  • Not learning, iterating, and improving from the feedback that you get can lead to a product with only a slim chance of success.
  • Trying to be too different and breaking compatibility with the rest of the industry can lead to a product with low chances of success.
  • Trying to do everything yourself without involving customers in the process can lead to a product with little chances of success.
  • Trying to appeal to everyone is a sure way of appealing to no one, and it’s going to make your product not much to look at.
  • Trying to provide everything for everybody is an impossible task and it’s going to make your product unattractive.

4 Things To Do To Increase Your Chances of Success

“I followed the guidelines and avoided common mistakes, but I got negative feedback and customers didn’t like my product, my product is destined for failure.”

Hold it right there! The ship hasn’t sunk yet. 

There is still hope for you and your product.  Here are several things that you can do to increase your chances of success:

1. Iterate on the feedback that you got.

That means going back to previous steps and doing it again based on what you’ve learned from this round of feedback.

You will need to be open-minded and humble enough to accept tough, but necessary lessons that you’ve learned from this experience.

You want to be sure that the next version of your product is better than the previous one. That’s what will give you more chances of success.

Make sure that your adjustments are based on how customers use the product, not what you think they should be using it for. Your job is to get into the mindset of your customers and learn how they use a product like yours.

You can do this by:

  • Watching them,
  • Listening to their feedback
  • And asking the right questions.

When you’ve done your research and know what kind of problems your customers experience when doing the task that your product is designed to solve, you’re ready for step two.

2. Find the pain points.

You want to get rid of every step in the process that your customers find frustrating or annoying, and replace them with something that they find simple and easy.

This will require you to understand your customers really well, their problems, challenges, and frustrations.

You can do this by asking them questions, watching them using your product, and observing their behavior. Once you know the challenges your customers are facing, you can start thinking about the ways to solve those problems.

Don’t be afraid to come up with ideas that seem wild or crazy at first.

You can try them out, see how customers react, and adjust accordingly.

The more you know about your customers, the easier it will be for you to find solutions that work for them.

Remember, simple is better than complex when it comes to building a product that has good chances of success.

3. Find what makes you different.

Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd, in a good way that is.

You don’t want to be another player in the market with a product that doesn’t do anything better than what’s already out there.

You want your customers to see how your product is different and better than the rest.

You want them to feel that it was made for them, with their needs as your central focus.

Instead of trying to please everybody, try to make your product stand out by maintaining your focus on making it work for certain types of customers.

4.  Narrow your focus.

If you’re having a hard time making your product stand out from the crowd, it might be because there is too much competition.

In this case, narrowing your focus might be the right thing to do.

You can do this by focusing more on a specific type of customer, or product feature.

  • This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should ignore other types of customers or features; it only suggests that you shouldn’t try to do everything at once.

For example, instead of striving to make a product that has every single feature under the sun and appeals to everybody, try making multiple versions for different types of customers.

This way, instead of trying to please everybody you can make your product meet the needs and desires of specific groups or types of customers.

After you do that, you can slowly expand and grow your product by adding new features and solve the problems of the customers outside those specific groups as well.

Remember: even if you’re narrowing your focus, you still need to make sure that the changes are in line with what customers want and intend to use.

The bottom line is that there are always things you can do to increase your chances of success. It’s important not to give up too quickly and keep trying until you find the formula that will work for you.

Product/Market Fit Examples to inspire you

Dropbox

Our age of constantly synchronized devices and cloud services has blurred a recent history in which our files did not always line up. With the launch of their file syncing service in 2008, Dropbox changed everything.

Despite having offered a solution to an obvious and broad issue, the team had difficulty attracting customers. What did they do?

Product market fit examples: dropbox

Well, Drew Houston, Dropbox’s co-founder, created two highly effective methods to find their fit.

First, he created his now-famous four-minute explanatory video and published it on Digg, the leading news aggregator site at the time. Overnight, their beta queue increased from 5,000 to 75,000 people.

Instead of experimenting with different distribution channels, Houston took advantage of an established audience in Digg, where social sharing was normal. Digg’s user base (younger, tech-savvy) provided lots of early adopters, and he took care to incorporate social references that community members would recognize.

Second, Dropbox launched a viral referral program. The promotion offered existing customers more storage space in exchange for spreading the service through social media, email, or having their friends sign up.

Dropbox discovered another excellent distribution method that connected it with an established audience. The social proof offered by rewarding its users served as a natural lure for people to try out the service.

Spotify

In the aftermath of a disaster, there is often opportunity. An opportunity that can usually outweigh the disaster itself.

Daniel Ek saw this opportunity in the early 2000s, following the demise of Napster and other peer-to-peer file-sharing networks. The networks encouraged large-scale “sharing” (now seen as wholesale copyright infringement), which was a big grey area of the newly widespread internet at the time.

Product market fit examples: spotify

As a result, record sales in the music business began to fall as fans began to consume music online, typically from illegal sources.

Ek then started thinking: would a small fraction, even a small percentage of people who listen to music illegally be ready to pay a small fee for legal consumption?

He believed that enough of them would, and in turn, it would be a sustainable business model.

Ek was right.

Luckily, the startup was able to realize that many elements of product-market fit were already in place and that the only thing that was missing was a legally binding product. As for the music, it was already out there, and online and mobile devices provided perfect distribution channels and a market of current music pirates ready to be turned into legal streamers.

Ek knew that the music industry would never be what it once was, but he saw an opportunity to make a living from this new way of consuming music.

Spotify’s product-market fit came from the convergence of three factors.

  1. Ek was able to spot an opportunity that was created by the lack of legal options for music pirates. 
  1. The right distribution channel for this kind of product was available in the form of online streaming services. A brand new and legal product that was ready to be introduced.
  1. After the release, Ek spent a lot of time experimenting with different product features that would engage customers. In particular, he worked on refining the user experience and finding ways to encourage people who were not paying yet for their service to start doing so.

Now, Spotify has its product-market fit and it’s one of the most popular streaming services worldwide, with an ever-growing user base.

Airbnb

In the early days of Airbnb, creators Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia rented out their living room as a way to make extra money. The team created a website, bought a set of air mattresses, and even offered homemade breakfast to attract guests.

To capitalize on the popularity of technology and design conferences, in particular, the service’s creators repositioned it as a networking alternative for participants when hotels were fully booked.

Product market fit examples: airbnb

Unfortunately, the company was still struggling to make a profit, despite its efforts. In fact, 

Airbnb’s average weekly revenue was barely $200.

During the 2008 election campaign, the company raised $30,000 in early-stage investment by selling politically themed cereal boxes. Despite their best efforts, the team was unable to get VC funding.

Later, Airbnb launched a one-of-a-kind Craigslist connection. In addition to offering their houses on Airbnb, customers could also list them on Craigslist at the same time.

Airbnb was able to find its full market potential by using Craigslist’s enormous user base.

Genius!

As you can see from the examples above, finding your product-market fit is not always easy. 

You need to be able to identify an existing trend or create something brand new that will fill a market need.

In order to get your business off the ground, you will have to remain adaptable and willing to experiment with new ways of engaging customers.

The most important thing is to start small and learn from your mistakes while looking for the main reason behind the success of other businesses in your industry.

Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand what product-market fit is, how to find it and how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls. If you’re struggling to find a market that works for your products or your marketing strategy, don’t be discouraged! The key is to remain flexible and willing to experiment.

Don’t forget that product-market fit can be a slow process, so do not rush it. 

In many cases, it is a gradual process that takes time to develop and refine into something that will actually benefit your business in the long run.

Remember: success isn’t always about getting it right from the start, but rather learning and iterating until you succeed.


Frequently Asked Questions:


What happens after finding product/market fit?

After finding product/market fit, you should focus on scaling and marketing your product.


What are some examples of products/services that have found their product-market fit?

Some products or services that have successfully reached product/market fit are Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb.


What is the most important part of finding product/market fit?

The most important part of finding product/market fit is experimentation and iteration.


Who is responsible for product/market fit?

The responsibility of finding product/market fit usually falls on the founders or the product management and marketing team.

Alican Bektas

Alican is the Product Manager of UserGuiding, a code-free product walkthrough software that 2000+ companies trust in their user onboarding.

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