Product To Market Fit: Why It Matters & What To Consider

October 9, 2019 Edward Marsh

There are many reasons why an app might fail or succeed, but getting the right product to market fit is absolutely one of the most essential. Why? Because it’s a constant, realistic benchmark to compare your solution against.

It’s also something we take great care in when developing anything. It’s why we invest heavily in Product Design – we want to know, right from the start, that there is a clear goal and objective to work towards.

What Is Product/Market Fit?

The product to market fit – also known as product/market fit for short – serves to ensure that your final product is serving a purpose. To use the words of the first person to coin the term, Marc Andreesen:

“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”

To explain this more clearly, we can say that every market has needs. A group of people without a need is not a market. Such markets also need to be viable, such as being large enough to make such a venture profitable – a smaller market would need higher mark-up, while a cheaper option can be sold to a larger audience.

What’s important is that your product fits the market – not the other way around. You’re looking to sell a solution to an existing problem, rather than trying to sell something the market isn’t asking for.

The more competitive your market is, the more this rule applies. While it’s important to consider at the start of development, it’s also important to consider it moving forward, too. Users have changing needs and, as such, the product/market fit can also evolve.

Why Is It Important?

When you’re the only product that meets a need, it’s very easy to be successful. When there are multiple options, on the other hand, you need to give the consumer or customer a direct reason to choose yours above the rest. This is what they are looking for. This is what the product/market fit is.

How Does It Impact Software Development Process?

The product/market fit isn’t something that can be done after software is created. It needs to be done at the start.

This is an essential part of Product Design. We’ve spoken about the importance of Product Design before but, just to recap, this is where we determine who will be using the final product, why they will be using it and why the business wants to make it. After all, both the user and business have different goals, and the purpose of the product is to help both to satisfy their respective wants and needs.

Let’s go through some of the most key factors and how they directly impact the design and development process.

Market Audience

Every product needs to be used – and chosen – by someone. Even something that is automated and runs in the background still needs to be chosen by someone. As such, the market has a selective audience and the product/market fit seeks to ensure your product aligns itself in this approach.

Value Propositions Across Segments

The value proposition informs potential users or customers about the value of your product – specifically, the value for them. You want to make it clear that your offer is more valuable than any alternative they might be considering or using. This isn’t just about marketing – it’s about having actual value baked right in to the original recipe.

For example, let’s use Foodback as an example. Foodback works well because it meets both the need of users (in this case, consumers and guests) and restaurant owners:

  • Users want to leave reviews and know that their opinions are being heard. They also wanted to easily pay on their phone.
  • Restaurant and hotel owners want a way to accurately collect and analyse data to help improve their business.

Here, it’s clear to see that the two halves of the target user base have very different needs. As such, the app had to propose value for both of them. Owners wouldn’t use it if users weren’t going to provide data, and consumers wouldn’t use it just to give feedback if they’re already using something else to pay the bill.

This is where value propositions come in to full effect. In many ways, it’s like an elevator pitch. What will it do for users? Why should they use it?

As a side note, when dealing with multiple value propositions, this often results in a multi-tenant solution in IT. Here you can see one such internal example, where we created architecture for the HR sector. It was quickly identified who would be using the solution and their different needs, so the project was designed from the ground up to answer these different expectations and provide custom experiences.

What’s The Problem?

All products, if they’re trying to be successful, need to solve a problem or issue that the target audience is having. This is where the actual profitable value lies.

This is where research can be the most vital. You might have an idea that solves a problem on paper, but you also need to consider if users are actually are of this problem to begin with. Likewise, how many people have this issue? That limits how many users you can expect.

Alternatively, you might be trying to solve an issue better than existing solutions. After all, horses let you get from A to B pretty quickly, but there’s a reason we use cars instead. In this case, it’s important to consider what issues are still unresolved and what people actually want.

Market Technology

Similarly, from a software perspective, we have to consider the technology as well. To use mobile experience as an example, we should know if our intended users use iOS, Android or both. There’s no point planning an entire application only to find out our target user doesn’t use the OS we thought they did.

Localisation

One more factor worth considering is the geographical range of your target audience. Are you looking to provide some in a certain city, country or continent? Where you’re trying to apply your product determines the size of your potential audience, as well as the actual competitors already in that space.

None of this means that a bigger market is a better market, either. Highly localised products often benefit from a less competitive space, while large markets have more competition. There are many rules out there to measure success, such as cornering 40% of the user base but, when working on a larger scale, this becomes an exponentially larger task.

What About Internal Software?

Before we get any further, I also want to stress that many of these principles apply to internal solutions as well. For instance:

  • Users – in this case, these are your employees. While they don’t have a choice, how intuitive and in line with existing systems any new solution is will greatly impact how well it is received and how easy your staff are able to achieve intended tasks and objectives with it.
  • Problem – what problem are you trying to solve? Internal products still have a goal to achieve, whether it’s adding automation to a previously manual task, making work quicker and more efficient, or even just creating something to save costs in the long run through better resource management. Still, there should be a noticeable benefit that you’re aiming to create at the end.
  • Technology – this one is arguably easier when dealing with internal solutions. You either have a list of compatibility requirements, or you’re looking to break away and migrate to something entirely new.

How Do You Know If It Worked?

Talking about achieving a product market fit is all well and good, but how can it be measured?

Engagement

Of course, sale figures are one easy metric, but usage is another matter – often, your solutions are designed to fulfil a need in the long term, so you want users to keep using it.

Here, we can use many metrics, such as how frequently people are using the solution and which specific features they use the most.

Feedback

On the other hand, you can always make use of more direct feedback. Reviews are one such resource, but there’s always the option to engage users directly. This will tell you a number of things, such as what people like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see.

You can also use this opportunity to directly ask users how committed they are to your specific solution, as well as what features or future improvements they would like to see in the future. All of this helps you push your product outside the initial MVP into something more competitive.

How To Get Started?

The idea of a product/market fit might seem scary – but it’s not as bad as it sounds. The most important factor is to start from the very beginning and think about the market (and its respective users) needs.

Research is key, but it’s also good to start with a workshop to unify the vision and bring everyone onto the same page. This is the best way to combine everyone involved in the project, including key outsides who might not be involved in the actual development, but have the insights needed to proceed successfully.

This can include:

Business & Market Analysts – These experts can determine the current state of the market, what other companies are doing and how best to position the product competitively.

UX/UI & Designers – User navigation is essential. If you’re trying to move into a competitive space, you need something that’s easy and familiar to use. These experts will help ensure your solution looks and feels the part.

Data Scientists & Engineers – Is this app either relying on, or generating, data? If the answer to either of these is yes, data specialists are essential. How will data be collected, formatted or taken advantage of?

Industry Specialists – If you’re building something for a specific industry or niche, then an expert from that background is essential. They can give initial feedback and better guide the product towards being useful.

Additional Specialists – Is your new product going to be on mobile? Will it have various different users, all of which need to be addressed? Don’t be afraid to bring in those that have this vital knowledge or perspective.

Summary

Getting the right product/market fit is essential. It defines why a potential individual might use your application or solution, which in turn impacts its potential success. While it might take a little longer, taking the time at the start to research this ensures that your final product has a much better chance of winning over your target audience.

Business Perspective

The product/market fit is essential to any development process. Preliminary workshops can define the target audience and their needs, before planning the final product as a direct answer to these issues. Doing so ensures that your product has a clear purpose that is carried through development to the launch of the product itself. Straying from this path, however, may result in a product that solves an invisible problem – one that nobody is looking to fix.

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