No, Your Problem isn’t Product / Market Fit

When a company fails to gain traction these days, you inevitably hear something about not reaching Product / Market Fit.

Before you accuse me of semantic nitpicking — and I’m not above that — just know that this time, it’s deeper than that.

When the founders of a failed company say they didn’t reach Product / Market Fit, it’s not generally to take the blame; rather, it’s to put the blame on that market that “just didn’t get it.”

If you’re not creating a new product category.

If you’re not truly innovating and are just iterating on a product (category) that already exists.

If you’re not doing truly transformative work.

You don’t have a Product / Market Fit problem…

You have a Marketing problem.

If you’re creating a more advanced or, conversely, a simpler to use version of X, and X is already a thing that people buy at scale (even if from a super-fragmented industry without a strong incumbent market leader), the market is proven.

The concept is proven and there’s buy-in.

The market has spoken — they want and will pay for X — and since you built a better (different, at least) version of X, there is a pre-existing market that is a fit for your product.

Your job isn’t to build that market.

Your job isn’t to get people to understand that they have a problem they need to solve that they didn’t even realize they had.

Your job isn’t to surface an entirely new opportunity for them to take advantage of that they simply never even thought of before.

You’re not trying to create a product category that never existed before.

Your job is to get those that already know about, understand the need for, and in many cases are already bought-in to the concept of — and actually use a version of — X to use your version of X.

That means you don’t have a Product / Market Fit problem.

You have a Marketing problem.

That may not be what you want to hear, but a Marketing problem is MUCH easier to fix.

But it does mean that it’s your problem, not the market’s.

While true innovation and market making are possible and exciting — what we’re doing in Customer Success at Gainsight definitely falls into this category — you can do really big things by iterating on existing products and disrupting existing markets and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Just know that if you fail to, it’s not a Product / Market Fit issue… it’s a Marketing issue.

I go into a lot more detail on different strategies and tactics around SaaS Marketing, Pricing, Growth Hacking, etc. on my Sixteen Ventures site.

I help grow SaaS companies at Gainsight by focusing on Customer Success. Follow me on Twitter @lincolnmurphy.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success Consultant focused on Customer Success-driven Growth. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help applying Customer Success-driven Growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.


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