The Product-Market Fit Process

Just capturing this here as a reminder to myself!

The Product-Market Fit Process can, from one person's perspective, look like this:

  1. Talk to customers. Develop a market thesis.
  2. Listen to their problems, not their solutions.
  3. Rapid prototyping & user testing.
  4. Build the solution to their problems.
  5. Test the solution with them.
  6. Did it work? If false, go to step 1.
  7. By the time you've reached this step, you've likely looped 20+ times.

I appreciate David's simple process and it fits well with the few and rare times that I've experienced PMF.

What I love about it most, especially, is the fact that it starts with talk to customers because this is effectively my thesis on community before everything — you can't build your product without first understanding, deeply, your customer's problem!

And, to do that you must become part of their community — it's not just about building your own! You have to earn the right and trust of your pre-community members before they'll become part of your community proper!

And then, you can start building! And build we must!

The one thing that is missing is the cold, hard truth that you might run this process but never actually reach PMF — and you'll know it because you feel as if everything is breaking because you have simply too much demand.


You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of ‘blah’, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.

via a16z

So, keep building. Keep going. Don't give up.

  1. 2

    Hey John,

    This exactly what the Sprint book is about, have you heard of it?

    Before building you have to find out what the "magic moment" of your product is. And then build the product around getting to that magic moment.

    1. 1

      very neat! i'll have to check that out. thanks for the note!

  2. 1

    Love this slide John. Will be making my desktop wallpaper. Thanks for the great insights. There are only two kinds of businesses. Pre PMF and post PMF. I'm tired of being stuck in the former but trying to muster the energy to continue. Time to talk to more customers.

    1. 1

      :) no worries my friend! PMF is the mark! let's go!

  3. 1

    For me, this seemed like the hardest part. We went to a top 5 accelerator and the goal for the entire time was to achieve product-market fit. After 3 attempts over 6 months of operations, we did it.

    Our first was based upon customer requests. That got us to revenue positive but quickly fizzled due to market size. Our second attempt was based on research and that failed to move the needle. The third attempt was based upon what we learned from trying the first two, talking to customers, and meeting with advisors.

    1. 2

      love it. few things teach better than experience!

      and every time is different!

  4. 2

    This comment was deleted 9 months ago.

    1. 2

      @hackerland, It's more about understanding what problems your target audience has.

      Ask the right questions that pry into their problems.

      If you can ease their 'pain', people will pay for it.

    2. 0

      this statement is a bit limited... because, at some point, you will want to know what you (future) customer uses (x) to figure out problem (y) and how that's different or similar to yours...

      ... but that's not a great place to necessarily start. instead, start with their problems is helping you focus on real behavior... that lead them to the current (hopefully poor) solutions that they currently have.

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