What is the most important thing for a company to do? If you could only get one thing right, what would it be?
If you ask successful founders and VCs, you will start hearing the same thing again and again: achieve product-market fit. Often you will hear this but not get a clear explanation of what product-market fit is. So what is this elusive product-market fit?
Boiled down to its purest elements, it is having a solution to a problem (product) for a particular group of people (market).
If you don’t have product-market fit, there are only two ways to pivot to achieve it. You need to either change the product or change the market.
Changing the market is often harder to do but it is the right choice in certain situations. This is what Twitch did. Twitch originally started as JustinTV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justin.tv), a live streaming platform for people to share their lives over video. But the founders noticed something strange. More and more people were using this platform to watch other people play video games.
They had built a solution for a problem and group of people that they didn’t know existed. And so, they began focusing on this group of people (changed their market to fit the product) and Twitch was born.
However, more often than not, you know your specific target market but your product is still in its infancy and needs to be molded into something that solves a potential problem for this market. In this case, you need to change the product.
But how do you change the product to fit the market? How do you know what the market wants? You have to listen to the market, or in other words, get product feedback.
You need to create a feedback cycle, or loop, in which the customer is giving their feedback, the company listens, they reimplement the product with the suggested changes, and then get more feedback, etc.
This is how great startups and great companies are born. If the company is really good, they will gather feedback at every step of the process.
Why is this cycle valuable? The sooner you can kill a product or feature that won’t achieve product-market fit, the more resources and time you save, and the sooner you can start working on a product or feature that will achieve product-market fit. That is why tightening and strengthening your feedback cycle is one of the highest impact changes you can make to your company.
Now let’s turn it around and look at it from the customer’s (market’s) point of view. Why does the customer want to offer feedback?
There are two primary drivers for leaving feedback. The first driver would be a personal connection to the company, brand, or someone at the company. The second potential driver is self-interest, that the suggestions they are making would directly benefit the customer. Both of these, again, are dependent on a tight feedback cycle.
A tight feedback cycle increases the velocity of feedback implementation. If none of the suggested feedback is ever implemented, the feedback is neither helping the company nor benefiting the customer. The other variable in this equation is the effort taken to give feedback. No matter how much the customer loves the company or wants a feature, if they cannot figure out a single possible way to get the feedback in the right format, to the right person, the company won’t get the feedback.
Conversely, if you minimize the amount of effort taken to give feedback to be minimal, you will greatly increase the volume of feedback and increase the pool of potential customers that you get feedback from.
Some of the most beneficial feedback comes from your marginal customers, the customers at the edges. These are the customers who are slipping away that you want to recapture to increase and retain your user base. Your fanatical customers you already have locked in.
Warning shameless plug: that is why our in-app plugin is such a valuable tool. It lets the customer effortlessly deliver feedback directly to the company in the right format with the relevant content.