You must have seen an Emma Bridgewater mug at some point. They stand out – ceramic with sponge dotted bits of colour. Instantly recognisable.
And the market goes crazy about them. I’m looking at one on my desk right now. There’s something very calming about them.
This outcome – product-market fit, is what all of us are searching for. We’re searching for this in almost every aspect of our lives, if you take a moment to think about it.
What are kids doing when they try and decide what to study or specialise in? They’re trying to match their talents with the courses on offer.
Sometimes we think we should do something because there is a market for those skills. We might study engineering or law because our parents think it will get us a good job.
They’re suggesting we change ourselves – the product – to fit what the market wants.
This is such a crucial aspect of succeeding at anything that it’s worth examining in some detail.
Let’s say you have a brilliant new invention. You think it’s brilliant anyway. How do you know for sure?
You know when someone hands over money for it. Willingly.
But that just tries to simply a hugely important thing into a few words – missing the point along the way.
Let’s think of a model that we can apply. What is the most successful product-market fitting algorithm ever devised?
I’ll give you a hint. It resulted in you.
The world is full of environments – jungles, marshes, volcanoes, deep ocean trenches.
And every one of those environments has creatures. Creatures that have specialised and adapted and evolved to fit those environments.
Just like markets. Markets are simply a manifestation of people’s desires. We want stuff, and products emerge in the market to fill our need.
We want to get from one place to another. So we get cars – fast cars, big cars, slow cars, expensive cars, off-road cars – and bikes and planes and everything else.
All these products help us with one main thing – mobility. And they also make us happy on the way – with music and comfort and buttons and flashing lights.
What happens if you don’t get product-market fit? Or the market changes?
It’s kind of obvious really. That’s why you don’t see many mammoths around. Or many companies that have been going for over a hundred years.
Everything changes. And the products that survive change and adapt along the way.
So, here’s my approach to product-market fit.
You get to it when your product can survive. It’s when you get to be profitable. You’re making more money selling it than it costs you to make it.
It’s not about growth and rocketships. The crucial point, the tipping point, is being able to survive.
Whether you’re a fruit fly or a Siberian tiger, if you’re alive, you’ve found a fit.
A creature survives when it gets enough energy from food from the outside to sustain it on the inside.
Your product will survive when it makes enough money to get into profit and sustain itself.
Now you’ve got a fit. You’ve survived. Everything from there is upside.
And you can grow just as big as your market lets you.
Or stay as small as you want to.