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How to use product-market fit in brand strategy

I recently caught up with the marketing concept of “product-market fit”. As I learned more about it, I saw that product-market fit is tightly linked to brand strategy and development — brands define and reflect their market and how their product fits them.

In-as-much, product-market fit is essential in launching a successful business, and should be constantly on the radar of people building a brand.

There are different ways of looking at product-market fit, but for this post I’m using the way that Rahul Vohra, Founder & CEO of Superhuman uses it in this podcast interview. (By the way, that interview is well worth a listen. Rahul has an excellent start-up story to tell.)

What is product-market fit?

The originator of the product-market fit concept initially described it as:

"being in a good market, with a product that can satisfy that market".

Sounds so simple, but it can be hard to achieve!

It’s significant that this definition puts the market first, and the product after the market. Brands that have effective product-market fit have a defined, credible and sizeably group of enthusiastic buyers. The product and brand are tailored to these buyers and would not exist without them.

How do you know if you have a good market?

Decide what a good market means to you. It might be an amount of money earned, a number of people served, followers engaged or any other metric. Referencing something that can be measured should make it easier to see if the market has potential to be good, as well as being a measure for your progress over time.

In the above interview, Rahul talks about his good market in terms of users who would be very disappointed if the product didn’t exist anymore. Having raving fans is vital and indicates that with enough reach your product might attract a significant number of strong supporters, which would mean you are in a good market.

Applying that kind of product-market fit methodology, Spotify might target the 10% of people who:

  • listen to music frequently, love discovering new music and want it on various devices, no strings attached

  • have paid money for Spotify or similar products, and

  • are a sizeable group (Spotify’s global reach and the user data should verify this).

If research validates the existence of this target, that would indicate that Spotify has found a good market.

How can you satisfy the good market?

By understanding your good market and your strong supporters, you can satisfy that market by:

  • Prioritising the enhancement and optimisation of the features you offer that strong supporter-users love

  • Deprioritizing or retiring features which strong supporter-users find little value in, and

  • Using the attitudes and behaviours of strong supporters-users in efforts to convert almost-strong supporters into raving fans.

How does product-market fit work with brand strategy?

Brand strategy hinges on defining and understanding the target market. Sometimes clients come to strategy with an idea of who their market is, but no idea if it’s a “good” market. Starting with product-market fit means working out who the strategy is for and confirming that they are “good” targets.

Product-market fit brand strategy initially establishes that the ideal customer is:

  • highly interested in the product segment

  • willing to pay appropriately for the product, and

  • representative of a sizeable number of people.

Brand development then helps to form products which satisfy that market.

Data, testing, intelligence and experience are ideally available to inform this. However, for many start-ups, real knowledge of customers won’t happen until after launch and therefore needs to be monitored post-launch to support a product/brand development loop.

How to get started

The path to great product-market fit can start with answering the following questions.

  1. Do you have users/customers who would be very disappointed if your product did not exist anymore? If not, how could you foster that kind of attitude?

  2. What is it that they love? Can you conduct a user survey or collect user data to uncover and validate perceived attitudes?

  3. How can your product, including your visual brand and brand strategy, directly appeal to them and continue to develop their connection with you?

Your response to these questions will play a key role in the development of your brand strategy, and illuminate your way to product-market fit.