How to find product-promise fit? And does it actually work?
Shared by · 102d ago · 9 comments

I recently came across a post by NFX general partner Gigi Levy-Weiss: "The New Mindset for Product-Market Fit" (see the link). The main idea is that we first need to find a problem, then create and market a product promise (landing page), and only after finding a valid interest, start building an MVP.

I'm totally okay with this approach:
1. Discover a problem
2. Talk to people by manually posting on Reddit, FB, HN, other relevant communities, making calls on Lunchclub (if you want an invite, tell me), etc. Doing things that don't scale but also that costs only your time and $0.
3. Build an MVP if the problem exists

But Gigi suggests that you:
1. Find a problem.
2. Describe your solution in words and design. (I guess it means to build a landing page)
3. Market (he means launch a real paid marketing campaign on FB and measuring CTR and landing page's CTA) your product promise until you find a promise that a big enough group of people really want.
4. Then build your MVP.

What do you think? Is it okay to find the first 20-100 people by buying ads or this should be done manually and once you understand that problem exists and you know who has it and what messages work - do marketing?

ps. I love everything NFX is doing and posting that's why I want to better understand this approach to finding PMF.

Blake · 101d ago

I think both issues are slightly insincere - what are "you" even doing trying to find a problem in the first place. You should be doing a startup because you are aware of a problem and you want to fix it! It's a lot easier to talk to users when you ARE the user, because you will have a strong idea of what they already think and will be also seen as someone who understands their problems.

Articulating the problem and articulating the solution is basically the most important things I think you can do. If you are really solving a problem (instead of just hoping you are or hoping you have found a problem)

If you have really found a true problem that seems to be a free source of passion in my experience.

Completely agree with you. Discovering/finding the problem also means having a problem by yourself and understanding that you can actually solve it or at least try. Then you go talk with people to see how large this problem of yours is.

The only thing I'm trying to get my head around is that okay to pay for ads to get people on your landing page and based on conversion draw conclusions about how large is the problem and can your proposed solution solve it (at least describe how it will solve it).

I'm a strong believer in doing things that don't scale early on, and buying ads doesn’t seem like the right thing to do :)

Blake · 93d ago

sorry, just realized that some of my pioneer feedback mails ended up in my gmail promotions...need to fix that.

Sorry, you are trying to get more info on the problem and that info needs to come from people. Facebook ads and other things are really cheap to run to get a few hundred hits...maybe you can get some limited data there to scale up on. Another one I'd tell you about is amazon turk...I haven't used in four or five years, maybe it's different, but the premise is you pay people like 50 cents to fill out a few questions on a survey. That's it. The "professional" turkers are fast but they will usually answer the question if it is a simple choice between two things. Bottom line, if you want to refine answers you can get a few hundred people to directly answer a question. Just pay them a quarter to read it and answer. · 101d ago

I think it makes sense, basically sell first and then build. I believe YC has mentioned that this approach works particularly well in B2B, so I'm guessing your strategy should depend a bit on how your market works. Thanks for sharing the article!

Agree, but in this approach so many things, and most importantly, your decision on the viability of the product-promise fit depends on your skills setting up a campaign.

When you go and find the first 100 people, you didn’t just find them, you learned a ton of new things about your target audience and found a ton of new places and communities where they hang. Manual work compounds, ads don't. But I might be wrong here, that’s why I’m asking :)

ptmn · 101d ago

Landing page is a light weight MVP to know whether if anyone are interested in your message. A good landing page will help you earn a good traction.

At the early stage while you're incrementally building next version of product, its goal is to extract information, e.g. validate hypothesis, how to tailor a message, identify segments, etc. Super useful for customer development. Paid ads will be not helpful when you don't know about a target audience.

It's a starting point of a long winding process, but not everything. Personally, I think startup founders should spend more time on iterating on their landing pages more than fund raising.

Yes, that's exactly how I see it. And that's why Gigi's approach got me thinking about it.

manojranaweera · 102d ago

MVPs are good for teams who do not actually know what they are doing. So they need market validaton before they can proceed.

Those who know what they are doing, they build the first version. Yes they may have to tweak it but the tweaks won't result in major pivots.

Experiments are great. But there are many ways to build a tech startup. NFX, YC, Accelerators, VCs describe one way as they seem to love experiments and growing metrics.

Buffer is one tech startup who followed lean startup principles to the letter.

But here's a complete opposite: A UK company doing the complete opposite. Of course, this approach requires an exceptional tech founder. · 102d ago

Quite like this approach and I think many here are already doing it. The problem is that even if you have something that makes sense to pursue, you may not have TEAM/FOUNDER fit or maybe you do but you dont have the strongest value add proposition or life direction alignment to be the one doing it. There are many more who fail at doing something purely based on numbers or market/industry potential but dont have any motivation beyond money or value add themselves. Maybe they'll do it when business is good but they have nothing in themselves to keep working on it when times are bad or to scale it to be the best in its industry. In both cases I find the ingredient x to be the same.

Where there is a good team/problem fit alignment what I find is that the reasons for failure are usually 1) not enough capital 2) not enough competitiveness/hunger 3) market size may not be big enough (which is what they're getting at)

The money motivated guys will almost always fail though even if they have everything going for them because they'll always be the first ones to quit or slack because of that.