“The narrative goes that when you’re first starting off, your business will feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill,” one SaaS founder shared with me. “But once you’ve found product market fit, you’re holding onto a rocket ship.”
In reality, scaling your business, and jumping from boulder-pushing to rocket ship-chasing, is not quite as simple as making a few small changes. In this article, I’ll share my experience, and the lessons of 6 other SaaS Founders, on how we found the elusive product market fit.
Finding MeisterTask’s Product Market Fit
When we set out to build MeisterTask, we knew that we were creating a task management tool in an overcrowded market.
To win our share of the market, we had to make a product that was better than everything already out there. We needed to be careful to ensure our product market fit addressed real needs, in a market where everyone thought they had the answer.
To create MeisterTask, we combed through the features of all our competitors, but actually found great inspiration from products that weren’t in the same market. Slack, for example, became our gold standard for a user-centric and professional app.
Looking back, we followed a three step process for finding our product market fit:
- Evaluate what is out there to understand what makes other products in the market “successful.” At this point, playing with other apps also familiarized us with what they were missing.
- Start creating by reducing features. It might sound counterintuitive, but getting rid of features that some of our competitors considered a ‘core’ feature helped us to refine MeisterTask. For example, we tossed out having multiple assignees on one task and were able to build in a task-based time tracking feature – now a user favorite.
- Be your own guinea pig! Granted, if you’re not part of your target market this is harder, but it really worked for us. No focus group will ever be able to give you the insights you have yourself by using your own prototype daily. What’s more, experiencing a problem yourself will help you to come up with an elegant solution to fix it. In-house testing has become a mainstay of our product development process.
Our three-step process enabled us to come up with a product that we know our target niche wanted. By refining MeisterTask since its launch, according to feedback from our user base, we’ve managed to make MeisterTask into a product that our target niche needs.
6 Lessons from SaaS Founders on Discovering Product Market Fit
There isn’t only one good way to find product market fit. After a few conversations with entrepreneur friends, I had the idea to compile their experiences into a blog post.
Check out these lessons from 6 successful SaaS entrepreneurs on how they found their own product market fit:
1. Test if your product is needed by getting out there and selling
“Whatever you’re building, get out there and sell it first. Pick up the phone, meet in person or setup a landing page. It can seem daunting to ask to be paid for a product that doesn’t yet exist, but selling first allows you to test what you think is your product market fit. Plus, you’ll then have at least one committed user, who will provide you with real feedback and demand real results for their money. “
2. Trust and follow your agile processes to a T
“Finding product market fit requires testing, tracking, and transparency. For a SaaS environment, your KPIs may change over time as you look towards your fit, but the process remains the same. Your processes are your most important asset in a SaaS start-up environment. They allow you to be agile in finding, testing and reinforcing your niche.”
3. Keep cutting back on unnecessary features
“We found our product-market fit through relentless sales pitches to prospective customers and customer feedback following sales. We discovered that many of our intended features were actually unwanted by our prospects (we’d hear the phrase “can we turn off that feature”), so we did and ended up building a much simpler, more targeted product than we would have otherwise.”
4. Your customers know best – seek their wisdom early on
“What we got right is that we went to the market very early on. We didn’t go to the media or approach VCs before we had product market fit – I see a lot of founders who ventilate more than they validate. Instead, we used feedback from early customers to adapt our tool to the needs of our sweet spot customers – service SMEs. Helping your customer is the key goal and it’s still our strategy for product changes.”
5.Build in an established market to scale more quickly
“Selecting the right industry in order to capitalize on market efficiencies is key in deciding which sector to enter. Fight the desire to create a new market, and instead opt to strategically choose a mature industry. If you have the right product to revolutionize an already-established industry, it will be far easier to reach profitability, without wasting time and funds first building awareness. “
6. Don’t rush to grow until you’ve defined your niche
“When you’re searching for the right product to solve the problem you’ve identified, the best advice I can give is to not worry about scale but to instead keep your business small, so that you know your customers and solve their real needs. Keep a running list of things people ask for, then dig deeper and build what they need to solve their problems. That’s how you find the product market fit. Then you scale.”
So that’s how we at MeisterLabs and 6 other successful SaaS Founders established our product market fits.
We’ve all taken different approaches but one message that runs throughout is the importance of listening to your user base. Your (hopefully paying) customers provide a great indication of the direction you should be going in, so draw on that resource. Pitch to them, consult them, thank them. Hopefully, then, you’ll find your niche and your rocket.
Have any suggestions, questions or lessons of your own? Please do share them in the comments section below!