The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.” - Marc Andreessen. 

If you’re in the start-up world, you’ve likely heard the whispers surrounding “product/market fit.” 

A buzzword for good reason, Andreessen explains that product/market fit means “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.

At first glance, product/market fit sounds obvious. Of course you want to deliver a product that sells like hotcakes and creates raving fans in the process. 

Yet, according to CB Insights, some 70% of tech start-ups fail. One of the top reasons for this? 

No market demand. 

So, how do you guarantee product/market fit and build a solid foundation for business success? 

Start talking to your customers — and keep talking to them weekly.

Let’s take a closer look at how to validate your product fit through customer discovery. Then, we’ll explore the benefits of ongoing communication with your customers — and how you can get started today. 

The four-step customer development framework

Create value for your customers, and you’ll generate growth in your business. It’s as simple as that. Yet many start-up founders get this step wrong…

Equipped with a “build it and they will come” mentality, too many CEOs fall in love with their product over their customer — and go out of business as a result. 

Remember, you are not the hero of your story, your customer is. Ensure product/market fit and long-term business success with early customer development.  

In his acclaimed book The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steve Blank explains a four-step framework to customer development so you can validate product assumptions early-on. Let’s take a quick look: 

Step One: Customer Discovery

Intimately understand your customer and their needs. Are there customers for your product vision?

Step Two: Customer Validation

Conduct small-scale testing to see if your market reacts positively to your product. Ideally, they prove it with a purchase, not just kind words. 

Step Three: Customer Creation

With your business model corroborated, you can now drive customer demand. 

Step Four: Company Building

Your business now transitions from the learning and discovery phase to sales, marketing and development. 

Take the time to invest in customer discovery and customer validation early-on in your business. You’ll delight customers with a proven business model — and set yourself up for profitable success, too. 

But don’t stop here. 

If you want to skyrocket your business’s success, you’ve got to keep talking to your customers on a regular basis. 

Why the most successful start-ups regularly talk to their customers

As we’ve seen, speaking directly to your customers before diving into product development matters. However, many start-up founders that invest in customer development stop here. This is a mistake.

Your business is like an organism; it lives and breathes and changes. Your product/market fit isn’t permanently guaranteed. And while your team probably analyzes quantitative data on a daily basis, this is not a substitute for qualitative feedback from actual customers. 

I know you’re a busy entrepreneur. Still, I tell all my clients to prioritize speaking to their customers on a weekly basis. Here’s why:

The benefits of talking to your customers regularly

1. Recognize your customers’ changing pain points and decision drivers

The customer’s perception is your reality.” - Kate Zabriskie

Discover changing customer pain points and desires as promptly as possible so you can make necessary changes to product development, sales, and marketing.

2. Build customer satisfaction

First-rate customer service is non-negotiable, but the best customer service isn’t about over-the-top bells and whistles. Your customers want you to solve their problems quickly and easily. Speak directly to them and you’ll learn how to do precisely that.

3. Streamline problem solving within your company

Assumptions will only get your business so far. Let your customers tell you what new features they want and reveal which glitches need immediate fixing.

4. Create a customer-centric culture

When your team sees you prioritise customer engagement, they’ll be more motivated to keep the customer at the heart of all they do, too.

How to engage with customers (without being annoying)

Now that we know why it’s of utmost importance to speak directly to customers, let’s explore a few easy ways to strike up meaningful conversations:

Use email templates and autoresponders

Email is an excellent way to follow up with customers in a non-intrusive manner. Utilize email templates and automation to save yourself valuable time (just ensure you utilize personalization fields and qualifiers to avoid a spammy, cookie-cutter vibe.)

Set up customer support lines

It’s unlikely you’ll personally man your customer support lines. That’s okay. Delegate an employee to respond to customers via chat, email, and phone. Record these conversations so you can skim them for valuable information to inform product/market fit. Occasionally, hop on to speak to customers directly. 

Join the conversation on social media

Social media and blogs remain a powerful way to effectively communicate with your customers. Pose questions or join discussions already happening. And whatever you do, listen more than you speak

Conduct persona interviews

It’s wonderful to speak directly to customers, but it’s also helpful to speak to target personas who have yet to purchase from you. Follow the steps you used during your initial Customer Development research, or use this guide to persona interviews.

Questions to ask your customers to determine product/market fit

Actively listen to your customers and you’ll gain invaluable information on your target market — and how your product can fit into that market. If you need some help moving the conversation along, these questions can help:

  • How satisfied are you with our product?
  • Would you recommend our product to your friends?
  • How disappointed would you be if this product were no longer available?
  • What features do you wish you saw in our product? 
  • How could our product make your life better or easier?

To sum up the role of customer discovery in product/market fit

Don’t be like the 70% of tech start-ups that fail. Take the time to talk to your customers early-on in the product development process, then keep talking to them regularly. 

Of course, all the best customer development is worthless if you don’t use what you learn from it. So, don’t get too attached to any one product or feature, and let your customer base drive your decisions, instead. You’ll skyrocket your business growth while setting a solid foundation for long-term success. 

Finally, if you want to ensure product/market fit without going it alone, it might be time to call in the experts.