Too many startups fail because they try to scale before finding product-market fit. Doubling down on a product before you've proven its value is a recipe for disaster. To solve this, we must test and iterate our product until we've found the right fit. When we finally achieve this, customers start coming in faster than we can handle.

A majority of startups die before finding this, but the ones that do create a clear path to startup greatness. To get to product-market fit, we have to become experts at user testing. Here are a few ways we can make sure we go through the iteration process the fastest way possible. As a startup, you have a limited amount of resources. Use these tips to find product-market fit before your bank account reaches zero.

1. Focus On Patterns Over Notation

When we do customer interviews for our company, one of the problems we make is not focusing on patterns. If you focus too much on getting information down on paper, you don't give yourself the ability to study the person in the moment. Lets say every time you interview customers their eyes light up when they talk about a feature. That's how you you know there's something there. And if this happens enough times, it'll become obvious. If something is truly valuable enough to base a company on, your customers bring it up again and again.

Understand that I'm not saying you shouldn't take notes during customer interviews. You definitely should. With that said, your notes should be secondary to the patterns you see and hear when interacting with your customers.

2. Build Less, Faster

It's hard to tell your designer to not worry about how his mockups look. When you're still searching for product-market fit you want to be able to test something with your customers fast. You don't want to take months or years working on a beautiful product that no one wants.

When you find patterns in what your customers are telling you, work quickly to whip up a few mockups and than begin testing. Go out and start to get customer's feedback on your product, and then continue to refine. I like to think about the process like creating a diamond. You have to keep working and refining until you get that beautiful gem. You want to do this daily, not wait months or years. Get something out and start testing like crazy.

3. Find Your User Testing Machine

Our company is lucky that the users of our product are alumni. It makes finding potential customers pretty easy. That being said, I used to get a little nervous walking up to random people. One of the things that scared me when it came to getting feedback was going up to people and interviewing them. I was always hesitant, and had to take a few minutes before forcing myself to approach the customer.

This all changed when we brought in our VP of Sales, Jake Newfield. The first day I started user testing with him, he literally chased people up and down the bar we were at. I had never seen anything like it. If someone was rude to him, he didn't care. It was onto the next one.

If you're a little shy approaching customers at first, go out and bring a user-testing machine with you. This person will lead the conversation, which will than allow you to observe. The other benefit is that this person will force you to interview prospects even when you're nervous. User-testing machines are the people who will help you find product-market fit the fastest.



Published on: May 20, 2015