As co-founder of Intuit, Scott Cook has gained expertise in discovering the right products to fit the demands of the current market. But he acknowledges that even for seasoned professionals, meeting customer demand can be challenging. Prior to his 30 years with Intuit, Cook worked in marketing for household products giant Procter & Gamble, where he served in various branding capacities.
Product/market fit is one of the most important concepts business founders tackle today. While many entrepreneurs understand this, there are still a few problem areas entrepreneurs experience as they try to get their product going. Cook tackled a few of these problem areas with his own advice.
Use the Customer's Reaction
Many businesses use surveys like NetPromoter to gauge customer interest in a product. Cook has found that those customers who offer ratings in the range of 9 and 10 can be a brand's top advocates. By taking advantage of customer feedback, brands can determine exactly where their focus should be.
"Find those nines and tens, the ones who are recommending it to their friends, and ask them to tell you why," Cook says. "The answer to where you should focus is in their answer. Why do the passionate ones tell their friends they have to use it?"
Through speaking with the customers who rate your product a 9 or 10, Cook believes your brand can gain information on what the benefit is, what features they like, and which audience you'll most likely connect with. By focusing on those customers, a brand can focus its efforts on its core user base.
Pain or Passion
A successful business alleviates a pain point, but sometimes finding that pain point can be challenging. What happens when an entrepreneur learns his passion led him to one audience but a completely different audience is more likely to connect with it? A founding group may have started out with a desire to create a product for the consumer market, only to find out it's more ideally suited to a B2B environment, for instance. If an entrepreneur's passion doesn't match the audience for his product, he may have to completely revisit his business idea.
"I think you have to fix one of the two so they align," Cook says. "If following your passion to a place where there's no pain probably isn't the business, I don't think an entrepreneur can sustain in a place where you don't have passion."
As entrepreneurs seek to gain feedback on their products, they often find the customers are coming back with additional features that weren't in the original prototype. Instead of constantly trying to scale the product to try to satisfy these requests, Cook recommends looking beneath what customers are saying.
"Spend time with the customers, immersing yourselves, watching, spend time at their homes," Cook says. "Hear what they say but, most importantly, watch their behaviors as the indication of where the pain is. And then go solve that pain."
The Internet has given new businesses access to a global marketplace, but worldwide reach isn't always best. By launching wide, entrepreneurs can often lose the word-of-mouth that comes from starting small. Cook uses Facebook as an example. Instead of opening its doors to the world, the site started out on just one college campus and expanded from there. This allowed the company to build momentum as it grew.
But that slow growth doesn't just apply to geography. Cook references eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who began by reaching out to online hobbyists with an interest in trading items with other hobbyists. He invited those bulletin board participants to use his site as a forum for trading items and from there, he was able to add the buyers and sellers he needed to build his community.
"In my view, product/market fit is the most important thing to get right as a startup entrepreneur," Cook says. "There's a variety of ways to do it but without solving some pain point that the customer gets so excited about they tell their friends, it's really hard in the modern age to get any liftoff."