Startups: Product to market fit and innovation in the age of digital-innerconnectedness

I am a child of the 80’s, so when I think of connections I think of the hundreds of times I spent crawling behind our giant console T.V. to plug in the Nintendo. But for many startups, connections to people are extremely important. Among them are connections to a specific market to get their product launch off the ground.

Before a new business can truly market a product, there needs to be a measurable product to market fit

The product needs to be such a strong tool for the user that they cannot imagine not being able to use it. In a great piece called The Startup Pyramid Sean Ellis of states, “I ask existing users of a product how they would feel if they could no longer use the product. In my experience, achieving product/market fit requires at least 40% of users saying they would be “very disappointed” without your product.”

The dog needs to want to eat the dog food

The startup needs a target market as much as a new apple sapling needs water. Look, you can change the product and you can change the people working at your company, but you cannot change the market. It is what it is, so choose your market carefully, establish a need and then move on it. One of my favorite quotes regarding this is by Andy Rachleff who said, “When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins. When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins. When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.” He goes on to say, “If you address a market that really wants your product — if the dogs are eating the dog food — then you can screw up almost everything in the company and you will succeed. Conversely, if you’re really good at execution but the dogs don’t want to eat the dog food, you have no chance of winning.”

A long time ago in a galaxy…well you know

What did this look like thirty years ago? Well, many companies had to take their product to market in order to determine if there even was a need. They needed to invest tons of money in research and development, marketing, production, focus groups and all sorts of other areas. Then they put their product out there hoping that they had chosen the right market. And if they realized that there just weren’t any dogs that liked the food they were serving, they either had to find the correct market or they went belly up. Talk about inefficient, right? But that’s just how it was back then.

Welcome to the target market mecca

In today’s world of inner-connectedness, the startup begins by defining their target audience, then they reach out through various channels to make those ultra-important connections. This is where social media comes in. It is the mecca of connections. This is where true conversations begin. This allows you to determine a need and to get a grasp of the density of the need and how you can fill that void. It allows you to find the audio-video inputs on the back of the TV so you can try and knock out Mike Tyson (I never did beat him darn it!)

Marketing innovation is the bait to place upon your hook

Now let’s get innovating. Yeah, the startup must have innovation in the development of their product, but to get in front of a potential target market, there needs to be an innovative marketing plan too. Many startups fail at ever reaching their target markets for lack of this specific innovation. For a great example of a company who uses innovation in every touchpoint they have with their target audience, we’ll take a look at IKEA. Back in 2013 they released their catalog app. This allowed their target audience to use the app in a very innovative way. For example, you could pick out a dining room set that you liked. You could point your device’s camera at your empty dining room and the app would show you how the dining set would look in your home. Talk about innovation! Well, they sold a whole lot of dining sets among about a million other things that took countless hours to assemble. Did their app point that part out? Probably not.

An incredible recipe to delight the perfect palate

So, what’s the secret recipe? In a Julia Child voice, we say….. We start with a full cup of product concept creation and product innovation. Pour that into your bowl of social media target audience search. Then gently stir in some marketing innovation to establish connections, add a pinch of empathy to relate to the new connections you’re making. Finally, bake at 350 by providing a solution through implementation of your product. Voila, you’ve established and you’re off the ground! Now let’s hope that you hit that 40% product to market fit in order to sink your teeth into a new viable business. What’s next? Probably some big infusion of capital. But, that’s a whole other recipe altogether.

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