Why Product-*Outcomes* Fit Is the Real Goal

February 14, 2020

If you haven’t already read the first post in this series on Scaling Your Startup…Through Your Best Naturecheck that out now

As a recap, I shared a framework for thinking about the best and worst in our own natures -- the Primitive Mind (or ego) and the Higher Mind (or spirit) -- and why managing this duality is critical for scaling your business through the three stages of a startup journey.

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In today’s post, I’ll share an example of how channeling your higher nature can help you achieve Product-Market Fit in stage one of the startup journey.

Example #1: How We View Our Product

When it comes to how we view our product, our Primitive Mind and our Higher Mind tend to have different perspectives.

The Primitive Mind: “Ours is the best technology out there.”

The Higher Mind: “A product is only as good as its ability to solve a human’s problem.” 

The Primitive Mind’s thinking is often solipsistic, self-referential, ego-centric, inward-oriented. We’re proud of our product: we spent what felt like ages building it, we’re excited about the UI, we believe that it’s a source of improvement for the market.

But the Higher Mind’s thinking is outward-in, which is more effective in helping the thinker achieve product-market fit. After all, the goal of this stage is to solve someone’s problem, which only comes from deeper understanding of that “someone.” When we put the “other” (our client) first in our thinking, we increase our odds of finding the right solution for them. 

Here's a great way to put that “other” first. To exit the Product-Market Fit stage, we should have documented which client problems we solve and how. To be more specific, to feel confident that we've achieved Product-Market Fit, we should create a diagram that looks like the following one. 

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The diagram outlines the phases of transformation that we want to bring our client through to help them achieve maximal value, and indicates which goals we help the client achieve in each stage. Beyond creating this chart, let's document how exactly the client should use our product features to achieve each goal. How should they configure our product exactly? What’s their workflow in the product? 

When we start out, we might not be able to help a client achieve 12 goals – and that’s fine. The point is that we've developed a clear methodology, using our technology and likely some human assistance, to get a client to value. (By the way, you can see a real-life example of a methodology like this at gainsight.com/elements).

Note, this definition of Product-Market Fit does not refer to a measure of adoption. Clients don’t really care how many page views, logins, or clicks they make. They do care about achieving their goals. When we have proof points of clients achieving the outcomes in the diagram by leveraging a specific way of using our product, we have amassed evidence of Product-Outcomes Fit, and therefore Product-Market Fit.

What happens if we can't point to outcomes that our product helps people achieve? It might be that we're just a feature (solving part of a problem), not a product (solving an entire problem). In that case we need to either keep building to solve a client's entire problem or else get acquired by a larger company whose product portfolio we fit into.

If we can build the chart, but we don't yet have proof points that clients have achieved the outcomes shown, then we need to do some thinking. Have we built the right product to solve our client's desired outcome? If not, then do we truly understand the outcome that our client seeks?

Bottom line: To find Product-Market Fit, adopt an “outside-in” perspective and document a methodology that proves you have Product-Outcomes Fit.

In the next post in this series, I’ll share a second example of how listening to your higher nature can help you achieve Product-Market Fit. Hint: how we view “disruption” matters.