How an Enterprise Product Manager Can Confidently Use Product-Market Fit Practices
Product-Market Fit & Its Impact
Product-market fit is not just about having a good product; it’s about understanding the pain points of the target customer and bringing value in a user-centered and differentiated way. Without product-market fit, even the coolest product will not gain traction and adoption.
The ways in which product-market fit has significant impact on reducing risk and increasing confidence include:
- Increases Customer Satisfaction: When you have a product that meets the needs and desires of your target audience, it becomes much easier to acquire and retain customers.
- Increases Business Value: When your product generates more value, whether it's immediate revenue, rapid adoption, or organic growth, customers are willing to push your product to others, often leading to increased revenue and profit margins.
- Reduces Time to Market & Cost: When you have a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs, you can focus on the features and functions that matter most to your customers and avoid wasting time on those that don’t.
- Improves Brand Reputation: Customers whose problems are solved leave positive reviews and recommend your product to others, which can lead to more sales and improved brand awareness.
- Enables Sustainable Growth: Products that meet a real need lead to long-term success for your business, which is essential for survival in today’s competitive landscape.
Just like start-ups, enterprises want to reduce the risk of sunk costs and increase confidence in the investments they make to develop and grow new products. However, enterprise product managers face different challenges in their pursuit of product-market fit. They need to answer to a larger number of stakeholders, have established customers with a higher baseline expectation of needs to be addressed immediately, and have more organizational overhead to manage when making any pivots in product direction. This makes every decision made more impactful, thus benefiting even more than startup product managers when they’ve effectively applied product market fit practices.
Product-Market Fit Applied
Product management requires a hybrid of functional and technical skills, balancing day-to-day activities with future planning. Product managers can achieve this balance by continuously monitoring four pillars of product-market fit: desirability, viability, feasibility, and strategic fit.
👫 Desirability (Think about the customer)
Become a problem solver by immersing yourself in the problems that customers face. Collaborate with designers to use User-Centered Design (UCD) practices to identify the problems that are worth solving. By identifying the most pressing problems and unmet needs of customers, you can design and build a solution that customers want to buy.
📊 Viability (Think about the business)
Drive value by understanding the desired business outcomes and determining if the target customer base is sufficient. Consider establishing key metrics to measure early and often in the experimentation and development process. This will help build confidence that the investment in development will yield the expected return.
🦾 Feasibility (Think about the solution)
Collaborate closely with design and engineering teams to determine the design and architecture of the product. Together, you can apply the "quality triangle" to balance the time, scope, and cost required to launch the product. This approach will help you deliver a product within the agreed-upon timeline while meeting user needs.
💎 Strategic Fit* (Think about the differentiation)
Enterprises often possess advantages due to their size, existing partnerships, and resources for scaling. To position your product to thrive, you must find the intersection of your company's unique positioning and the unmet needs of your target customer. This will also help define the necessary go-to-market strategies and priorities from both the business and technology sides to stay ahead of the competition. With initial market attraction and a path to scale, your team can build with confidence.
During my last enterprise client project, I joined an existing product in development that lacked a clear view of its product-market fit. This becomes a major challenge because you don’t have a clear understanding of the priorities and why. As I had no historical context, it was difficult to discern which areas of the product were driving success and which were posing risks. However, it provided the perfect opportunity to assess the product by asking key questions related to each pillar of product-market fit.
I set up a space in Miro to conduct my product assessment and capture answers to questions around the product-market fit. I then conducted introductory conversations with customers of the product, stakeholders who interact with the product, designers, developers, and more so that I could have an inclusive and complete lens of the product's health.
To get started, you can use this Miro template to answer some key questions regarding each pillar:
After synthesizing the results of my research, it became clear what the top risk points were for the product. I was then able to prioritize the existing backlog and add new features that mitigated the risks, allowing new feature releases to drive immediate impact. This work increased the confidence of my team and surrounding leaders, alike, that this enterprise product was well on its way to achieving product-market fit.
Product-Market Fit Summary
In conclusion, achieving product-market fit is essential for the success of any product. It requires a deep understanding of the target customer's pain points and designing a solution that adds value in a user-centered and differentiated way. Product-market fit reduces risk, increases customer acquisition and retention, reduces time to market and cost, increases business value, improves brand reputation, and enables sustainable growth. Product managers can balance the competing priorities of their role by continuously monitoring the four pillars of product-market fit: desirability, viability, feasibility, and strategic fit. By applying these practices, enterprises can benefit from reduced risks and increased confidence, just like startups.
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