Product Market Fit for Impact Entrepreneurs — Iulian Circo

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The Thing About User Interviews

Impact or no impact, if you are building something you need to make sure people actually care for it. It is important to remember there is a HUGE difference between these three things:

  1. People saying they want something;
  2. People saying they would pay for something; and
  3. People actually paying for something;

Point 1 and 2 above are dangerous traps in product-market-fit. The graveyard of products that never took off although they were built on clear evidence of 1 and 2 above is vast.

Everyone who knows about building products will advise you to spend time doing user interviews. And that is solid advice, except that point 1 and 2 cannot be avoided through user interviews alone.

Better put, it cannot be avoided by interviewing people that you think could be your users. Talking to people who you think fit your audience is NOT the same thing as talking to actual users.

The difference is that a user has already paid for your product, whereas someone you think might be a user hasn’t.

Small, but important difference.

If you don’t have clear proof of 3, you do not have product-market fit.

The danger is even bigger if you are an impact entrepreneur and are building products or behaviors that carry a virtue signal.

With impact products you have enormous bias in what people say vs. their actual behavior.

Actions > words

What to do if you are early on and don’t actually have any users yet? Maybe you don’t even have your product ready and are still prototyping?

You need to know know for sure before you dedicate precious resources to building something that potentially no-one will buy.

My favorite approach is to simulate the actual purchase opportunity.

Here is an easy way to do that:

  1. Make a landing page that is 100% front-end; Don’t spend more than a day on this. Use a template on one of the drag & drop platforms (Wix, Squarespace, Webflow, Shopify). Make sure you set up your analytics on this landing page!
  2. Invest $300-$500 in marketing it as if it would be a functioning product. Pick ONE platform that is the most relevant for your audience and create a bunch of highly targeted campaigns. The audience profile is the secret sauce here — the better you segment it, the faster this works;
  3. Drive this demand to a clear call to action that would be consistent with your product (“Buy!”, “Subscribe!”). The landing page needs to look like the real deal. This approach only works if the people following your call to action actually expect to engage in a real transaction;
  4. Set up an automated funnel: everyone who clicks on your call to action gets taken to a page where they are told the product is not ready but will be available soon and here is a 25% discount code for being early.

A few days later you will know A LOT more about the viability of your product and the market fit. Do people follow your call to action? How many of them actually click on the Buy button? What can you learn about those that do/ don’t?

If people actually click on that button you are golden. You can even go ahead and experiment with multiple landing pages, and A/B test various messages/ visuals/ calls to action.

If they don’t click on the button, you may not have a product-market fit, even if everyone you meet tells you they would buy. In that case, you may want to go back to the drawing board, before you go ahead and spend big money on building anything.

I build businesses that create value for the world.

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