home
navigate_next
Blog
navigate_next
Industry Guides

How to systematically hack your way towards Product Market Fit

How to systematically hack your way towards Product Market Fit
Hakim K
Director of Technology
With PMF-hacking, you are intentionally micro-pivoting 3-4 times in a short period of time, by running controlled experiments and launching product hypotheses. This removes all anxiety of pivoting since you are doing it on purpose - with the goal of measuring conversions and “pull” from the market.
How to systematically hack your way towards Product Market Fit

So you’ve got a startup. You might even have an MVP and a couple of customers, but you can’t really feel the pull from the market. Nobody’s asking for your solution.. not at scale, anyway.

What’s missing?

Product Market Fit

This is the ever-elusive dream of countless entrepreneurs. Many have tried and never achieved it. Even at the top startup accelerator Y Combinator, which we've had the fortune of attending, only a third of startups survive in the long run.

So what is Product Market Fit, and why do so many dreamers chase after this singular goal?

Produt Market Fit is essentially how well your product satisfies market demand.

With PMF, your company stands a chance of success. Without it, there isn’t enough demand and your company will eventually wither and die.

So, how can you, dear dreamer, make sure you reach product-market fit? And most importantly, how can you systematically do it without wasting time building something that will never be wanted - let alone paid for?

Step-by-step approach

To help you with this goal, I am sharing an approach that has worked for us at Fini. I wouldn’t dare claim that our own startup has reached PMF just yet, but these steps would have shortened our exploration by several months.

Assumptions

To follow these steps, you need these things to be true:

  • You want to maximize chances of success, and minimize risk.
  • You are creating a B2B SaaS company. Anything else might be too risky in this economic climate.
  • You have a combination of founders who can build, launch and sell products. This can be done with a business founder and a technical founder. If this is your spouse, twin, or best friend that’s even better - this minimizes the chance of co-founder breakup.
  • You want to create a category-defining company which is not a 1/1 clone of other companies.

Whew, that’s it to begin with. You may feel this list is too narrow, but it will provide a comforting structure to follow if you want to de-risk your beginnings.

So what’s the secret sauce that allows you to iterate faster towards PMF?

Enter: PMF-hacking

You may have heard of a Minimum Viable Product. What you need to create is a Minimum Payable Product. This MPP is the smallest set of features you can get away with, and still get paid for. The MPP solves the customer problem end-to-end. The goal here is to get paying customers for your hacky solution as quickly as possible and validate that the market exists.

The core method is to achieve this with a PMF-hacking sprint, which is 2 weeks long. This sprint results in a screen-recorded GIF that shows the value of your product in 30 seconds. Then you share this GIF across any and all communities that may have your target customers to measure the demand signal. Here is an example:

The end goal is to run through 3-4 PMF-hacking sprints (resulting in 3-4 different GIFs), measure the demand for each and pick the one product that has the highest potential.

These ideas are not new, they build on top of Eric Ries’s popularization of the MVP. The difference is that this is a more structured, specific and time-bound approach.

Do it like a scientist

Since you will be building 4 different products in 2 months, you won’t be getting too attached to any one particular idea. Through this, you learn to see your ideas as hypotheses only, and your launches become controlled experiments. The ONLY reason you are launching, is to measure the demand signal. Which means you are purposefully creating throw-away software with the goal of seeing how much demand you can generate in terms of raw conversion.

You are doing this to avoid building something that risks not being wanted by customers. It is a VERY common failure mode to spend months and months building some perfect software that ends up with no demand from customers. This is how your startup dies.

Instead, use 2 week PMF-hacking sprints with the goal of creating products that purely measure demand signals.

You do not create your product. Your customers create your product.

This is one of my favorite quotes by serial entrepreneur Alex Hormozi that captures the spirit of this method. Launch quickly, get customer feedback and evolve.

Before the sprint

  • Decide a target problem you want to address. This is the most important piece. Ideally the problem is in an industry or vertical you are familiar with, and is a problem you’ve seen and solved before.
  • This should be a hair-on-fire problem. The customers who have this problem need to be so desperate that they are willing to pay a shitty startup to solve it.

Week 1

  • Build an extremely hacky version of your product that solves the problem. Code it up in one file (try Python + Streamlit), where the database is a local JSON file. This is embarrassingly hacky but the goal is to create a usable product in a single week.
  • You will NOT be creating extremely robust production-grade software - you haven’t earned that privilege yet. Not a single line of code is important until someone is paying for it.
  • Create a 30 second GIF capturing the screen, demonstrating exactly how the product works. The good part about keeping it to 30 seconds is that you need to have built a simple enough UI that is easy to understand. The user is only able to do one thing with your product. This makes the product inherently more viral as well - simple to understand is easier to market, and easier to scale later.
  • The product should be in a state of minimal self-service. Eg. your users land on your product page and quickly get the kernel of value they are looking for without needing to be told what to do by a human.

Week 2

  • This is your launch week. Post your 30 second gif everywhere - LinkedIn, Reddit, Slack Communities, Heck you might even try Facebook groups/Instagram/TikTok if you have to. All of these should contain your target audiences.
  • Make sure you give your posts at least 5 days to land. People are busy - give them some time to react and reach out.
  • Measure the conversion numbers. How many views result in clicks? How many clicks result in comments? How many of those sign up with email? How many email signups result in Logins? How many logins convert to Demos? How many Demos convert to Paid usage? You can get scientific about this and meticulously track everything in a spreadsheet.

By the end of the week you should have a pretty firm grasp of how strong demand is for your product hypothesis, and some feedback from potential early customers. If the software is useful, there will be buzz around your product. If you get as far as paid usage, you can manually send your first customers Stripe links.

Repeat 3-4 times

In the startup world founders sometimes talk about pivoting. This is a dreaded time in which founders give up a previous idea or product, and decide for a completely new direction. This time is typically filled with pain, anxiety and worries of failure.

With PMF-hacking, you are intentionally micro-pivoting 3-4 times in a short period of time, by running controlled experiments and launching product hypotheses. This removes all anxiety of pivoting since you are doing it on purpose - with the goal of measuring conversions and “pull” from the market.

This method isn't entirely risk free by the way, you still need Sales and Product engineering skills strong enough to generate initial signal. Otherwise you might as well do 10 repetitions of this method and still get nowhere. Fear not however, as each iteration will give you a serious dose of learning and propel you forward.

Choosing your winner

In reality, it will be pretty obvious when you’ve found a winner from this exercise. Most likely, all of those hypotheses will have 0 paying customers.

However, some of them may have had better conversion numbers. Some may have created ongoing discussions with potential customers who are very excited about what you’re creating. One of the ideas may even have a customer who wants to pay for a more developed version - you know you’re nearing this when there is talk of contracting.

In the end, when we ran through this exercise we launched 3 or so GIFs, with little to no demand. Some of them had demand but we couldn’t build a self-service product in time for the customers to realize the value quickly enough.

However, something magical happened with the 4th and last launch we tried. We were able to create a self-service free trial product which shows product value within seconds. After this, things went on autopilot - signing customers, evolving the software, building features based on demand, and billing. We have now finally earned the privilege of building a production version of our product!

That’s it!

Happy hacking from team Fini.

arrow_back
Back to blog