The Secret to Finding Product/Market Fit

(This interview was conducted by and originally published on the HowToWeb blog. Find it and other great content here.)

Q1: What does a growth mindset mean to you?

A growth mindset means you believe in your ability to be a learn-it-all and not a know-it-all. In the innovation economy, there is no difference between personal and professional development. If you constantly seek to improve yourself, you will improve your profession. And this is critical to entrepreneurship and small teams.

Q2: How can you develop a growth mindset?

You must begin with changing your beliefs. Remove the word rejection from your vocabulary and replace it with feedback and view that feedback as a gift. Be grateful for the opportunity to learn and development every aspect of who you are and the product/service you provide. And make it easy and safe for people to give you honest feedback. Your behaviors must follow your words. Pay close attention to how the word responds to a person with a growth mindset and copy those actions and you will see results almost immediately.

Q3: How can you figure out your product/market fit?

There are 4 things you must focus on to find fit. First is a growth mindset that favors learning over revenue. Second is a reverence for the objective truth about where your product fits in a market, if it does at all. Third is a functional learning mechanism for the team responsible for pursuing that truth so they know what do with the learning. And finally, it’s a way to measure profitability with an eye on predictable, scalable growth in the future.

Q4: What would you prioritize? Product innovation, or product optimization?

Actually, I would not prioritize either. I would prioritize problem solving and use that to innovate and optimize product. People do not care about our products. They care about their problems. Focus there and you will increase your chances of success.

Q5: What are the biggest 3 mistakes startups make when they’re making sales?

First, they try to sell products to customers rather than recruit early partners who share their vision while accepting their reality. Only prospects with a certain mindset are willing to do business with you when you have an incomplete product. Seek them out and ask them to join you on your journey. Then be very honest and specific about where you are, and where you want to go and define what success looks like together.

Second, they hire sales people too early. The first customer cohort should be sold by the founding team. Only then, will they truly understand the problem and what is required to solve it.

Third, they hire people who have never worked in a startup environment. Being successful in a startup requires the proper human attributes and characteristics more than non stage relevant skills and experience. By that I mean, it is very different working in a large company, with many resources and a solid history, than in a new company, with no customers, almost no resources and no past while being a stranger to the market. Look for people who embrace ambiguity, communicate well with all types of people, are creative and resilient, have experience taking something someplace new…and of course, demonstrate a growth mindset!

Q6: How can you profile early customers?

Begin by looking for Mr. Right Now, not Mr. Right. A small group of early customers you can work deeply with to solve a valuable problem. The key is to build an Initial Customer Profile (ICP) that is willing to share the journey with you and help you validate and build a use case that your market wants. And then look for the fastest path to traction. Most learning, least work in the shortest period of time possible!

Q7: What fundamental technical skills should a growth hacker have?

There are many – and they all can be found here on the GrowthX Academy Site: But here are some: JavaScript Event Handlers, API’s, SQL, Web Scraping, Server vc. Client Side A/B Testing, Front-End Web Development, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), Landing Page Creation & Optimzation, Paid Acquisition, Display Advertising, Google Analytics, Facebook Business Manager, Sales Hacking, How to pick the best ideas to test.

Q8: What fundamental technical skills should a growth hacker have?

This is a complex question which requires more time and conversation than we can cover here…but I would say my favorite strategy is the “ethical exploitation of new sales & marketing channels and unstructured data sources.” Reaching customers and leveraging data in new ways before the competition does has always proven to be successful strategy for me. For example, GrowthX Partner Will Bunker grew by exploiting affiliate marketing channel before his competition and grew it to the world’s largest dating site.

Q9: What should founders focus on before launching their startup?

Finding a really big problem in a large market that they come to understand deeply enough that they can solve really well without tech if they had to.

Q10: How can you “make it” if you’re a startup in a developing country, where you don’t have as many resources/opportunities?

First you have to define what is meant by “make it”. Not every successful business needs to be venture capable or global to be a success. If you can help others in a way that supports you, your family and community in a positive and healthy way, that is making it in my book. ????

Q11: How do you think marketing automation and AI will impact growth hacking?

The adverse effects can be to take away critical thinking and creativity from the hacker community. Positively, it can bring additional insights and help increase scale while reducing acquisition costs. But that remains to be seen. The key for a hacker to separate themselves is to be resourceful, curious and creative at all time.

Q12: What are the key points to launch and develop a product from scratch? How crucial is referral for growth?

Finding problem-solution fit is the first thing you do. The last thing you do is build the product. Construct a value hypothesis around a problem and market and test it with customer interviews. Then determine the scope of the problem, and measurable value. No matter how noble your efforts, if you can’t make a profit, you won’t survive.

Q13: What’s the best advice you could give to people interested in growth hacking and marketing?

First to dedicate themselves to living a data driven life focused on learning and iterating. Second, to be the best you must learn from the best. So find a way to work and learn from the world’s best growth marketers and growth hackers in the most immersive way possible. Third, to never be satisfied with the status quo. Fourth, follow a proven execution framework to ensure you’re always improving. How markets react and consume is constantly changing. Therefore, it is imperative for you to change with it. Be immersed!!

Q14: What’s the best advice you could give to people interested in growth hacking and marketing?

Two things:

  1. In nearly every failure, I fell in love with the vision of what the world could be like if that vision was fulfilled and and ignored the reality where it was and how to get there.
  2. I also favored markets and products over the people executing on product market fit. I have learned that success comes from people, not products.

Q15: What’s the best advice you could give to people interested in growth hacking and marketing?

To make your goal to help those in your market achieve their goals. That is the ultimate measure of success!

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