Product Market Fit – It is the wheels on your car

Product Market Fit or as it is more correctly referred to as ‘Product/Market Fit’ is a common term used in the startup world to refer to the degree to which a company has successfully identified a target customer and is serving them with the right product.

Product/market fit is widely recognized as the most important stage a startup needs to reach before being able to call upon the backing of investors.

In this post, I am not going to try and detail product market fit, or how to get it. The internet is jam packed full of articles of which can provide vastly better advice than I can. Instead, I am simply going to provide you with an analogy for which to visualize product market fit’s role in your product and its success.

The first thing we need to do is to imagine your product is a car, and your company, a car manufacturer.

1. CAR DESIGN – Customer Development is your primary priority

In the Simpsons episode “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Grandpa Simpson tells Homer that he has a half-brother named Herbert Powell who was the founder of Powell Motors, a car company based in Detroit. In the episode, Herb is delighted to find his long lost half-brother and decides that Homer, the epitome of an average American, is the ideal person to design his company’s new car. Herb gives Homer complete free reign to design the car however he wants, and, ignores the concerns of his design team who are concerned about Homer’s ideas.

It will be no surprise to you that the car turns out to be a total failure. Worst still, it costs $82,000, and nobody buys it. It forces Power Motors into bankruptcy and Herb loses everything he owns. The moral of this story is the importance of customer research in the initial design of your project and in regards to our analogy this becomes the first lesson: Customer Research is the first and most important thing you should do before writing a line of code or a single UX mockup.

2. SALES – The Engine

In a car the engine is a pretty key component, and, likewise sales is a key component for you product. In this analogy the bigger the engine the bigger your engine the bigger the sales team. Of course, you can work on the efficiency of your engine as well as the performance etc. It’s a pretty key component to how well your product will move/sell.

3. MARKETING – The Body

Nobody will buy an ugly car (edit: ok, some people will). The way the car looks is important. This is similar to how your product will look to prospective customers and you’ll rely on marketing to not only position your car/product as best as possible, but to also help it garner attention.

4. CULTURE – The Interior

Regardless of how great the idea is inside of any startup, talent density is the biggest multiplier of the likelihood of success, therefore, startups have put a ton of effort into building their culture as a place people like to be. In the car analogy, this is the interior. It’s where you spend most of the time in relation to the car.

5. CAPITAL – The Gas

You are not going anywhere without Gas or Capital. In theory the more gas you put in the car the further you can go.. UNLESS!

6. PRODUCT/MARKET FIT – The Wheels

Product/Market Fit is represented by the wheels. Put simply if you don’t have product market fit you do not have any wheels, and therefore, no matter how great your car looks, how fast or efficient the engine is and how comfortable the interior is YOU ARE GOING NOWHERE, even with all of the gas in the world.

And that my friends is my Product Market Fit Car Analogy. I think it works. I hope it helps you visualize Product Market Fit, and/or gives you a mechanism to describe it to others 🙂 .