Need someone to lead product or development at your software company? I lead product and engineering teams and I'm looking for my next opportunity. Check out my resume and get in touch.

Ask One Question To Help You Reach Product-Market Fit

Everyone wants product-market fit, that magical state when the market you’re selling to wants the product you make. But how do you measure it? How do you know that you’re on the right track? How do you know what you should be doing next to advance toward product-market fit?

There’s a single question you can use to identify what your customers want from you.

Peg shape puzzle

"What problems would we need to solve for you to double what you pay us?"

There’s a lot to unpack in that question.

The way to get more of a customer’s money is to bring more value to the customer. This question identifies what form that value might take. You’re also asking for a giant step up in value. You’re not asking how to get a little more money, you’re asking how to double it. You’re asking for moonshots, not incremental improvements.

When asked this, most people won’t have a good answer right away. They’ll draw a mental blank. They might be shocked that you’re trying to charge more. When you encounter resistance, you can overcome this anxiety by prompting them. Are there times where they’ve wanted to use you for something but were blocked in some way? Are there more people in the company that could use your product, and what’s preventing that? Do they buy other products to enhance your product or fill a gap in yours?

Most of the answers you end up with will fall into three buckets. Doubling how much of the product they use. Doubling the price they pay today. Or doubling how many different products they buy from you.

The customer might think about how to double how much of your product they use and pay for. They’ll think about how much they buy measured in licenses, seats, usage, or however you sell your product.

When answered in this way, the customer is telling you what’s missing in your product that would help them increase how much they use it. They could tell you that they’d love to give all their employees access to your product, but it’s too expensive to do that. You might use this information to explore volume discounts or site licenses. They might tell you that you’re being used by one department right now, but there’s a key feature that would make the product attractive to a different department.

Or the customer might think of doubling what they pay you by considering how you could double the price. The same amount of usage, a whole lot more valuable.

Customers that answer this way are thinking about how they could use your product to make more money or save more money. They’re paying you for customer support software that lets them track and answer email and phone inquiries, but they’re also buying social media management software so they can respond to customer requests over Twitter and Facebook. They’re paying for a tool that syncs customer issues with their CRM so account managers can know their customers better. If you could do those things in your product they could consolidate their vendors.

The answer might also reveal extra products you could offer. Customers love how you automate their customer support email; could you offer a product aimed at salespeople?

In all cases, the customer is telling you what adjacent problems you need to solve to become twice as valuable to them. This question gets them thinking about how to expand your solution to cover the additional problems they have. Those problems will almost always be related to the ones you’re already solving for them, or will be the same problems but applied to a different market. Either way, you’ll learn valuable information about how to improve the product or more precisely target the right market.

Recently Written

Principles of Developer Experience: An Introduction (Sep 15)
You can create a great developer experience for everything you build. Introducing the six principles of developer experience.
The KPI that measures Product-Market Fit (Sep 9)
If you ask this question to a different small group of your users every week, you can measure trends over time to determine if you're moving toward product-market fit.
Don't use NPS to measure user happiness for enterprise software (Sep 7)
Measuring the satisfaction and enjoyment of end users is a key to unlocking product-led growth. Net Promoter Score is the wrong tool for this.
Ask One Question To Help You Reach Product-Market Fit (Sep 3)
Learn what adjacent problems you need to solve to become twice as valuable to your customers.
How to scale your product team from one product manager to an entire organization (Aug 25)
As your product management team scales, you'll have issues around redundancy, communication, and consistency. Here's now you might solve those.
Software engineering manager interview questions (Aug 6)
Here are some questions I like to use to get a sense of who an engineering manager is and how they work.
A framework for onboarding new employees (May 15)
There’s no single good way to onboard an employee that works for every role. Here's a framework for creating a process that you can adapt to each situation.
TV hosts as a guide for software managers (May 10)
Software managers can learn a lot from journalists or late night TV hosts and how they interview people.

Older...

What I'm Reading

Contact

Adam Kalsey

+1 916 600 2497

Resume

Public Key

© 1999-2020 Adam Kalsey.