About a month ago, I ran a PMF survey by my ~800 users. The results I got -- 4 answers -- were, well, disappointing to say the least. I did the only thing I could think of: reached out to this community (https://growthhackers.com/questions/our-pmf-survey-got-4-answers-what-now) and privately to some of the biggest names I could think of (Sean Ellis, Morgan Brown, etc.). I can't believe all the valuable help I got from everyone. I decided to write the story in full, including the valuable tips I got from industry experts, into this article. Confused about the PMF survey? Unsure about whether or not you should run it now? Disappointed by results? This post should, hopefully, guide you a bit. Finally, once more, a MASSIVE thank you to everyone who took some of their time to help un-confuse me about the situation and give me an action plan. 🙌 This community 🙌
Brand marketing is mostly useless for consumer startups. Startups build a great brand by being successful, finding product market fit and scaling traction, etc. But it’s not a real lever. Let’s not mix up correlation with causation! If this seems contrarian to you, it’s because there’s a vast ecosystem of consultants, agencies, and other middlemen who are highly incentivized to have you spend $ and effort on non-ROI/non-performant activities. Early startups should opt out of all of this It’s easy to confuse correlation and causation: If you’re starting a consumer startup, you see successful late stage cos with fawning media coverage, amazing conference speaking slots, celebrities on the cap table, etc., and think that’s what caused their success: Great brand. But great brand is the lagging indicator of success. The buzz is created by the hard work that the entrepreneurs put in: Finding product/market fit, hiring a great core team, finding acquisition channels that scale. Brand marketing is great, but it should be layered on later.
For so many startups and even larger tech incumbents, the point at which they hit the shoulder in the S-curve is a mystery, and the author suspects the failure to see it occurs much earlier. The good thing is that identifying the enemy sooner allows you to address it. We focus so much on product-market fit, but once companies have achieved some semblance of it, most should spend much more time on the problem of product-market unfit. In strategic planning, the question in building a forecast is to flush out what the author calls the invisible asymptote: a ceiling that our growth curve would bump its head against if we continued down our current path. It's an important concept to understand for many people in a company, whether a CEO, a product person, or a planner in finance.
Doing things that don't scale is a critical part of early growth for any company. These are the best articles on the tactics startups and new businesses can use to gain early traction in a market and acquire their first customers. Startup marketers can learn how to get their first customers for any type of business.
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