When asked about their startup, most founders begin with product-market fit, examining gaps in an existing landscape and the specific use cases their business model addresses.
4 Questions to Determine Product-Moment Fit
- Are market conditions right for this product?
- Is the product in touch with the cultural environment?
- Does the product solve for your customers’ top priorities?
- Would your customers be upset if the product disappeared from their day-to-day existence?
While this analysis is essential for a company’s success, it misses an additional layer of timeliness. Founders often spend less time considering how a product fits into the cultural, business and economic environment, or what I call product-moment fit. Timing can make or break a company or offering, and founders must consider their product-moment to launch and thoughtfully grow when demand, market conditions and culture are fully aligned.
What Is Product-Moment Fit?
While market fit examines if a product satisfies a strong market demand, moment fit goes farther to examine if the conditions at this moment in time are right to meet a critical need.
Take Zoom, for example. Pre-pandemic, Zoom fit an established need for versatile video calls for businesses, schools and personal use. But it wasn’t until quarantine and social distancing that Zoom’s growth skyrocketed. Overnight, Zoom became a consumer household name and a lifeline for connecting users for everything from work meetings to weddings.
In response, the company added more than 400 new features to their product throughout 2020. These enhancements ultimately helped boost new use cases, spanning increased capabilities for webinars to improved security settings to tackle “Zoombombing.”
Assessing product-moment fit is similar to product-market fit, but adds a new lens of timeliness. In addition to scoping out competition and finding a unique offering, founders must understand where their offering falls within their customer’s near- and immediate-term priority list. Are you solving for one of their top five problems? If your product disappeared, would your customers notice its absence in their day-to-day existence and be upset?
It’s one thing to have a product that fits a need, and another to have a product that people are willing to pay for right now. This is why Zoom premium took off in 2020 as people relied on video conferencing for long calls, webinars, virtual events and more. Feedback from early adopters and customers can guide this process and improve offerings.
How Product-Moment Fit Can Drive Your Roadmap
Product-moment fit can guide the decision of where to take your company next. It’s not enough for customers to simply like a product. Customers need to be fanatical. Before committing to a path forward, you need passionate customers, demand in the market and a moment that aligns with your offerings.
I experienced this with my company, Donut. Donut was founded well before the pandemic to help larger companies create and maintain the camaraderie and collaboration of early-stage startups while working in traditional offices. We accomplished that by largely connecting coworkers for in real life (IRL) lunches, coffees and meetups.
While our products still serve that mission, in 2020, we recognized that the changing world of work meant our product needed to evolve. When the pandemic began, companies of all sizes recognized that they needed solutions to maintain culture and connection in a remote world.
Our roadmap pivoted in an instant and we released new features to directly meet that need, including a Zoom integration, and we welcomed thousands of new customers who wanted to connect their teams using our Watercooler product. Staying nimble and recognizing the opportunity for deep product-moment fit propelled our company to a new direction at the right time in our journey.
How to Tell When Product-Moment Fit Isn’t Right
Choosing the wrong moment to grow, launch a product or pivot directions can result in layoffs and axed products. Keep economic indicators in mind. If times are tight, is your offering still mission critical for customers?
In 2016, the rise of video content led Snapchat to identify a market opening for wearable cameras and launched Spectacles. But the time wasn’t right. People were still wary of having their movements constantly recorded, and early users found problems with the usability. By the end of 2017, only 0.08 percent of Snapchat’s users had bought the sunglasses and the project was largely considered a failure.
As a founder, you need to have a strong mission and idea for how your product can carve a path in the marketplace. Vision helps align and guide a company as it builds into the future, but must be informed by listening to customers and the market. Without that, you could end up following a hallucination of what the world needs, leading to a company that is out of touch with the market and ultimately fails to grow.
Evaluate Product-Market Moment As You Go
The process of assessing and re-evaluating must be ongoing. This is more true than ever as the future of work continues to rapidly evolve and unfold in front of our eyes. Achieving product-market fit today does not guarantee it will endure to tomorrow. It’s easy to develop tunnel vision while building, but you can’t go into autopilot. Maintain a practice of brainstorming ways to meet the current market, not the historical one, informed by constant customer input.
In the crucial early days of building a product or company, it’s tempting to throw yourself into the first marketable idea. But ensure you take the time to vet it against reality. You need the alignment of both market fit and moment fit to successfully launch and grow a company. Don’t become so enamored with an idea that you stop listening to customers in the current moment.