You’ve got your product. You might even have those first few important customers. But you don’t have real growth.
To get to that next stage, you have to find product/market fit. This term, coined by Marc Andreessen, means “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”
To find product/market fit, most people turn to the product. You should be turning to the market instead.
By finding the right market for your product and allowing that market to help shape it, you can build something truly needed and know there is a foundation of customers to help your company grow.
Facebook Ads are one of the best ways to find that market.
Everything Starts With Your Customer
The foundation of your business isn’t your product. It’s your customers.
(Source: 500 Startups)
Everything is built on top of them. No customers = no business, no matter how awesome you think your product is. You are building that product that solves a problem for them. This is how you achieve growth.
But also, wrong customers = no business. If you don’t have the perfect customers for your product, then they will end up leading you down a blind alley. Ultimately they will churn out as the core values between product and customer are misaligned, but not before you’ve spent time, energy, and cash trying to get them what they want.
Then you have to pivot and start all over again. But because they are at the bottom of this pivot pyramid, that means that if you pivot on them, everything above has to change. If you get different customers, you’ll have a different problems, with different solutions requiring different tech.
Not having the right customers early is therefore deadly. But finding the right ones makes the next steps a whole lot easier. They can then help you shape your product roadmap, and the time, energy, and cash you pump into giving them what they want will be returned 10X.
But unless you magically fall into the right market with the right customers on day one then you always risk following the wrong customers down the wrong road.
Finding The Fit The Wrong Way
The #1 company killer is a lack of market. There are basically two ways that you can find the right customers for your product:
- Build the product and wait.
- Do some market research.
Most companies in their nascent development follow the first path, concentrating on product over market. They believe in the mantra, “if you build it, they will come.”
But this is a terrible motto for a company, unless you want it to be the startup equivalent of Waterworld.
Market research is the way to go. Market research, both before and after launch, allows you to find the answer to a much better question: “if you build it, will they come?”
When companies do market research, they usually reach out to current customers and people within their buyer personas through market research companies and surveys. This can work, but it has a few fundamental issues:
- Market research companies are expensive. If you are just interested in smoke testing a few ideas, the last thing you want is to spend a lot of money. But focus groups and researchers cost.
- Surveys take time. Most people don’t fill in surveys, so you have to wait until you have a critical mass of responses before you really know which direction you should be heading.
- The feedback is qualitative. Qualitative data is great, but when you are looking for a clear signal on which direction to point your company, the last thing you need is to read an essay from your survey takers on the whys, whats, and whens of how your product disappointed them.
This is where Facebook ads come in.
Why Facebook Ads Are Ideal To Help You Find The Perfect Fit
Building an ad and targeting it towards different audiences will almost immediately give you a better signal than surveys, and definitely a better signal than the build-and-wait strategy. There are six reasons that Facebook ads are great for this goal:
- They can give you early validation. This is one of the main benefits of Facebook ads over other ways for customers to show their feelings about your product. Most early startups or businesses won’t have the critical mass for NPS to be a reliable indicator. Surveys take too long to run. Facebook ads can be used even before you have a product, and can continue through every stage of product development.
- They are quick to set up. You can be set up and have ads live in a matter of minutes. Contrast that with how long it might take for you to build a new feature and release it to beta, or to get a survey out into the hands of thousands of potential customers. Facebook ads allow you to test drive an idea, instead of test driving a product.
- They’re cheap to run. You could spend thousands, but you don’t have to. You could have ads set up for under $100 and still see viable results. Again the contrast with using a market research firm ($1,000+), or spending weeks in dev for a feature ($10,000+) is pretty clear.
- You can cover a wide audience. This is the magic of Facebook ads. You can set them up and then push them live to over a billion people. If there is a market out there for what you’re building, Facebook will allow you to find it. You will need to play around to discover the right audience, but it will be there. For any good product, there can be a huge market of pre-existing “pull,” as Andrew Chen puts it. You just have to find it.
- You’ll have multiple engagement metrics. Facebook Ads generate quantitative feedback. You can not only see how many people click through from your ads, but also track shares, likes, and comments to determine the true audience for your idea.
- You can iterate over and over. If an ad succeeds, you can optimize. If it fails, you can reassess and make changes. You can constantly be testing different types of ads for different types of customers until you’ve drilled down on the right ones for you.
Springboard are definitely running these courses. But this ad could work even if there was no course ready. The use of “early access” to gauge the market would allow Springboard to check that people targeted in this ad were interested before they went any further. In fact, they could show this ad to different segments, comparing metrics for each, and then tailor the course appropriately.
From The L Train to Bernie Bros
This is an easy technique for us to recommend because we have done exactly this. Used Facebook Ads to hone our audience and define not only who we are selling to, but also what we are selling.
Earlier this year we ran an experiment to build a business entirely off the back of Facebook ads. While we didn’t exactly build the vast corporation of our dreams, we did learn a hell of a lot about how Facebook ads can help you find your audience. The initial offer from King’s County Threads was this t-shirt about the L-Train:
Let’s just say it didn’t set the fashion world on fire. We didn’t sell any, and didn’t even see much interest in our ads. But we learned a ton about our audience and our product, and that allowed us to pivot almost immediately. Here is what we swrote at the time:
You can find the right audience for almost any product on Facebook. There are so many granular, specific interests you can pick from to craft the perfect buyer persona. But it’s also possible to get overwhelmed with choice and make poor assumptions about your audience interests. We needed to really question our assumptions about our audience interests based on the information we gathered.
This is the mistake that companies make that Facebook ads help you avoid—making assumptions about your audience. If people aren’t interested you can quickly assess whether there is a better audience for you, or a better product for them.
Based on that first smoke test, we pivoted from underground New York humor, to crushing political satire:
This ad had a lower CPC and a higher click-through rate. It was also shared more, liked more by our target demographic, and had comments.
Through quickly testing with Facebook ads, we had found our own little slice of product/market fit.
If only Facebook were around when Waterworld was released. Kev could have checked whether the film really had the product/market fit he thought it deserved.
Facebook ads allow you to quickly iterate, using targeting and different ads to find the people that want your product most. You can even take it one step further and build based on their reaction. If there are click-throughs, share, likes, and comments you are on to something. If not, move on to the next iteration.
By doing this over and over, anyone can find the right place for them in the market and build a company set up for growth, based on the foundations of a great business—great customers.