Product-market fit is not just a formality; it can truly make or break a B2B SaaS venture. The assumptions and hypotheses you made during your initial go-to-market need to be tested and iterated upon repeatedly as early as you can.
Working with early stage B2B SaaS companies, I can confidently say that the difference reaching PMF makes can be huge. PMF impacts not only strategy but the day-to-day tactical side of things as well. Your positioning, your messaging, your content strategy all depend on getting a few assumptions right to be executed correctly. To go one step further, your ICP and personas should be iterative and simply reaching PMF shouldn’t be the reason you stop revisiting your ICP periodically.
In episode 7 of BSMS, Mike and Stijn talk about quick GTM experiments. During my work, I quickly learned the importance of time-limiting or timeboxing my way to PMF and would like to expand on the topic.
You have your MVP and you have your first customers. That’s a good sign. You’ve looked at your TAM, SAM, and SOM and fashioned your target accounts list appropriately. You’ve taken a close look at your company and your competitors and decided on a couple of positioning vectors that, when combined with your segmentation and profiling work from earlier, will result in an ICP- and persona-based messaging framework that will inform both your outreach and inbound marketing.
You should be confident in your position and have started considering where to start with your marketing. You’ve listened to episode 2 and identified the funnel friction you’d like to tackle and the channels you’d like to double-down on. You’re on your way to scaling the business!
It’s so easy to skip straight from the MVP stage to the Scale or Profit stage and completely miss PMF.
If you didn’t notice that crucial step missing while reading the above paragraph, then please read on (and listen to episode 5).
Stijn likes to define PMF as having enough customers who pay and stay. More specifically, it’s about proving your product and the market fit together by finding enough engaged advocates, as mentioned in this podcast.
I’ll go ahead and assume you’ve listened to episode 5 and invite you to read further on our conception of PMF:
Today’s episode is about quick GTM experiments so why all this talk about PMF? Glad you asked!
Let’s briefly go back to the basics. At the core of your marketing endeavors, there is segmentation, positioning, and messaging. Those are your core GTM hypotheses. You should test them to confirm them and/or improve them. Confirming these assumptions is reaching PMF. The safest and most efficient (as well as effective) way to reach PMF is by time-boxing quick GTM experiments. This goes hand-in-hand with making a work-back plan that starts with what PMF looks like to you and working your way backwards to figure out how to get there. Time-boxing each experiment will give you the organization and buffer you need to make sure you don’t run out of time or budget.
Mike and Stijn go over 5 actionable steps you can take today to apply this concept to your company.
Part of our TAM/SAM/SOM segmentation work is nailing down the smallest, most specific niche we can to be laser-focused in our approach. This first step is simply picking one of the personas you’ve drawn up. It’s time to put in question whether they truly are someone to go after or if your product will simply fundamentally not resonate with them.
Empathy should be at the core of both your marketing and innovation. That’s what customer-centric design and decision making really mean. For your persona to be accurate, its dreams, fears, and pains should be well-informed.
What’s their job-to-be-done in relation to your product? The famous example is figuring out that people hired milkshakes for breakfast. The job-to-be-done was breakfast.
Empathy is key here because:
So for this step, pick a reason to go to your personas with and answer the question: “why should I change? How can you solve my problem?” Being able to solve someone’s problem when they can’t even articulate or even identify what their problem is or that they even have one in the first place will put you ahead of your competition.
You have your audience, you have your messaging basis, now you need your supporting collateral. If you don’t have a case study or testimonial from a customer related to this industry or persona, then that’s a good sign that you may not be ready yet. Pick a persona you’re close to and have seen success with in the past.
This step will help you answer the question: “why should I change with you?”
Where can your target audience for this test be reached? The persona you picked has some defining characteristics. These unique attributes should help filter a list of individual recipients for you to target.
Job titles, company attributes, what else can you think of that all these people have in common?
The good news is that if you’re a B2B SaaS company, LinkedIn is a great way to collect company information and contact information based on attributes directly related to your product.
Finally! It’s time to send out the message. Of course, this doesn’t have to be a literal message. While it could be an email or a LinkedIn connection request, it could also be a Facebook or Google ad as well. Ideally, you’re A/B testing the message and measuring the results. Interactions, especially those resulting in meetings are valuable. At this (pre-PMF) stage, few things are as valuable as getting direct feedback from customers. Their insight into their problem, your solution, and the market will inform your next steps both on the marketing side and the product side of things.
These 5 steps are then capped off by a sixth step in good old PDCA fashion. Plan, Do, Check, Act. Once the results are in, measure them, check them, and off again you go back to step 1.
The most important detail to keep in mind while doing this is to decide on a time-frame beforehand. Time-box each experiment, each iteration to make sure you don’t run out of time. Your first GTM assumptions may have been right. But on the off chance that they weren’t, you need to remain agile and ready to pivot as many times as necessary. Realizing too late your need to pivot, or failing to realize that fact altogether could prove fatal.
With these five steps you could run one of these experiments a month, or one a week when you get good at them according to Stijn. These GTM experiments require some initial assumptions and some prior success in the verticals you’re working on. By clearly delineating their time frames you can be sure to not run over your time or budget.
Each one of these experiments will bring you one step closer to product-market fit.
This article is the companion reading for episode 7 of the B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks podcast.