She Thought Nobody Wanted What Her Startup Was Selling, That Wasn’t the Problem
Last week, an entrepreneur wrote in with a long and detailed question, but one that I see a lot, especially from founders who are already on the market and doing crisp business.
It was actually more of a cry for help than a question. It seemed that after a healthy launch that resulted in hitting some lofty KPIs in her first year, new customers no longer wanted her product. Suddenly, she told me, new customer adoption had come to a screeching halt.
The customers she already had still loved the product — adored it, in fact. The market she was addressing was full of carbon copies of her best customer profile. These were prospects that should have been as enthusiastic to purchase her product as her existing customers were using it.
Same product. Same customer. Great track record. Brick wall.
So I dug in to find out why. Turns out her customers weren’t the problem.
The Gap Between Launch Success and Product-Market Fit is Real
To be honest, there is always a head fake waiting for any startup that experiences initial success — even great initial success. Achieving success with a startup is one thing (and difficult to do), but maintaining that success across a broader and wider swath of customers is a different story, and much more difficult, to boot.
In fact, I would go so far as to say every startup I’ve ever been involved with hit some kind of slowdown in momentum almost immediately after their initial wave of success. And in hindsight, there was always an identifiable reason for the problem.
That reason, while different from startup to startup, was almost always hidden in the positioning and messaging. At launch, we were working with a segment of the market that had some awareness of what kind of business we were. The buildup to launch had helped us define and refine our messaging to bring these early adopters on board, almost without a second thought.
In other words, these were customers that were already looking for the solution we were selling…