How to Use Customer Surveys to Get to Product-Market Fit


Customer surveys can be a key piece of the puzzle for checking and measuring product-market fit. Read more.

Product-market fit happens when a company’s target customers are enthusiastically buying, using, and sharing the product in large enough numbers to promote growth and profitability. It hinges upon a strong alignment between the product’s value and the needs of the target customers.  

Having product-market fit is—understandably—a big goal for many startups. But it can feel like a nebulous target. Customer surveys can be a key piece of the puzzle for measuring and checking whether you have product-market fit. 

The Foundations of Product-Market Fit

According to entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreesen, who is often credited with popularizing the concept after his blog post, product-market fit means finding a good market with a product capable of satisfying that market. 

Andreesen claims that you can feel when product-market fit isn’t happening. Sales cycles feel long, usage isn’t growing, and so on. 

On the flip-side, you can feel when it is happening. You’re hiring more sales and customer support staff, usage is growing as quickly as you can add servers, and money is piling up. 

The Importance of Product-Market Fit

Venture capitalists and stakeholders will often look for product-market fit before they invest. It’s a sign that the product is sustainable, addresses a true customer problem, and has tapped into an opportunity in the market. But, most importantly, it’s a sign that the company can grow.

Alongside this, understanding product-market fit helps with conducting research, building positioning and messaging, and putting the product in front of the right customers. 

Measuring and Assessing Product-Market Fit

People will often debate the best ways to measure product-market fit. It can feel like an intangible goal. 

There are metrics and indicators to track, though. For example, you can look at quantitative metrics like market share, retention curve, and NPS scores. 

You can also look for qualitative indicators like: 

  • It becomes clear why you are winning/losing deals — Before you have product-market fit, potential customers (prospects) don’t have a clear criteria that your product is being evaluated against. This is usually because the solution (your product) is looking for a problem (market).
  • You are able to clearly define the persona and target company that you are building your product/service for.
  • You can describe the benefits and shortcomings of your product relative to the competition.

How Can Customer Surveys Help with Product-Market Fit?

Customer surveys can greatly enhance your knowledge around product-market fit. They’re a way to gain insights into how your customers are feeling, where things are working, and where things aren’t working. 

Best Practices for Customer Surveys for Product-Market Fit 

  • Gather qualitative and quantitative information — When asking qualitative questions, keep them open-ended and ask questions that dig deeper than surface level. This lets the customer tell their story (in their words) which can give you real insights into their needs. 
  • Survey customers who actively use your product — Filter out people who registered for the product but don’t actively use it, since that can skew the results. 
  • Repeat the survey — Product-market fit is perishable. Your fit in the market can change as the market changes, as customers change, and as your product changes. Keep gathering intel so that your information is timely. 
  • Systematically record results — Analyze the results and aim to create actionable insights.  
Sample Survey Questions

Qualitative Questions

  1. What issue were you facing that made you realize you needed a solution like this?
  2. What are your team’s current priorities and goals?
  3. What is the main benefit that you get from using this product?
  4. How would you describe this product to someone else in your position?
  5. If you could change one thing about this product to make it fit your needs better, what would that be? 
  6. Why are you using this product rather than the other available solutions?
  7. What do you find most useful about the product?
  8. How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?

Quantitative Approaches 

There are a couple of ways that you can gain quantitative information from surveys. First, you can ask questions about location, demographics, employment, and more, which will give insight into your target buyer persona.

Second, you can adapt questions into multiple choice or scaled questions. For example, “How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?” can be an open question for qualitative results, or can have results like “very disappointed”, “somewhat disappointed”, and so on, to gain quantitative results. 

That way, you can track the number and percentage of customers that would be disappointed if they could not use your product. 

Note: A generally accepted metric for product-survey results is 40%. If at least 40% of customers would be “very disappointed” if they could no longer use your product, or if the same percentage consider it vital and would not use an alternative, you have created a product that fits the market.

Timing Product-Market Fit Surveys

It’s important to conduct customer surveys to check for product-market fit before the product launched, but it’s also important to keep monitoring it after that point (much like you would continue to measure metrics like NPS scores). As mentioned, fit can change and perish. 

You might want to survey customers: 

  • At different stages in their product-use lifecycle — To see how sentiment changes
  • As your product grows and you bring out new offerings — This helps you understand whether new features and products are truly valuable for your target customers
  • When scaling and fundraising — To gain insight into customer needs
  • When business is slow/slowing — To keep a keen eye on what your target customer is needing and wanting

Product-market fit may feel nebulous, but there are ways to track your target customer’s sentiment—and to keep an eye on it as time goes on. Customer surveys are a crucial way to gain the intelligence you need. 

To see Checkbox in action for product-market fit surveys, sign up for a free 30 min demo.

March 9, 2023
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