Is finding the product-market fit an essential milestone in the growth of your business? Or can your startup still be successful without it? We invited Bruno Koninckx (KnowledgeFlow) and Bart Buckinx (BookWidgets) to our podcast studio to share their thoughts, experiences and advice. “Lose touch with the market, and you lose your product-market fit.”
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But what exactly defines a good product-market fit? “It’s finding the sweet spot between what your customer wants and what your product has to offer”, says Bruno Koninckx, co-founder of the online effectiveness tool KnowledgeFlow. “The first thing you need to do in order to achieve this, is understand what your customer wants. Talk to customers and potential customers, try to understand them and find out what their specific needs are. After this, you can design a solution which fits those needs.”
“You have to look at the market as your audience”, Bart Buckinx adds. “Having a connection with that audience, is crucial.” Bart is the General Manager of BookWidgets, a digital content tool for teachers. “Education is my field of expertise, that’s where I am most comfortable. Not everyone can be successful in the same market. I, for instance, could never work in a fintech market, because I don’t have the necessary connection. I believe that once you’re able to understand your customers and truly connect with the market, the product will form itself.”
For the development of their initial platform, KnowledgeFlow went looking for five pilot customers. “We designed our first platform in close collaboration with Aveve, the retail store group”, Bruno says. “That trajectory enabled us get a clear view of the client’s needs and expectations.”
“Finding the right pilot customers, was quite a challenge. We had decided that we wanted to build a generic platform that could serve different customers in different sectors. The tricky part was finding pilot customers that would be willing to pay for our product. With pilot customers who are not willing to pay, you don’t know whether they would be prepared to pay for your product or service. With the help of Imec, we did a lot of customer research and surveys every step of the way.”
Problems vs. solutions
“It’s important to measure”, Bruno adds, “but I would recommend any startup to only focus on a few KPI’s. Don’t try to measure everything. Focus on the numbers that have a real impact on your business, even if that means focusing on only one thing at a time. At BookWidgets, we look at three factors: website traffic, conversion rates and churn. Those numbers are linked to specific goals and they involve specific people. My advice would be to find the people in your team that can influence and improve those numbers.”
“Your customers’ opinions are extremely valuable, but there are a few pitfalls to be aware of. One of them is that people tend to talk in solutions, not in problems. There’s a famous quote by the bestselling author Oren Harari that says: the electric light did not come from the continuous improvement of candles. And that’s really what it’s all about. The real problem is that you want light in the room, not that you want a better candle.”
Bart and Bruno agree that it’s naïve to believe it isn’t possible to lose your product-market fit once you have found it. “That’s a myth”, Bruno says. “The market is continuously changing which means you need to keep on adapting your product to it. It’s a continuous process, a daily task. If you lose touch with your market, it’s very easy to lose your product-market fit. Keep your eyes open to see what is happening around you and what your competitors are doing.”
“There are plenty of examples of companies that lost touch with their market”, Bart tells. “Look at Kodak; a successful multinational that totally missed the opportunities of digital photography. Startups have the advantage that they can pivot quite easily, as long as they keep an open mind for innovation.”
Do you have a question for the Start it @KBC community you want answered in this podcast? Post it in the comments and you might find out the answer during the next episode!
This podcast was made possible thanks to our strategic partners – KBC, Telenet, Cronos group, Accenture, Mobile Vikings, Flanders DC, Joyn, Imec and Universiteit Antwerpen.
Have you listened to the previous episodes? In episode 8 we unraveled the secrets of successfully selling to corporates with Brecht Kets of Play it Safe, the game based learning platform for safety and prevention, and Steven Everaert of retail data platform Impaqtr. Episode 9 focused on Crowdfunding, with Jeroen Spitaels of the healthy food service Mealhero and in episode 10 we talked about the secrets of hiring the best talent with Michael Van de Meirssche (Jobat.be) and Maarten Verschuere (Clever).
- Bruno Koninckx is digital media researcher and co-founder of KnowledgeFlow, the online platform which boosts employee effectiveness and reduces the cost of onboarding, knowledge management and training.
- Bart Buckinx is Managing Partner at BookWidgets, a company that develops software for digital educational tools, like Smartschool.
- To learn more about Imec and the partnership with Start it @KBC, watch this Partner Talk interview on our blog.
- Find out more about the life and work of author Oren Harari here.