Product Market Fit

Izzy Aspler heads a consulting agency that is focused on UX Design, market fit analysis and MVP development strategies. For this podcast, ScreamingBox hosts Dave Erickson, Iman Kaur and Botond Seres grill Izzy on the various aspects of Product Market Fit. In other words, how can you answer the questions that all investors ask - “How do you know your product fits the market need?” Izzy’s wide range of business experience includes product design, leading design teams and holding business strategy sessions with stakeholders. As a Product Market Fit expert, our hosts bombarded him with questions such as: What is your definition of Product Market Fit? Can you describe, at a very high-level, the basic Product Market Fit Process? Who in an organization is usually responsible for Product-Market Fit? How is Product-Market Fit Measured? What virtual platforms are used for Product Market Fit? The basis of Product Market Fit is communication with the target market and what are the best ways to have that communication? Is live better than virtual? If an entrepreneur wanted to do some basic Product Market Fit work, where should he start? If a larger company was looking at a new product, would they go about doing the Product Fit Analysis differently than say a Start-up?

Dave Erickson, Izzy Aspler, Iman Kaur, Botond Seres

Dave Erickson 00:31
Welcome to the ScreamingBox technology and business rundown podcast. For this month's podcast we're going to explore product market fit. In other words, how can you answer the question that all investors ask, how do you know your product fits the market need? Today we're going to talk to Izzy Aspler. Izzy heads a consulting agency that is focused on UX design, Market Fit analysis, and MVP development strategies. His wide range of experience includes product design, leading design teams, and holding business strategy sessions with stakeholders. Project management is also in his wheelhouse, especially when it involves R&D and designing POCs for feature discovery. He is also a creative person, having run his desktop publishing company since 2002, and doing technical illustrations, storyboard designs and film animations for startups and SMBs. Today, we're going to talk to Izzy about product market fit. In other words, do you have a great digital product idea? But do you know if there's really a product market fit?

Dave Erickson 01:40
Izzy? What a great background! Is there anything I missed or you would want to add?

Izzy Aspler 01:45
No, that's right Dave, thank you. Thank you very much for the intro. It's actually quite exciting to be here. Looking forward to talking about the subject. It's basically what I talk about all day.

Iman Kaur 01:57
What is your definition of the product market fit?

Izzy Aspler 02:01
You basically are finding a good market for a product capable of satisfying said market. But that's a very basic definition. It's the most basic thing I can say, but I don't think it means very much from a definition standpoint. So, it basically comes down to, You're trying to find a good market with a product capable of satisfying that market. That doesn't really mean very much when it gets down to reality, but it's like in a nutshell, yeah, it ends up becoming a conversation between people who are designing products and people who we believe there’s a need for those products. That, I guess is really what it boils down to.

Iman Kaur 02:44
Can you describe at a very high level what the basic product market fit process is like?.

Izzy Aspler 02:55
So I guess at a very, very high level, you're basically going to go out and you're going to be collecting data, you're going to be having a lot of conversations. It's where you've got your target customers and what you think you're going after, but you're also trying to make sure that their value proposition is lining up with that and that your minimal viable product is really solving. So sometimes people have, they come in with all sorts of ideas, either they're really married to their idea and they have a product that they already have concrete in their head and they're not really receiving feedback very effectively or they have a great product, but they're really terrible at letting the world know. So it kind of, it could go either way. What do you find is the most critical thing to focus on when you start out on the journey of trying to figure out if your product really fits the market? It's kind of a chicken and egg problem. You're kind of, you're getting feedback, and then it's a question of is this feedback valid, because you're not, you know, if you ask your mother for her opinion, everything is wonderful, she thinks you're the best. If you ask the wrong person, they may just sit there and think that their job is to tear your idea apart and on the flip side, you know, you could be talking to the exact right person to get all the right feedback, but maybe you're asking the wrong questions. So how do you figure that out? Because you have two loose ends. So that's the trick, you’ve got to be working on both ends at the same time, and you’ve got to be converging on a solution. So there is no right answer, at least when you're starting out.

Botond Seres 04:50
What's your opinion about focus groups, because I see this used heavily in the product market fit discussion and, you know, from my opinion it can have some extremely strange results, if we just take a look at the recent franchise.

Izzy Aspler 05:06
Yeah, so Botond, I think that, I mean, it goes back to what I just was saying. So it's like there's this idea of you know, if you put in data and the data is garbage, you're going to get results that are garbage. So again, it becomes a question of, how could you… It's like, number one is, are you talking to the right cross section? Are you talking to the right market? Because people, market fit and market discovery are also two different things. You may think your product is meant for one group when in reality the opportunity is in a different group of people. You're not going to be able to pivot. If you're talking to one group, you're not going to get that feedback. I do think that focus groups, well, the word focus, it's a good indicator that once you've kind of narrowed down, it's a converging action. So, if you think about UX design, you have the double diamond approach to doing design work on products and there is kind of an information gathering process where you're keeping your eye and your mind open, your eyes open for opportunity, and then you start to converge on some kind of a decision. I wouldn't say it's the right decision; there're many different, potentially right decisions. But that's when you decide, Okay, we're going to focus here. So we're going to talk to this specific group and try and optimize for their needs. So I think that when people start throwing around these solutions as methodologies that solve problems, and they're not thinking about the context of where this is going into their, their pipeline, yeah, you can jump the gun, and then you can end up going down the wrong path and spending a lot of time on something that ends up not being fruitful.

Iman Kaur 07:04
You mentioned that, you know, sometimes the product is meant for some other group instead of the group we're focusing on. So how do you measure?

Izzy Aspler 07:12
Yeah, so I mean, so there is, it’s kind of like numbers versus creativity. You’ve got your business people, and it's all about the numbers. But obviously, when you're building products, it's extremely emotional and physically demanding. And so, I hope that you're coming from a creative, inspirational standpoint, because there's a million different great products out there that haven't been invented yet, probably one more than a million. There always seems to be something else that you can deliver. So, I think the best way to think about it is, Okay, I have something, a group of things that I'm very interested in. I have some skill in this area, I don't mind spending 80 hours a week on this when I'm first getting it started and up and running. Now I’ve got to go and find some fit. So that's kind of I think; that's the only way you can deal with it. Because otherwise, one, it's a paralysis not to have some way of scoping, because there's a million questions you can ask, so you have to say, Okay, this is what I'm interested in as an entrepreneur. And then on the flip side, there's also where, the other thing I want to add, it's that you have the market. So the second thing to understand is, it's really hard to wrap your mind around what hundreds of millions of people, what size of a market 100 million people or a billion people are. When you're dealing with digital services and products, you're reaching an entire world of people. So, you know, it's not worth being anxious about who you're targeting, because there's probably enough people out there that need your product that it's hard to imagine, but as long as you're able to reach that group, and you're actually solving their problem. So ultimately, if you get really specific, then your market fit challenge is going to be how do I reach those specific people? If you have something that's very general, then it may be more like how do we make sure that this MVP is focused, and it's not going all over the place? So again, it depends on how you're approaching it and what kind of product you're building.

Iman Kaur 10:00
I have a question. So, in general, you were saying, the way you're approaching the different age groups or different kinds of people for that particular product, do you think it's more of an advantage for us in this era at least because we have the internet and we are pretty much using the same platforms? Every single person says if you are meant to reach your product to 20,000 people or 2 million people, sometimes how you market a product, like you put an advertisement over Facebook, they ask you how many people see the sponsored ads on Instagram? They ask you, when you pay for them, they ask you how many people you want to reach out to. Let's say you chose 2 million people. So, they're gonna randomly choose those people for you. Do you think it's an advantage or disadvantage for us?

Izzy Aspler 10:15
So yeah, I'll break it down. The first question is, I think we're talking about whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, I think it's a good thing, I don't think it's a bad thing. I think it makes it a bit more challenging, but it's never been easier to reach your audience. I think the challenge is not being overwhelmed by all the various different solutions or opportunities that are out there. And it's also very hard to educate yourself on all these different platforms, because then it becomes a question of, Where am I putting all the time and effort, and we'll talk a bit about that, but some of the quantitative things that we can do to kind of quickly try things out and then abandon things if they're not working, not getting fixed on one solution and not being fruitful. But then let's say you're paying for impressions, clicks, or you've got an ad campaign and it's being pushed out through social media, it can be extremely effective. Again, going back, what are you going after? Is it a big net? Lots of fish? And you've got a product that generally goes for everybody, like, I don't know, let's say, filters for your pictures. Everyone wants to add Instagram filters to their pictures, or most people would, versus I have a specialized software for dentists to manage the X rays of their patients teeth. Hmm, probably, well, let's avoid using Instagram for a marketing campaign. Those are really easy edge cases, but it gets way more difficult when we start treading some interesting water. I could give you a bunch of examples, but hopefully, that gives you an idea. It's like thinking that way will help dealing with the paralysis of having so many options out there. But there's another step, which is doing some of the quantitative stuff, and that really helps a lot because it gives you the feedback to know that you're not wasting time because sometimes you're just like, I'm spending money, I don't know is this is this a good use of my money, a good use of my time.

Botond Seres 12:23
So, you know Izzy, I actually wanted to get some free advice from you, because there is this one product that I've been working on for the past year. I've invested a lot of my personal earnings into it and so far, I have made zero strides in deciding which market it will be a good fit for. It's really not a complicated product. It's not a niche product by any means. It's just a regular t-shirt. So in your mind, what would be the ideal next step for me if I finally finish and come up with a good prototype that can be mass produced at a reasonable price, then what do I do next?

Izzy Aspler 13:10
Okay, so some of the questions I would be asking right off the bat is, first of all, what is the product? Is it something that's going on the t-shirt? Are you coming up with a new type of a t-shirt from a fabric standpoint, from a cut? So what, what's the product here?

Botond Seres 13:31
Well, what the product is a t-shirt itself. And it's less about the material more about the fields. So the general idea behind this love child of mine is to have a t-shirt that, as a man who is relatively fit, you know, not too much, not too little, at around or above 20% body fat, can still wear it and look good. So that's the general idea. So it has a really long fit that extends way below the waist so it naturally elongates your upper body. That's this idea.

Izzy Aspler 14:14
Okay, yeah, so you know, one thing I would avoid is starting to ask people what they think of this shirt, because you're gonna get a lot of mixed opinions, and, again, this kind of rolls back to hundreds of millions, potentially billions of people who could buy this. I'm sure somebody is gonna love this shirt. It's gonna fit somebody. So to me, it's a straight up. It's like, you’ve got to educate people. Basically, if I understood the value in it, I think you've already got value. So it's a problem of how do you get people to understand that there's value. So there are two approaches, one like piggybacking, piggyback off of what's already out there, which I think you should do anyways; anything that's free, take it. The piggyback method would be that there's already fitness products aimed at people who want to take advantage of being fit. So whether it's from a vanity standpoint, or from a comfort standpoint, or from a lifestyle of, I want to lift in the gym and I want something that's going to breathe and move around, you really have an educated market that understands some of the value there and then there may be some finer points that you want to get across. So you know, when it comes to speaking to those groups, first of all, you should be making sure that wherever you talk about this product, you're talking about people that have made that choice, to live that way. So you should be putting your message out into spaces where people are talking about fitness products. So that's the first place you have to be communicating with that audience. Questions of whether or not, when you're ready, and things are worked out and you already have a good communication package that is effective, educating people and making the a succinct message that talks about what the value is, then it's probably time to do some campaigns, some targeted campaigns, but you gotta make sure that you have those. You have to have your ducks lined up in a row. And again, if you have some uncertainty about how good the product is, you know, then it would mean it would be warranted to do some focus group stuff. But I really advise less ruminating, more action. And the problem with the focus group is you may not get any useful feedback, you may just get more questions. So you have to be a little bit careful about getting too many questions and what I would rather you do is get churn rates, growth rates, get a sense of, okay, I put out 1000 ads, I got this many impressions, you know, okay, can we change some of the copy? What's going to happen if I do something slightly different? If I change the message slightly, rerun it, see what happens. Sorry, that's a very ambiguous answer. But I don't think there are clear answers. I think this is because you're doing a lot of things and you've got your hand on the pulse, and you're feeling it out. There's no one solution that fits all. Sorry, hopefully, that made sense.

Botond Seres 17:32
So yeah, I think I get it. So if I understand you, sort of correctly, then the first step would be to put this product out there, and just get any kind of feedback, especially from those people who are already into fitness, since it's kind of a sticking point.

Izzy Aspler 17:54
Yes, but I think that you have to, so when you say, put the product out there, it's educating those who need to be educated and it's letting those people who already understand the value know that it's there. So that's what when you're putting it out there, it's having a conversation, ideally, where you're getting people to engage and less just showing up and spamming people saying here's my product, because that doesn't really tell me very much. So if you can have, say, a blog, that could be very helpful if you can have other people that blog about fitness where that could be very helpful to try and get onto their blog. So you really want to be having a conversation about it not just not just advertising it at least not at the very beginning.

Iman Kaur 18:47
I think one thing would be to reach out to different kinds of people like you were mentioning with the different body fat, you know, how the Fit works for all of them. Go to the gym because they have different classes. People are doing strength training, people are running and some are doing Zumba and I think you can just go to any gym and talk to them. Hey, this is my product, and I would give it a counter and they can also put some forms or something which are very simple. You know, just have two or three options. How's the fit? How's this and how's that? They can just simply check it because you know no one wants to read a lot of lengthy pamphlets and stuff. So I think when they go out, they go out from the same door so you can just simply ask, Hey, could you do this for me? You know, give feedback on my product? I think that's the best way to reach out because then they are jumping around and you know, and they're all kind of putting up people there. And I feel like that's just an idea in my mind.

Dave Erickson 19:41
Yeah. If he does that, is your experience with the live market survey, how does that compare to say virtual surveys?

Izzy Aspler 19:50
Yes, but obviously physical market survey is a lot of work and it's not geo located locked in so you can wherever; you could physically be there and can do it. So yeah, I think it costs very little Botond, wear your product and go to the gym with it on. If you want to be a little bit more cheeky about your marketing, you could actually print on the shirt something like, how's the fit? Question mark, which is kind of a leading question. Because it's a little bit less weird to approach somebody if it's clear that you're doing some kind of a marketing campaign. If you're just showing up and going up to people while they're lifting, being like, Hey, what do you think of my shirt? They may get the wrong idea, but I think that yes, it’s okay, so kind of like the creative side of it. But keep in mind that it will cost you very little upfront cost, but it will be very, very costly in terms of your time. So, I wouldn't just pour all of your energy into that, because who knows, maybe your gym is just not going to be the market that picks up on it, and maybe a gym in Canada, or maybe a gym in Latin America. So I don't think you should ignore that. There's a lot of online resources where people get together and talk about fitness, you should definitely be on there as well.

Botond Seres 21:20
You know, you just said something that really resonated with me. You said that, while physical market research is a good idea, it's a lot of work. So, as you may or may not have picked up on this, I'm an incredibly lazy person. So how can I or someone else do this with as little work as possible in the initial stages.

Izzy Aspler 21:48
First of all, being lazy, and being an entrepreneur is not necessarily a bad thing. You should be working smart. That's how I describe it. But yeah, I mean, obviously there are. So it depends on how much. So it's a trade off, right? There's physical time, like blood, sweat, capital, and there's money, often there's going to be one or the other. So if you want, you can outsource certain things and pay people. So the simpler the action, the more pipeline it is, the cheaper you can probably get away with. There are some caveats. When it comes to culture, you can't necessarily hire somebody in a part of the world where culture is very different and expect them to be able to do certain tasks. So there are some caveats. But you could have people sitting there and crawling through products, hunting, calm and looking for leads and stuff like that, compiling email lists, you can certainly have people. Again, caveat: engaging with people online, for you, that is probably not going to work. For very cheap labor, you're probably going to need to have somebody with some sales experience and suddenly, you're spending a lot of money. I'm very reluctant to advise somebody in an early stage in their company to spend a lot of money on marketing. I think that is kind of a crutch. I think that you should be able to get some traction with virtually $0. That's a good learning experience as an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is also being a salesperson. If you're not willing to do sales, I would not advise you to go into entrepreneurship. You will lose all your profit to other people if you hand sales off to somebody else. You don't want to do that until you're scaling. So there's a certain maturity that you need to reach. But then again, that's why I say, it doesn't actually take that much energy to go on forums and talk to people. But I do think that the lazier version of spamming and putting advertisements on forums, most people don't click on ads, it's that the impression rate is some abysmal number. So you know, you're going to be there all day posting, so it's a bang for a buck relationship. Honestly, if you really believe that the product is great and it has good value, then I say believe because you're gonna get a million opinions. So at this point, for a product like yours, you have to believe in it. I think you just need to find some angle that you enjoy talking about. And you have to find people that are interested in having that conversation with word of mouth will probably be the first step to your business and then at some point, you can start driving traffic back to your website, but you need some kind of track there. You're going to need a little, you're going to need a step and the initial step is going to come from your immediate circle and those who interact directly on forums and stuff like that to be very specific. I think that's how I would approach it.

Iman Kaur 24:58
Have a question. Botond mentioned that particular product. So it's just a very simple product, and I was thinking, how do you choose the platforms, the virtual platforms, like you mentioned? For example, for this particular product market fit, how do you start from the bottom, because I don't know anything like how to choose virtually, especially because I'm a very physical person. So I would actually go to people and talk. I know how to use social platforms, but I'm not sure what virtual platforms we can choose and what…

Izzy Aspler 25:34
People will think that the problem, it probably isn't as much of a problem as you think. The reason why is that if you're not a very virtual kind of socializer, chances are as an entrepreneur, you're probably not leaning that way. Anyways, it's not your aptitude, it's probably not your interest area. So if you're, let's just say, again, I'm just throwing a random example, let's say you want to be a wedding planner, chances are, you love socializing with people and you go to a lot of networking events and that's probably where you want to start in your business anyways. But if you were really a numbers person and you were a business person and saying, I want to sell widget X at a very large volume, you're probably already kind of aware of what these markets look like, and you know, who's using what platform. But there's an answer, which is, it shouldn't feel overwhelming. It is overwhelming when you start to think about all the platforms out there, but it shouldn't be, you could sit down and without getting super technical, you could Google it and say like, you know, what is the demographic of people who are on Instagram, you know, what kind of people, what's their age group? And then you could use a little bit of common sense. It's not always that clear. At some point, you're going to get to a degree where you're like, I don't know. And at that point, you have to actually go out and do some numbers, like you have to go out and try something and figure out what the churn rate is, and stuff like that. Because at some point, you're going to be paralyzed, you're gonna be like, I don't know, should I use Instagram? Should I use Facebook? You know what, I don't have an answer for you. We got to run two campaigns, not spend too much money, see what happens. And then, Hey, look at that, way more engagement on Facebook. Okay, so let's focus there, at least until you grow to a certain point and you have enough maturity to start justifying expanding your marketing budget. So I think that the biggest problem is getting overwhelmed. I think that is number one issue for especially if it's your first business or something like that, it could feel like, Oh, my God, where do I start, I think that it's not as hard as long as you are willing to do a little bit of homework, and then combine that with a little bit of willing to throw a little bit of money and see and a little bit of money and see what sticks and what doesn't stick. If you're not willing to do either of those, then you're going to have a really hard time or you're going to have to have an amazing friend circle that is just the perfect network. Otherwise, you're going to really struggle to get things off the ground.

Dave Erickson 28:17
I want to go back to Botond’s t-shirt business. Let's say he had come up with his t-shirt business, he has a couple of designs and he has his kind of product differentiation that he came up with. He's decided that he wants to make the Amazon of t-shirts and to do that he's going to need, I don't know, a billion dollar investment from VC companies and all he's got is basically a basic product concept. So there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are in the same position, they have a product concept, digital product, or a physical product or website and E commerce and to get started, they're gonna need some money, right? So they're either going to angels or VCs, or whatever the mechanism is, they're going to put together an investment deck, a business plan, etc. And the key question that investors tend to always have in going through these types of decks is, how do you know that the product that you've thought up, has a market and fits the needs of a market? So this is pre business, this is pre-startup. So let's say that's where Botond is going to create the Amazon of t-shirts. How would he go about using product market fit? To answer the question that the potential investors would have? How do you know your product really fits the market and will be successful?

Izzy Aspler 29:45
So Dave, first of all, yeah, great question. Everything that I've been saying so far is more from the point of perspective of somebody who wants to be a small business owner. You know, as soon as you're getting venture capital, if you're owning a part, you know, they're, you know, your evaluation of a company that's worth $0 is whatever they decide you're worth. So they're buying a part of you. So just a warning right off the bat that they will and the other warning is that, and this will tell this is a part of the answer, is that capital investors are looking for return on their investment, right. So their ROI is fast. They're not looking at you, like you have a vision of changing the way the world works and the way that people wear clothes. The capital investor is wondering, How can I just put as many of these shirts into a Walmart as soon as possible or something like that. It's very different, that's not necessarily the same headspace, but if you can think about the return on investment, you're basically making a case for return on investment. So obviously, if you have sales, you can show some kind of a vector. So a vector is a combination of the rate of sales, and how much sales are growing by and they can project. So you don't need a ton of sales. If you can show them that it's quadrupling, every month, that's probably, you could go very early and say, Look, obviously I'm doing something right here. If you are in a situation where you're not making any sales, then you really need to convince them that the MVP is amazing. So you need to have a good business case and you need to have a good product and they have to make it. It has to be tangible. So you know, if you come to them with something that is hypothetical and there's no sales, then don't bother. I don't think anyone's valuation is going to be 100 bucks. They're going to take 50% of your company. Here's $50, Good luck to you. You're looking for money, right? You're looking for a sufficient amount of money to bring it to market. So yeah, I mean, this almost sounds like a Dragon's Den situation. It's like you have the shirt, you show up in front of a bunch of angel investors, you show them the shirt, you make them put on the shirt, and they're like, Wow, this is an amazing shirt. I can't imagine how else you'd be able to get investors unless you had sales. So I think that to me it’s a closed case. I can't imagine any other realistic game.

Iman Kaur 32:24
While you are actually choosing a product, in a very initial stage, would you choose a product which you believe in? Or would you choose a product which people are looking for? You know what I mean? Do you know that there is a demand for it? But you don't believe in it that much? You know what I mean? Like you don't like that sort of thing, but people do like it and you know there's gonna be a big market for it.

Izzy Aspler 32:52
Yeah, I mean, I think it's a bit more of an ethical question, or a kind of a philosophical question, but you don't need to believe in your product. I think you need to believe in your business or something like that. I don't know if that's much of an answer. But you know, I could sell something that I have no need for, but I still need to believe that somebody needs it. Otherwise, you know, you can use strong sales tactics, but I don't work with people like that. I want to do soft sales, I want to educate people. So basically, I'm a UX designer, as well as in training. So to me, you got to talk with people and this is kind of something that should be going on all the time. This is not specific, but you should be talking to people and learning about their pain points. It's just a general statement, you should try it, if empathizing is understanding people's pain. So talk to people, understand what they're going through, get a point of perspective that's outside of your own, and then you will see, opportunities will start coming up. And those will probably be the type that are not your own personal passion projects. What will happen is, your passion will become helping people and then that will broaden your horizon to every product category out there. It's not one, it's not the right way, that's just one of the other ways for people who love designing stuff, they have a cool idea and they want to bring it to the world. So in that case, you're coming from it the exact opposite way. You are evangelizing something and you're out there to let everybody know. So yeah, those are two totally different ways of approaching business and they're both totally valid. So I don't know if that answers your question, but I don't think it's right or wrong. I just wouldn't. I don't advise or want people to be going around selling something that they don’t believe in secretly, I think it's stupid and they think that their customers are dumb, and they're trying to take advantage of them. I just don't like that. It's not good, not good energy. I don't want people putting that out in the world. Sadly, it's a reality. But I don't, I haven't worked with somebody like that in a long time.

Dave Erickson 35:16
Well, I mean, you get companies that have developed a business and have a line of products and sometimes their attitude is, or their thing is, We need a new product. So let's just come up with a product. Now, product market fit, I think would work with them in the sense that, okay, they have a line, they have a line of t-shirts that, you know, are all heavy metal based, and they decide they want to go into surf shorts, they don't really know the surf market, they don't know the short market, but they want to have a new product. They believe very deeply in heavy metal t-shirts, but you know, they want to have surf shorts, because maybe one of their kids, you know, likes surfing, but they don't know the market. So I assume in this situation, Product Market Fit would be something very valuable for them, because they're trying to enter a new market with a new product. Even though they don't necessarily believe in it because their heart and their passion is heavy metal t-shirts, they have a desire to grow that business, even if it isn't coming from the heart. In that sense, I think that might be a valid viewpoint for doing that correct?

Izzy Aspler 36:28
I would, I'm not convinced yet. Maybe. I would argue that, It's like, uh, you know, companies have assets and you typically want to leverage what you have and expand in a logical way. So, you know, the first thing I would be asking is why surfing shorts? Why not heavy metal shorts? Where did this extra pivot come from? So I'm not convinced that argument would make sense from even a business standpoint. But you know, you'd have to make a case. I think that's the first name. Botond, I’ll let you interject,

Botond Seres 37:09
Heavy Metal Surf Shorts. Perfect right?

Izzy Aspler 37:14
Yes and that is so spot on, because that is exactly a UX like insight. It's like, Who's assuming that heavy metal people don't like surfing? Right? That's like, people walking around with their own lack of perspective. So that could be another good point. But I do think that you should have some kind of relationship with the products that you sell. I think it's just really hard. I do think that a lot of companies are like, We need a product, right? But I think that the cost of doing it that way, is that there's a lot of human cost in that. So it's like, there're schisms inside of the organization; people may find that they're doing a job they no longer are interested in. So I would say beware. I mean, you could do it, but again, I'm going back to the argument that there's literally millions and millions of products yet to be made that everyone needs. So then it just becomes really a question of why this product? Maybe we should stop and do a little bit of market research, take a count of our assets and our aptitude and then make a more wise decision in terms of what we're investing in.

Iman Kaur 38:29
So I feel like there's a new market strategy people are using instead of telling them why my product is better. They kinda draw you in, attract you to that product. Let's say I would like there to be a lot of shirts on Amazon. It's hard for you to just put your shirt up there. And the price for most of the shirts are like $20, $19 or $15. And you put a shirt up there, which is like $60. Okay, 999 people, they're like, Oh, my God, why is this so expensive? They're actually gonna click on it by themselves, and they're gonna check , Okay, what's the difference? Why do you feel like this is what people want? I'm sure companies do it. Same product, same quality, and just different prices, you know? Do you think this is something?

Izzy Aspler 39:09
So I'll talk a little bit about cognitive science in this. This is a little bit on the UX side. It's a little bit more like marketing. So there's a real effect. Obviously, it kind of, it's the cheekiness of like, how's the fit? I think that doing something that's unexpected catches people's attention. It's just a way of differentiating from your market. It could be anything from I'm hot, I'm a dentist who paints his walls in polka dots, right? You walk in you're like, Well, that's interesting. The whole dentistry place is polka dotted and all the hygienists wear polka dot, you know, clothing or something like that. That can be differentiating, and people may laugh at that, but it could be an extremely effective way of getting people to go to your dentistry. So it's a differentiation effect. I mean, it works. You can end up having an incredible margin if you do it and there's no real value underneath. It works all the time in lifestyle products, it comes with it’s caveat, which is you have to protect the brand, you can't have it going on sale, you can't water down the market, because then there's an exclusivity effect that happens. So be wary, you go into that market, understand how that game works, you play that game and if you don't play by the rules, you will fail. So, and then you spend a lot of money on your marketing and your image PR becomes very expensive. So you're not necessarily getting ahead. And the people that make the most money, I think, are the ones that sell the ones that make a fraction of pennies. It's like the shower curtains for $2 and targets that make way more money than most like luxury brand products. So it's a you know, numbers usually end up adding up. You know, you're probably not going to be Louis Vitton, but yeah, I mean, I think that there is a middle ground and the middle ground is, I'm gonna make something that's slightly better than everybody else's thing, slightly nicer cotton, a better fit, you know, and then I am going to charge more because I want people to understand that this isn’t crap, excuse my expression. And, another effect, which is setting the price too low, could have undesirable effects. These things, sometimes this has to be tested out, because these are so many hypotheticals you have for this kind of market fit, maybe change the price around and see what happens. But um, yeah, I think that's justifiable. But keep in mind, it comes with caveats. Everything is string attached, there's no such thing as just raising the price and everything is well. You got to do some branding to justify that. Yeah, it's got to be something about the shirt. Otherwise people will click but they won't buy. At least I don't believe they will. So do we need to do research to see? Of course, yeah.

Botond Seres 42:03
This just occurred to me. So what's your opinion on manufactured scarcity? And to even give you an example like Supreme, they always do, like, I don't know, we only released 10 of these products. It's a break, but it has Supreme Britain on it. So it must be expensive.

Izzy Aspler 42:22
I mean, I think it's collectibles. I mean, you know, it's not for me, but it's a market. It is talking about maybe not being passionate about something but understanding a customer's needs. There are people who want to collect, there's nothing wrong with it.

Botond Seres 42:39
I never made this connection. I always thought about it as a clothing brand, I never made the connection of collecting with that.

Dave Erickson 42:48
I collect Hot Wheels. So I know that market, and it is a market where the value of one is always a perceived value, because it's usually an older product that was sold for $1.99 30 years ago and now it's $800, because nobody can find very many of them or there's a need at that moment. So collectibles are a good market kind of analysis you want to study. Artificial pricing, and pricing is based on demand and value. Yeah, collectible markets are really something interesting to study.

Izzy Aspler 43:23
Dave, it's something and Botond as well, it’s very interesting. Turn it on your head. What are luxury brands, in the collectible sense? So the more expensive, the smaller the amount of people that could buy the product and so the more exclusive it becomes. So that's why it's so important that these products only sell to so many people. Supreme would not be worth anything if everyone was wearing it. And so you know, there are people whose identity is somehow tied into exclusivity class. Again, not for me, but I'm not going to sit here as a UX designer and judge, that is not my job. And if somebody wants to come up with an exclusive brand, I will help them make it an effective, exclusive brand. The truth is, we all are exclusive to something, like we all like to belong to our little clubs and stuff like that. So it's in us all. It just doesn't get expressed as a logo on our shirt. So I think that's a, yeah, if you can understand that; I think you can kind of think that's a whole other world of marketing. But yeah, it's cool, it's a whole conversation. We can do a whole podcast on that.

Dave Erickson 44:36
Well, maybe we will. I do want to ask another question; kind of the connecting question. You know, we've been talking mostly about different kinds of physical products for sale, but a lot of you know, there are physical products and now there's digital products and that's getting expanded even more with things like the metaverse and you know, all these virtual products that aren't physical, but also even just services that are sold, you know, through internet, SaaS products, those types of things. Is there a difference in the way that you go about determining market fit between physical products and digital products?

Izzy Aspler 45:22
No, in the sense that I think that there is an analogy there. They're both analogous to physical things. So they're like, when you talk about SaaS services, software, there are physical services. You know, people pick up your car and park it for you or somebody comes in to do your laundry, dry cleaning. So in a nutshell, it's a question of convenience, and ease of use and does it give me that tingling feeling of feeling special, and I'm being taken care of, and I think that you have to make sure that the software is doing that. So we could talk endlessly about how to build UI and UX and do things like task flows using journey maps and figuring out what that is, but that is like, a whole thing. And it is, I think, a direct parallel to the service industry that we experience in the physical world and same with products. So now we see our NFT's. We also, this has been around for a long time, Second Life, I don't know if anyone knows what that is. That's around for 15 years, it was, for those who don't know, a virtual world, people bought virtual property, people made virtual goods and services, and people actually would pay real money for those things. So Metaverse, sorry, guys, this has been around for a while, two decades now, a long time, so it's nothing new, but um, yeah, there is a group of people who do. I guess they value it and NFT's is kind of the equivalent of like baseball card collecting. Whoa, that's a whole conversation too, because I have some problems with it. I think that there are some technological questions that I have, that I've not found answers to, but yes, I think that it’s the same thing. It's like, you want to charge a lot for physical, digital, you want to charge a lot for physical product, control the supply, you want to charge a lot for a digital product control the supply, you want to charge very little and sell a lot, sell shower rods or whatever it is, in Target. Streaming music services make a half a cent on an impression every time somebody listens, right, they're kind of related to each other. So when building products, you can look at the world for inspiration; there's a lot there that is going to translate that the way we build it is different. Using Agile, we're building off of things like bootstrapping, off of pre-existing talk technologies, leveraging stuff that is digital and on the shelf canned solutions. It is an incredible opportunity. If you understand the technology out there, you can get ideas up and running like that. Whereas opening up a brick and mortar is way more work, way more capital upfront, there's almost zero capital to start a digital product. So that's exciting. That's an opportunity, but you must be technologically inclined to do that or, again, you're gonna end up giving away all your profits to some developer to do it all for you. So you need upfront capital, let's just put it that way. There's all these trade offs. So it depends on your case.

Dave Erickson 48:53
One of the other connections is, since you have experience with UX and UI design, and we obviously are a development company in which Botond is a particularly good developer, is the relationship between digital product marketing fit and UX and development. There's a relationship there, right? Because you're basically taking the feedback you're getting from your research into whether the product fits the market and you're then having to adjust the development and adjust the product to take in this new data. Can you describe a little bit about how you see the most efficient way that that happens or how you would utilize product market fit to adjust the UX and development of a product?

Izzy Aspler 49:48
So this is a great question. So first of all, again, I kind of disagree with the premise of the implied statement. I think that collecting data and running the final product happens in the physical as well. The physical world is a waterfall for all intents and purposes; it's a waterfall because you're building, you're machining your steps, you're, you know, there’s so much preparation that goes into physically building something and the momentum of getting something physically built, you cannot just constantly change or you're going to burn money like nobody's business, you know? So you have to plan far ahead and lock things in. Quality control and testing is huge. On the flip side, in the digital market it's all about Agile development. So you're not really sure if you'll ever make it to market in time. If you try to approach it like a waterfall, your customers will be angry with you, because now the expectation is that my software gets pushed, updated every single week and is always incrementally improving based on my use. And the other thing is, and this is really interesting about digital products, is that digital products have such an impact on us, that it changes the way that we go about our day. So what we were doing with our phones two or three years ago is very different from what we're doing with them today. Even the way that we touch them is different. A good actual use case, and this was driving me insane for a long time, as I'm on my phone and when I'm on Safari on my iPhone, the bar to change the home, like where you type in the address is all the way on the top and I always have my thumb one handed on the bottom. Apple finally moved the bar to the bottom of the screen. But that was a big paradigm shift. You know, it sounds silly, but moving the address bar to the bottom of the phone, you know, if he had done that too early, then maybe people would have freaked out and they wouldn't have been comfortable with it. So when you're building things in an Agile environment using UX testing and research and you're getting your features and stress test, you're in a position to be able to do those kinds of minutiae changes incrementally over time. So that product evolves along with the customer base, along with the market so everything is moving in real time. So that can be very overwhelming and when you're building a digital product, the hardest thing for sure is coming up with an agile framework where you're able to move fast enough to deal with quality control issues, because that's a huge thing. And Ten testing and regression testing, which is a whole other conversation that we can talk about, and the market fit. So now to talk to the market fit sorry, that's just like a whole preamble. So with the market fit of the digital product, your rate of Agile is only as fast as your rate of updating your market fit. So if you're going to start developing something, and you don't have the market research to back it up, you are spending money in a very risky manner and you may even be taking the product in the wrong direction and this has certainly happened with products, digital products that have made choices and pissed off their user base, so beware. And I think that in terms of that, it goes back to this constant conversation, but when you have a digital product, one of the most amazing things about building digital products is that you can build into it, data collection. So every time somebody clicks, every time somebody interacts with the site, you're getting quantitative data, you are in real time seeing the growth and the churn rate and how long people spend on the page and how far do they scroll down? And so with that minutia, you can make the product fit, very fit as you go along. There's so much to that subject, but yes, there is, I mean, that's, I guess that's the best kind, and then again, there's a whole waterfall approach, which I guess we're not, it's really beyond the topic of this podcast, but there's all the interesting things about physical products and how we develop those.

Dave Erickson 54:21
A lot of testing for product market fit is asking questions about what type of products you would normally use, what are the products that have impacted your life, those types of things. But then there's very specific testing where you're trying to figure out, you know, the best mechanism for selling the product or marketing the product that involves a lot of AB testing. Do you have any insights or any kind of general AB testing recommendations or advice you would have for somebody who's trying to do some product market fit AB testing?

Izzy Aspler 55:01
Don't make it too complicated. You could do it in house. If you do outsource it, beware. I've had some horror stories. And it's very easy to have two versions of the website or two versions or slightly different versions of your product and you direct people randomly to both and you have to make sure it's random. That's incredibly important. Because if there's any bias, you're going to throw off all your numbers and then, that's it. I mean, make very small adjustments. AB testing is not for grandiose decision making, it's for like, Should the button be slightly bigger? You know, like, be very careful, don't get ahead of yourself, it's not even going to answer a lot of these funneling questions. It's because it's just going to change people's behavior when they're on your website. So that is probably more like serving, card sorting, and other kinds of stuff would be used for answering those questions.

Dave Erickson 56:02
Or if, you know, Botond really only has the manufacturing capability to manufacture one t-shirt, but he wants to know if he should manufacture this design with a white t-shirt or manufacture it with a blue shirt. He could do some AB testing with that to try to figure out what would be more popular. Is that correct?

Izzy Aspler 56:25
He could, yes. Make sure you have a wide enough market to test that on, because again, just make sure your data points are good enough data, because without enough data, it could be misleading. So there's just a warning to all.

Botond Seres 56:43
What I'm hearing is, I have no idea how much data is enough data. So what do you mean, when you say enough? I know it's very, it depends on the kind of question, but like to you what, would be enough data?

Izzy Aspler 57:01
Set a deadline for when you're bringing a product to market and set a budget for how much time and energy and money you're willing to try and discover that answer and then, respect those. And then act and that's it. Like I don't think you'll ever have the data to be 100% certain.

Dave Erickson 57:20
Try to collect as much as you can, and be good with that.

Botond Seres 57:25
Yeah, that's very interesting. So what Google and Facebook taught us, there's no such thing as enough data. Sorry, go ahead.

Iman Kaur 57:35
I have been a research assistant, too. So I think I would, instead of looking at the market, like which color sells the most, I would actually go with the thing like, Okay, what color attracts what kind of people psychologically? Some colors are just like that, you know what I mean? Like, psychologically, some things are, I always feel there’s a very deep relationship between psychology and when it comes to entrepreneurship as well, because psychologically, something's in the subconscious mind, we do like what we just don't know. And I feel like, especially for colors to you, like everyone goes with white. So I think that's a safe choice. That's a psychological choice.

Dave Erickson 58:14
I think it also depends on the market, because if you're looking at the heavy metal market, it would be black t-shirts that sell better than white t-shirts, right. So part of that is the demographic or the target market. But I think that your point is valid, that you can kind of collect some data from just the known psychological trends of the market. But I think the product market fit goes a little bit beyond that, right? Because you're trying to really kind of narrow in on what's really going to sell the best or fit the market the best.

Izzy Aspler 58:49
There's also, from a UX perspective, secondary and primary research. And so we have these things called industry experience, and at some point, it comes down to intimacy and experience. And so it's like, you know, how do you try to come up with a kid friendly analogy, but the best one that comes to mind say, What's the difference between pornography and art? Define it. It's impossible, but I think most people can recognize the difference between the two of them. So there's a lot of nuance and the same thing, it's like, you can look at a heavy metal shirt and it’s super cheesy and it's off, you know, Oh, why is it off? Like, you know, is the font not big enough? It's like, you know, you don't have to talk to some guy who goes to a lot of heavy metal concerts. You're barking up the wrong tree. So being able to do that, it comes with a combination of experience, that’s experience that helps you there and also, I think, honestly, the more you expose yourself to the world, the more you'll have an aptitude for knowing when to pull back and use the people around you and when to be like, you know, that's too many assumptions. Let's go and actually test some of these assumptions out. But that's an extremely hard, fine line to define what exactly that is.

Dave Erickson 1:00:15
All right. Well, Izzy, thank you so much. It has been a wonderful conversation. We look forward to talking to you again on a future podcast to explore product market fit or even UX design in the future. For all of our listeners, thank you very much. We look forward to our next podcast in a month, take care and happy trails.

That's it for this month's ScreamingBox technology and business rundown podcast. We look forward to seeing you all next month. Thank you very much for taking this journey with us. Join us for our next exciting exploration of technology and business in the first week of every month. Please help us by subscribing, liking and following us on whichever platform you're listening to or watching us on. We hope you enjoyed this podcast and please let us know any subjects or topics you'd like us to discuss in our next podcast by leaving a message for us in the comment sections or sending us a Twitter DM. Till next month. Please stay happy and healthy.


people, product, market, question, product market fit, heavy metal, fit, business, sales, money, building, shirt, caveats, talk, digital products, physical, sell, ux, digital, Dave Erickson, Izzy Aspler, Iman Kaur, Botond Seres

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Creators and Guests

Botond Seres
Botond Seres
ScreamingBox developer extraordinaire.
Dave Erickson
Dave Erickson
Dave Erickson has 30 years of very diverse business experience covering marketing, sales, branding, licensing, publishing, software development, contract electronics manufacturing, PR, social media, advertising, SEO, SEM, and international business. A serial entrepreneur, he has started and owned businesses in the USA and Europe, as well as doing extensive business in Asia, and even finding time to serve on the board of directors for the Association of Internet Professionals. Prior to ScreamingBox, he was a primary partner in building the Fatal1ty gaming brand and licensing program; and ran an internet marketing company he founded in 2002, whose clients include Gunthy-Ranker, Qualcomm, Goldline, and Tigertext.
Product Market Fit
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