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Malcolm Lewis | Pitch Deck Coach

Is it time to rethink Product-Market Fit (PMF)?

Product-Market Fit (PMF) definition | Pitch Deck Coach

It's time to rethink product-market fit (PMF).

What's wrong with PMF?

Most of the issues comes from the broad nature of the term itself. By definition, product-market fit talks about products and markets.

The problem is that products have many use cases. And markets have many segments.

And too many startups claim PMF when in fact their traction is fragmented across multiple product use cases and multiple market segments.

They actually don't have PMF at all when you use a refined definition of PMF that requires a substantial % of happy pay-stay-and-reference customers for a unique combination of product use case and market segment.

How do we 'fix' PMF?

The simple answer is to *refine* the definition of PMF.

Instead of defining PRODUCT-MARKET Fit as a unique combination of PRODUCT and MARKET...

Define it as a unique combination of a PRODUCT USE CASE and MARKET SEGMENT.

This tweak adds *specificity* that promotes *focus* and *alignment* across the PMF process, from product to marketing, sales, and customer support.

Everything is easy once you add these two subtle qualifications.

PMFs are still squares on the checkerboard of TAM. They're just smaller.

And startups still grow logically by systematically expanding into adjacent squares on the checker board of TAM.

Their expansion is just more incremental.

Instead of adding products or markets they add product use cases and market segments.

PMF expansion case study

This incremental expansion is exactly what happened at my favorite PMF expansion example, HubSpot.

They started with one use case (inbound marketing) and one market segment (US SMBs).

And then they simply added more use cases and more market segments.

And now they solve dozens of product use cases (across marketing, sales, and customer support) for many market segments (small, medium, and enterprise companies in every major market on the planet).


Achieving scalable PMF is still ( and will always) be the goal for every early-stage startup. But we must refine our definition of PMF to separate the real PMF winners from the PMF pretenders.

DM me if you need a fresh pair of eyes on your pitch deck narrative or slides.

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