February 22, 2022
8 mins

How to Identify Community Market Fit

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In the startup industry, many founders obsess about getting their products to market. This is widely recognized as the tipping point of the process of starting a business since it signifies that the business is on the right track to something meaningful. The right product-market fit can lead to rapid growth, thrilled customers, and successful fundraising.

In recent years, several successful businesses have begun with an existing community before they create anything else. The communities are their "product." If a community always solves a problem for a member, they've discovered a problem-community match! Its distinct mix of members and activations or even content solves the problem of every member.

And the startup industry is beginning to recognize the importance of community for accelerating development and establishing an environment. Take a look at this article in a16z on the "go-to-community" approach.

Take SoleSavvy, A group of people who love sneakers. Their primary concern for members? Stay up to date with the latest trends in sneaker fashion and meet other sneakerheads. Launching with the Slack Community and a little bit of automation to release new sneaker releases This startup was able to find problems with the community. The SoleSavvy team created a "product" with a low cost and the potential to become an enormously profitable company - They now have a mobile app that has the most reliable features.

What is the best way to measure the problem-community fit? By making minor adjustments, like startups do when they calculate the market fit of their products. Here are some suggestions which could be helpful:

Problem-Community-Fit Survey

In an attempt to determine the market fit of a product, Sean Ellis, CEO of GrowthHackers.com and a startup marketing expert created a useful inquiry :

What would you think If you could not make use of the product?

  • Very unhappy
  • Somewhat disappointed
  • I'm not disappointed (it isn't all that great)
  • NA - I no longer use it

This question is simple enough to apply directly to the problem of community and fit. Simply ask"How do you feel if you were unable to participate in the group?" The potential for evaluation and learning is enormous in this case.

The method is harsh and effective. As an example, Slack has ~40% of users saying that they would be "very dissatisfied" when they were unable to longer access the software (Slack! The chat platform that millions of users use every day!). For more information on the measurement of product-market fit using this method, take a look at this article by Superhuman.

Tactic 2 Measurement based on the Community Stage

A different framework developed by Edtech serial entrepreneurs John Danner proposes measuring product-market-to-market fit using the company's stage. For instance, first conversion and 30-day retention are of importance significantly more at the beginning stage, whereas revenues and month-over-month retention matter much more at a later stage. In the world of community, these principles still hold true.

In my experience of working within communities, the stage-based model can be used. For instance, an entrepreneurship community might measure the early stage of fit using the 30 days of positive interaction with mentors or educational material. Later on, however, a monthly engagement with investors, corporate partners, or other investors might be a more valuable measure of success.

Tactic #3"X Out of 10" Test "X from 10" Test

Another method of determining community fit issues is to use an "X from 10" test. It's simple to ask your community members to tell you how many of their posts are of value. This method is a twist of net Promoter Scores (NPS); however, I believe it's much more concrete.

I recently completed this exercise with one of the communities I am a part of, which is Slack. The first step was to write down the issue I would like the community to resolve for me.

Then, I picked ten random posts from different channels. These included introductions by new members, comments of the public, as well as positions on the events. I carefully read each to determine if it solved my issue. Suppose I discovered six or more posts valuable and actionable. In that case, I can affirm that this community helped me solve my problem, and I decided to continue participating with it every week!

If the community fails to pass a member in the "X from 10" test, the community manager may do a few things:

  • Analyze your personas: Perform an honest assessment of the community members' personalities. Does it match your type of population? If not, this person might not be well treated by your community.
  • Do a thorough content review. Perform this task by yourself, as the Community Manager. Choose a larger sample of maybe 100 posts. The majority of the posts need to align with what you believe (and the opinions of members) contribute to your community members.
  • Focus on the quality If you notice that your content is not up to the mark, you might think about introducing new methods that are based on cohorts, like onboarding based on cohorts topics, channel adjustments or channel adjustments, or even adding the friction or expectations of baseline members' participation.

These strategies can be beneficial in evaluating the communities you belong to or operate in. Keep in mind that these communities can support individuals who have different backgrounds and issues to resolve, therefore it is important to search for patterns, conduct frequent tests, and always look for those that have value.

The art of finding the right the right fit between a community and a problem requires practice and time. Once you've achieved it, you'll need continuous effort to keep the value-delivery that is it's less of an endpoint and more of trend lines. In the world of startups and communities alike, there is nothing more important than communicating with your users, listening attentively and absorbing the data you gather and then acting on the information little by little. Good luck!

Digital Artist Prateek
Bug Planter, Fixer
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