As consultants, we often use quick quotes or pithy sayings to explain new or complicated concepts. Sometimes, we even resort to movie quotes to get our point across—although I often quote movies for fun, too. Lately I’ve been quoting a line from Tommy Boy about how Tommy’s father, Big Tom Callahan, “could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves” to describe a new concept that is a big part of my work, Product-Market Fit.
What is Product-Market Fit?
In the simplest terms, Product-Market Fit describes the alignment between a company’s product offer and their target market. It’s a qualitative metric that ranges from “good” (your product offer is well suited for your target market), to “bad” (it is not). In the quote, the ketchup popsicle is product offer and the woman in white gloves is the target market. Watching the movie, the audience realizes instinctively that this is a bad Product-Market Fit and, therefore, Big Tom Callahan was heck of a salesman.
Why does it matter?
The primary benefit of a good Product-Market Fit is lower sales friction, which should lead to lower sales costs, higher sales productivity, and, ultimately, a higher share of the target market than you might have gotten with a bad Product-Market Fit. A good Product-Market Fit should also simplify demand generation and reduce upfront marketing costs and a bad one should do the opposite. In other words, if you have a good Product-Market Fit, you won’t need to hire someone like Big Tom to sell your product.
Why you don’t want to sell ketchup popsicles to women in white gloves
For those leaders who insist that they can make Product-Market Fit irrelevant by hiring more salespeople like Big Tom Callahan, I propose the following scenario: what if he succeeded in selling that ketchup popsicle to the woman in white gloves? What then? Do you expect she will enjoy it? Would you? And even if she did, what are the odds that she won’t make a mess of her white gloves (sure, she could take them off, but then why wear them at all)? Now, instead of increasing revenue and margin, you’ll lose revenue (refund and maybe a coupon for a free Sriracha smoothie on her next visit) and margin (you don’t really want her to return her half-eaten ketchup popsicle, do you?).
In other words, your top salesperson just set you back on every conceivable metric you use to measure the success of your business. This is why we initiate client conversations with concepts like Product-Market Fit.
Rob Johnson, VP of Products and Platforms