Directionally On-Target Activities in Lieu of Goals

I had a chat with two early founders who’ve built a product together but haven’t found product–market fit yet. They need to refine the product until it solves the customers’ problem well enough that the customers will readily pay for it. The topic of goals came up, and they were stumped. They weren’t sure what they should focus on, given that things will change a lot as they search for product–market fit. Sure, they could say they want two hundred customers in the quarter, but that goal isn’t helpful if customers churn just as quickly as they came in because the solution to their problem isn’t good enough.

I agreed with these founders: specific goals around business metrics may not be the best thing for their situation right now. I suggested a different kind of goal: directionally on-target activities. What activities could they do regularly that align with where they want to be (at product–market fit)? They can control whether the activities are completed or not, so achieving these goals is totally within their control and gives the team something to celebrate and rally behind. The founders must choose activities that they are confident will get them closer to the destination if they execute them consistently.

The founders took this to heart. They told me they’ve now set up a few directionally on-target activities. The main one is regular sessions with current customers, prospective customers, and prospects they failed to convert to customers. They never know exactly what they’ll hear from the conversations or what the new insight they acquire from them will require them to do, but they know they’ll get closer to a better understanding of their customers and, eventually, product–market fit.