Written by Luis Johnson

P.I.B. – Identification

P.I.B. – Identification

Figure out the best product and/or feature for your target audience

Pivot was a term coined by Eric Reese that describes the arrow between customer validation and customer discovery. A pivot basically answers a basic question: what are you supposed to do when your hypotheses don’t match reality? That happens when your business model doesn’t match what’s going on outside in the real world. If we have followed a lean approach, building the product iteratively and incrementally and keeping our burn rate incredibly low, a pivot will only represent a change to one or more of the business model components. This might be changing our customer segment, or, for instance, changing the revenue model from freemium to another kind. I strongly advise charging for your product from day 1 so that you can test if the price is really a barrier for your target market.

Pivoting, however, shouldn’t be confused with iteration. Iteration is indeed a minor change to one or more of the business model components. For example, iteration would be changing a price from $9.99 to $6.99, while instead, a pivot would be a change of pricing from freemium to a subscription. That’s a more substantive change. The key idea here is that whether things don’t go as planned, pivoting allows you to get out and make the needed changes.  The opposite process of pivoting is persevered, that happens when hypotheses meet the reality. In the past, only the founders could decide to pivot, but with a lean model that uses customer development as its foundation, pivoting is a team decision based on the client feedbacks. Another thing about pivots is that their use should be kept at a constant speed and a constant tempo and that you want your entire company operating with speed and tempo in decision making just like a metronome.

The Identification stage level operates on two levels: Product and Features.

During Prioritization, you prioritized the products and features you think would be more successful for your coming business. Now, during product identification, you test different products by selling them for the propose of validating which one is performing better in the actual market. Assuming you have 2 existing products or services (P/S 1 and 2), you sell both of them at the same time together with products or services that you don’t even have (NO-P/S 1 and 2). For those last products, for instance, you can just build a landing page and measure if the products have aroused users’  interest. Also, as said earlier, you want to test the price barrier (of course, as you don’t have the products you can just refund the client after the purchase).

To get the volume that you need to validate your tests, you don’t want to dig into traditional digital marketing activities such as SEO and content marketing, simply because they are long-term strategies and, besides, would require you to already have a clear focus on your product to position yourself, while instead you don’t even have a real product (yet). At the same time, PPC (at any level) would be too expensive to sustain a mere experiment, and referrals, viral, etc. are too premature to be implemented since your product is not yet formed.

Step 2. Test the Riskiest Assumption


Get to know from the very start what is likely to kill your business or to make it succeed

Once you have written down all the assumptions that you want to test and you have categorized them, you will be able to identify which are your riskiest assumptions. The riskiest assumptions are those that either can potentially kill your business or make it succeed; thus, no wonder why you want to verify these first.

Sometimes, your riskiest assumption is the problem you’re solving, sometimes it’s about the solution and sometimes it’s about the implementation. Regardless, your riskiest assumption is going to change during your product lifespan. Once you’ve identified your riskiest assumptions, you will turn to a hypothesis statement. A hypothesis statement should contain what you believe, and how do you know if you are right.

As Janice Fraser puts it:, “We believe people like customer type have a need for (or problem doing) need/action/behavior. We will know we have validated this when we see quantitative/measurable outcome or qualitative/observable outcome[1].”

Let me give you an example: “we believe that there is a large set of pet owners who have a need for offsetting the cost of pet ownership. We will know that we have validated this when we get a thousand people to sign up for more information about reducing the cost of pet ownership.” A solution would sound like: “we believe that those people who like pet owners, will agree to rent their pets to other people for money. We will know that this is true when we get to a thousand people to make profiles of their pets and offer them for hire.”

An implementation would sound like: “we believe that our company can help pets to do valuable work. We will know that this is true when we’ve successfully gotten jobs for a hundred pets with other people and had eighty percent of those people say they were satisfied with their experience.”   When you pick your riskiest assumption, you have to deal with the fact that you might be entirely wrong and you might have to start over; that is the hardest part about this part of the process. You could be wrong and you have to design your test in a way that you will believe the results regardless of what is actually convenient for you to believe.

Step 3. The Market Fit


Product market fit means not passively honoring what the market wants, but shaping both the product and the market

What comes first: the product, the market or the marketing of a product? Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Mosaic and Netscape and now on the board of Facebook, recently said that product market fit is “being in a really good market and meeting the needs of that market[2].”

P.I.B. Identification


Sean Ellis, from a growth hacking side rather than purely entrepreneurial one, says that you shouldn’t even think about sales and marketing until you’ve got product market fit, and, more importantly, until forty percent of your market says that it’ll be devastated if it didn’t have your product. Now, those of you who work in marketing might feel in trouble by the fact that it seems a common pattern to get your product to reach market fit before you even start your marketing. The truth is that, too often, we are asked to take a poor product to a good market or a good product to a poor market; instead, you need a willing market and a great solution.

If the product is good but the market is not there, meaning that you can’t achieve a product market fit, then you won’t achieve growth. Simply, there is no way that we, as marketers, can change that: marketing can’t fix a poor market fit. However, if your product is good and the market is willing, then marketing has a very active role in grasping the current need of that market and shaping future need. Make sure that your product market fit is complete, ongoing and that somebody else’s product doesn’t fit that market anymore, and that’s what marketing is about.


In soccer, the skill is not to kick the ball to where the player is, but to kick the ball to where you want the player to be. There are a couple of pieces in this example: one is knowing where you want the player to be and the other is, of course, getting to that point. In the same way, we as marketers should be leading the market to a point, instead of just meeting current market needs. If you’re an expert in solving a particular problem, you need to know where that problem is going and where the solutions to that problem are going.  You need to look at it a product perspective, so you’re thinking about where that ball needs to be in the future and you, of course, should be shaping your product to match where you think that market is going to end up. But you also need to move the market, so the market is there, ready for the product. Product market fit means not passively honoring what the market wants, but shaping both the product and the market. Changing what the market believes is a great product market fit.