Product Fit Checklist - A Method to Win Customers

What is a Product Fit Checklist?

A product fit checklist describes the benefits that your product offers to a target customer. Product fit checklists should explain to your ideal customer why they should use your product. Sales teams use similar checklists as an effective tool to qualify sales leads. However, checklists are just as effective for marketing to a digital audience.

Salespeople may use a printed or mental lead qualification checklist when they speak to new sales leads. Questions may be designed to determine what current solution the sales lead uses. Other questions may determine if they are already educated on the benefits of the product in front of them. Furthermore, some questions may help a salesperson discover if the customer is ready to make a purchasing decision. These checklists help salespeople determine how much time and effort to put into their pitch. Checklists reduce time spent on unqualified leads, thereby increasing the time spent focused on closing qualified leads.

While the concept is simple, the implementation differs from person to person. One salesperson may simply ask the qualifying questions in front of him. Another may make statements to the potential client to gauge their response to facts about the product being offered. And yet a third may discuss his experience with similar products, contrasting the positive experience of his product with negative experiences from other products. Additionally, the questions each salesperson includes in their own checklist may differ. One may focus on initial qualification, where another may focus on closing later-stage sales leads who have already joined 3-4 meetings. Some checklists may not have questions at all, but could be "yes/no" statements about the state of mind of the customer or the resources (money!) they have. It all depends on what you want to discover.

Customer, Sell Thyself

You can take this same approach—one typically driven by a salesperson talking to a single client—in your digital marketing. Adapt the approach just a tad and we can have customers find our product based on the benefits and outcomes they hope to achieve. Let's have customers qualify themselves. This approach relies on a product fit checklist, which can take the form of a web page that outlines the benefits of your product. Instead of you interviewing customers to determine if they are a fit for your product, customers will find your content and convince themselves.

Start by outlining the benefits of the product for a specific target group in the form of questions. After each question, explain why the benefit is something that the customer wants or needs. They already know what they want, but telling them you know what they want has a reinforcing effect. Your demonstrated understanding of their concerns indicate that your product is a good fit.

Know Your Target Audience

You need to understand who you are talking to before you can write an effective product fit checklist. If you target a small business with 10 employees, they won't care about your LDAP integration feature that lets employees log in with their Active Directory credentials. But if you are targeting a 1,000-employee enterprise that has already bought in to the Microsoft ecosystem, LDAP offers benefits that may be worth discussing. Focus only on the benefits that solve problems for your target audience.

To help promote Critic, I recently wrote a product fit checklist directed toward agencies. Compare that checklist to a similar one directed toward product companies. Both pages are clearly for the same product. They describe many of the same features, but most of the benefits are unique to the people I'm targeting. By taking this approach, I repurposed some content to a second target audience with minimal work. The first checklist took me roughly two hours to write. The second one took less than an hour. However, they are unique checklists. Product companies are not interested in the same benefits that attract agencies. Therefore, the product company's checklist doesn't include benefits that are not relevant to that target segment.

Writing Your First Product Fit Checklist

Begin your first checklist by identifying the target market segment you wish to pursue. Is it stay-at-home dads with two or more kids? Product owners who outsource UI/UX design? Professional gamers in the United States? Whoever it is, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Certainly, if you have a product for them, you already have at some point. But consider for a moment: what is your target person most concerned about? What do you hope that person gets out of using your product? How will they feel after using your product?

These concerns and outcomes help you identify product benefits. However, benefits may be difficult to elucidate right away, and that's okay. To get things moving, write down one or two things that will happen after using your product. Do you make some task easier for your customers? If so, the benefit is that you are saving them time or money. Do you send an email after some automated task is completed successfully? Peace of mind that an important task is handled may be the benefit.

Once you have the benefit, frame it as a question. "Do you wish you had an extra hour in the day?" Follow the question with an explanation. "Feature X automates Boring Task Y so you get an hour back every day to do more important things!" Your explanation should describe features that lead into the benefit and elaborate on the outcomes customers should expect.

Validating Your Checklist

Once you've completed a first draft of your checklist, share it with some people in your target audience. How do they respond? The best case scenario is that your test audience starts paying for your product. Falling short of that, do they believe your product benefits address their biggest concerns? Use their feedback to revise your product fit checklist. Once your test audience agrees with your benefits, you are ready to share your checklist with the world.

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