How would you change your approach to growth if marketing was completely ineffective? In a no-marketing, no outbound sales, world, how would you get new customers?

You would probably have to focus on finding market demand and ensuring what you sold met that demand. Customers would be a function of the environment. It would be the total available customers in your area divided by the number of vendors there.

This is pretty close to how things actually work.

Marketing is a layer that we add on top of available demand. It amplifies your visibility in an environment, but it can’t actually create new customers, only harvest the available ones.

In the startup world, there’s a concept of product market fit. Product market fit is where your product matches what the market wants. It’s expressed as the feeling of effortless growth: the market seems to pull a stream of purchases from your business. Startups are all about innovation and fit is where most of them fail. But even in conventional businesses, few have product market fit.

We get our offers wrong and sell products that are not quite right. Or we sell a product that has market demand somewhere, but not in the market we’re selling to. Even when we get it right, it’s only temporary, because the market is always changing. The consequence of the mismatch of market and product is that we bleed available customers.

If you’re not seeing as many new customers as you’d like, and you have a basic level of visibility where people buy, it may be worth looking at how well your product meets the needs of the market.

Featured image is The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, by Amadeo Preziosi, late 19th century. Used under public domain.