How you know when you have product-market fit with Dawn Verbrigghe of Jottful

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Welcome to another episode of 3-Minute-Marketing, the only marketing podcast that brings you useful, binge-able 3-minute insights from the world’s top growth marketing leaders.

Today’s guest is Dawn Verbrigghe, CEO and Founder of Jottful, a software company that co-builds and manages professional, affordable, hassle-free websites for small and medium-sized businesses. Dawn is a seasoned SaaS marketing leader and entrepreneur who previously worked for SaaS brands such as Nutshell CRM, Keywee, Intent Media, and Merchantry.

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Dawn is an expert when it comes to product-market fit. So my question for her is, “How do you know when you have a product-market fit?”.

Show notes:

  1. Product-market fit is one of the most misunderstood definitions in marketing. You know you have product-market fit when you survey your customers and 40% of them say they’d be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product.
  2. It’s the moment between customer validation and customer creation, but neither of those requires distribution.
  3. Venture capitalists will assume that you haven’t achieved product-market fit unless you have also found a distribution channel and people are banging down your door asking for your product.
  4. To find out if you’ve achieved product-market fit, you can look at quantitative things like your NPS score, whether or not your customers are repurchasing from you, or your retention rate if you have a SaaS product.
  5. You can also look at qualitative measures, which are important if you aren’t yet in a place where you can get all the quantitative data you need. Are your customers actively telling other people about you? Do they do things like send you gifts and Christmas cards? Do they volunteer to do video testimonials for you? Are they writing five-star reviews on Google?
  6. Some people argue that you need the 15% word of mouth growth without spending anything on marketing to have product-market fit, but that works better for network businesses or consumer businesses. B2B businesses need to utilize tools like advertising and content marketing.


– You’re listening to Three Minute Marketing where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable bite size insights. Now here’s your host, Chris Mechanic.

– [Chris Mechanic] Hey everybody, welcome to another episode. Today I’m speaking with Dawn Verbrigghe. She’s a seasoned SaaS marketing leader and entrepreneur who founded Jottful which is a software company that co builds and manages professional, affordable looking hassle free websites for SMBs. Before that, Dawn had a stored career as a SaaS marketer, heading up marketing for several SaaS brands, including Nutshell, CRM, Kiwi, Intent Media and Merchant Tree. So very impressive background. Welcome to the show today Dawn.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Thanks so much for having me Chris.

– [Chris Mechanic] It’s great, yeah, it’s great to have you. Well, let’s jump right into it. I know that you’re an expert in terms of product market fit. Let’s talk a little bit about product market fit for the startups out there and the entrepreneurs launching new stuff within existing companies. How do you go about finding that fit and how do you know once you’ve got it?

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, so I love that you pointed out that it’s not just for entrepreneurs, but it’s also for entrepreneurs who are building new products within existing companies. I think product market fit, is one of the most misunderstood definitions in marketing. And the reason why I suspect, is that it was popularized by Mark in one of his blog posts. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that blog post Chris.

– [Chris Mechanic] Not, no.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] About product market fit. So he said in the blog post two things. He said, number one, product market fit is essential and number two, you know you have a it when you’re growing really rapidly. Now, those are two really different concepts. So one is, your product is meeting the needs of your market and the second is, you have found a distribution channel or a way to rapidly scale it. And so I love some of the definitions that have come out more recently that helped to quantify when you’ve achieved product market fit. So for example Sean Ellis, I’m sure you know Sean Ellis. He said, “You have product market fit when you survey your customers and 40% of them said that they’d be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product.” Steve Blank came out and said, “Well product market fit is that moment between customer validation and customer creation, but neither of those require distribution.” When you talk to Venture Capitalists however, a number of them will assume that you haven’t achieved product market fit unless you have also found a distribution channel, unless people are banging down your door and asking for your product. So how do you know, whether or not you’ve achieved product market fit? Well, I would say there’s quantitative things you can look at. So you can look at your NPS score. You can look at whether or not your customers are rep purchasing for you, or if you have a SaaS product, like I’ve always worked in SaaS. What your retention rate is, how long are customers staying with you, look at it by cohort, or you can look at some qualitative measures, which are important if you aren’t yet in a place where you can get all the quantitative data that you need. So for qualitative information you can look at, are your customers actively telling a other people about you, right? Is there some word of mouth starting to get kicked around? Are they doing things, and I’m not kidding, we get this, do they send you Christmas cards? Do they send you gifts in the mail? Do they volunteer to do video testimonials for you? Are they writing five star reviews in Google? If you see kind of information, you can start to understand that you have product market fit, even before you’re able to quantitatively measure it.

– [Chris Mechanic] Brilliant, brilliant. Okay, so yeah, it sounds basically like there’s the enterprisey to do it where you’ve got your quantitative data sets but then there’s also the kind of bootstrapped way to do it in a way which makes a lot of sense. I mean, if you’ve got raving fan customers even without asking for them, then you’ve probably achieved product market fit.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, and some people would say that you need the word of mouth growth, the 15% month over month growth without using, without spending anything on marketing, strictly on word of mouth in order to have product market fit. And I would argue that word of mouth is virality which is a distribution method for some businesses, a distribution strategy for some businesses but not all businesses are going to be able to get 15% month over month growth through word of mouth. It works if you have a network business, works if you have a consumer business maybe but especially not in B2B, that’s kind of tough. You probably need to do something else like advertising or content marketing, so forth.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah, no, absolutely. Well, how about you listener? Do you have product market fit? Probably you do. I bet, if you want to reach out to Dawn and speak with her, she can probably talk you through it. Dawn, how could folks get in touch with you if they’re interested to learn more about…

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, you can always send me an email. Pretty simple, I met Dawn D-A-W-N,

– [Chris Mechanic] Brilliant, all right, well, Dawn and I are going to continue wrapping here for a few more minutes. If you like this, please share it with a friend drop a like, or a comment for us. And otherwise just stick around. You should be able to see the bonus footage, either in a link somewhere around this video or it might actually just cut to it right after this. So I’m curious about Jottful and I’m just about, I know as a founder, you probably do a lot of the marketing, as well as seven other hats.

–  [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah.

– [Chris Mechanic] What’s driving business for you guys these days?

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, I love this question. I was actually just talking to an entrepreneur who’s early stage and he’s an engineer. And I said, “Well, do you have many customers yet?” And he said, “Well, we have about 30 to 40 customers.” And I said, “That’s great.” I said, “How many of them are paying?” And he said, “Oh, well, not very many of them.” So those aren’t really customers yet, they’re users, right? But you need to have a meaningful number of customers in order to be able to determine whether or not you have product market fit. So what we do at Jottful, is we assemble and launch websites for small business owners. So our customers are really those businesses for whom building their own website is impractical. They don’t have the time to do it, they’re doing this by themselves where they’re zero to four employees, very much like every business starts out, but hiring an agency and paying five grand is unaffordable. So what we do, is we take their content we assemble their website and we launch it, and we do that really affordably. And I started this because my mother owns a bridal shop and I was sick of doing her website for her and just kept wondering why is this so hard still for business owners to get online and get a basic website. And so that’s kind of where it came from. And yeah, you’re right in the beginning, I wore all the hats and I would say we got to product market fit very rapidly, which is a function of the fact that we had founder market fit, right? I didn’t come at this from a strictly technical perspective. I came at it from really understanding the customer problem and then applied technology to solve it. And so we did achieve product market fit very, very early on and I felt really good about that very quickly, then we took three years to figure out our distribution channel. And I applied sort of all the typical growth strategies of coming up with a list of possible distribution strategies that could work for us, prioritizing them by impact and by what we were, I thought we were most likely to be successful with which is at that time also partly based on what the founder thinks, wants to do and is good at, right? I’m only good at some things, not at others. So why assume that I’ll have success in those things and just kept working our way through it. And it’s super, super frustrating to find that distribution channel especially when you know that you have a product with customers who really, really love it.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] You’re just trying to figure out how to tell more people about it, but we’re there now. And so now we’re in the early stages of scale, which is really exciting, but getting there was a real head banger for three years.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah, so what is the distribution channel that you found?

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, so we are growing through YouTube advertising actually. I don’t know if you’ve had anyone on who’s done that, but it came out of this process of just doubling down on stuff that works. So I used to speak a lot at conferences back when we had conferences and I could give this really basic talk called how to get your small business online. I mean, nothing could be more basic. And I would say during the talk, look there are three ways you can get a website, could build it yourself, DIY, you can hire an agency, that’s expensive or there’s this third method which we call a do it together website, that’s what we do at Jottful. Inevitably, some people, maybe one or two business owners in the crowd would say, “Oh, that’s actually the right method for me, right? They’d sit through the talk. So they came to us very well qualified and I had the credibility of being on stage. And when the pandemic came and those opportunities dried up, I thought, “Wow, what if we took the same talk and did it through virtual events?” And we found that didn’t really work. And we said, “Well, what if we recorded one of these virtual events and just ran it as an ad on YouTube.” And lo and behold, we started getting customers. And so then we actually created a little bit more professional of an ad. We actually hired a little bit, we spent a little bit on video editing, right? We just kept doubling down and doubling down until it was clear it was going to work. So we raised some more capital and now we’re sort of tripling down on it, but it’s been a learning process of just having 10 things that fail, but finding the one thing that works and just digging in on that, digging in on it just relentlessly like a honey badger Chris.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah, well, I was actually just going to ask about that. So now that you’ve found that, I call that crack in the code by the way. You call it the distribution channel.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] It feels that way, yeah.

– [Chris Mechanic] I call it crack in the code. It’s like you were trying, trying, trying and finally you did it. So now, you are going to want to continue obviously investing in YouTube. Do you now look for another, cause I’m a believer, like I love multiple traffic sources. I don’t want to just be married to one. So do you go out and find more or do you just like literally laser focus and just double, triple down on YouTube?

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] We have two things going on. We have a short term strategy and a long term strategy. In the short term, we’re going to go through YouTube, grow through YouTube. And so we are just doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on that for sure. But we are also, we also know that we don’t want to have all of our eggs in one basket, and heaven knows when it’s someone else’s platform you want to be very, very careful with that, right?

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah.

–  [Dawn Verbrigghe]So we are building a long term strategy at the same time, which is around creating a community. So we’re building a base of small business owners who are following our content which is largely podcasts and through meetup events, but they’re becoming this part of this community that we’re building and growing, and then ultimately that will start to take over and become our primary distribution channel. But for now, it’s YouTube advertising. It also helps us diversify between paid and organic, which is nice too.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah, yeah, yeah, no that’s definitely smart. That community strategy. I was just going to say, or I was just thinking about building a list like so email addresses basically as a form of currency.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yes.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] ‘Cause you might say, hey, of every 1000 visits from YouTube or of every 100 visits from YouTube, maybe five of them become customers, maybe 10, but if you could of that 10 collect like 20, 30 email addresses that you can market to on an ongoing basis, that’s totally smart to do.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] But a community is even better, right? Because with a community, like that’s even much warmer than an email list would be.

– [Chris Mechanic] It is.

– [Chris Mechanic] The warmest form of email database really.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, it is and you own it. You could put the community on your own platform and really own that connection. But there’s a real upside to advertising, let’s be honest, aside from the fact that it’s expensive. You can convert cold traffic into leads pretty rapidly through advertising. Whereas content marketing is a longer slower burn. It’s content is evergreen. Building a community is evergreen. So the benefits of the effort we’re putting into it, are going to kick in over time. But in the near term, advertising is great because we can very reliably generate customers through advertising. We can turn up the volume, so to speak by spending more or we can turn it down by spending less at any given month. And it can be, our customer acquisition will be really reliable, whereas through community and content, it takes longer and it’s less predictable.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah, 100%. So let’s get back to product market fit but from a slightly different angle of, so knowing when you found it is one thing, and actually here, let’s have you, if you would indulge me and basically be my consultant for a minute here, you may or may not have seen this but we’re launching a coaching offer where historically we’ve been done for you, like full service. So it’s basically, hey, we’ll run your Google ads, we’ll run your Facebook ads, whatever. Where the coaching is more of a done with you and it’s more so for the smaller clients ’cause our typical clients are generally mid or larger businesses. And so we’re seeking product market fit but probably in an unscientific way in that like the leads that are coming in to us, we basically offer them each, I mean, depending on what we’re hearing during sales call, they’re either going to be a prospect for full service or a prospect for coaching, or maybe neither. So it’s kind of an unscientific way and we’re just sort of feeling our way into it. So we don’t even necessarily have much of a hypothesis to even go after, but is that the way that you would typically work it? So you would come up with the hypothesis that’s like, hey, we’ve got this new coaching offer. It’s probably for smaller businesses. Therefore like let’s set up some ad campaigns targeting smaller businesses and see what happens.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yeah, yeah.

– [Chris Mechanic] Where’s their…

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yes, and I think that your intuition that you first start by determining which niche you want to target, is the right direction. First, the niche then the channel and the message, right? Getting that niche took us a long time and I’ll tell you a big part of our search for distribution channel, was really around figuring out what that niche was going to be. And we were surprised by it and maybe this is relevant actually to your business as well, but we thought our niche was going to be industry focused. We thought maybe we’ll get it, we started bridal shops ’cause my mom is a bridal shop. We quickly learned, maybe they’re not the best customers, right? They’re like super, super creative, want to have all these bells and whistles and a big part of what we do is involve standardization which you have a done with you product, coaching product. There’s some standardization there, right? You need to be able to produce classes that you can, training materials that you can reuse with multiple different clients in the same area. So we looked at law firms, we have a bunch of law firms as customers, we like say hair salons. We looked into restaurants. I mean, we dove deep into every single one of these industries and then we finally one day realized, oh my gosh, it’s not an industry. Our niche is company size, specifically, companies with zero to four employees, because if you have more employees than that, you oftentimes have a marketer on staff. And as soon as you have a marketer on staff that marketer’s going to want to build their own website. So we need those businesses that are really, really small, zero to four employees. And you might find something similar too. It might be more about company size than it is about industry. And then once you know what niche is, then you can start to find the channels to reach them. But I agree with you that you start with the audience.

– [Chris Mechanic] Right, and you start essentially with a hypothesis based on your own intuition or your own logic and reasoning.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yep, absolutely.

– [Chris Mechanic] And then you just go one after another. So it’s like, boom, restaurants didn’t work. Let’s go , and you learn something as you go.

–  [Dawn Verbrigghe] Yes, exactly. And your hypothesis is reasons why this might work and reasons why it might not, and you test it out.

– [Chris Mechanic] And now, so what does that attempt look like? So it’s like, okay, we’re going to try restaurants say, so does that mean that you go and like update your website and update all your sales material, and all your email copy and whatnot, and basically do a fresh new go at it.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] I mean the best thing is just to start with things that don’t scale, right? I mean, you’ve heard that a million times. So what we would do, is we would spin up a landing page, not a whole new website, just a landing page for that industry. And then we would send cold emails to a list. So we’d find a way to pull together a list. And it was oftentimes very manual. Maybe we would just find a directory that had a bunch of businesses and then we would hire somebody through Fiver who’s in Asia and for $10 can start to find email addresses for those people. And then we would send them each personal emails, one at a time and pitch an offer, and send them to that landing page that we created just for that industry and then see how that worked. That’s how we started. And if we could get any traction with these outbound emails of doing it all the unscalable hard way, then we would start to think about building marketing channels around it.

– [Chris Mechanic] That makes a lot of sense, that makes perfect sense. Very cool, very cool. Well, I want to wrap this up here. This was super duper useful and has certainly given me some opportunity or some ideas. And it’s funny that you mentioned that epiphany that you had around the size. And I’m curious, well, how did you reach that epiphany, like what did that thought process look like as the wrap up question?

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] First, I’ll say it was counterintuitive. It went against the advice of all the that we had. Every mentor we had said, “You need to pick an industry.” And we probably went through five or six different industries before I was able to step back and see the forest, and not just the trees and say, “Oh, wait a minute, when I look across all these different industries what I see that’s working is based on company size, it’s not based on industry.” And even the language that you use varies less across industries than you might think if they’re all companies at about the same size ’cause they’re all experiencing the same challenge which is how to find reliable predictable growth for their business, right?

– [Chris Mechanic] Yeah.

– [Dawn Verbrigghe] They’re all experiencing exactly that same challenge. And so you realize you can start to message the same way across all those different industries. So I think that the epiphany came from just trying it a few different ways and then stepping back and seeing the forest. But I don’t think I could have seen the forest, had I not spent some time in the trees.

– [Chris Mechanic] Yep, that makes perfect sense. Cool Dawn, well, thank you so much. We really appreciated it and hopefully we will see you around soon. If you’re still listening and you like this, check out the show notes, you can find a link to Jottful which is Dawn’s review website, building service product and a community, which I’ll go and check out myself. So thank you very much for your time Dawn. We’ll see you soon.

Dawn Verbrigghe

Dawn VerbriggheCEO and Founder

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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