The startup world loves the concept of ‘Product-Market Fit.’ Marc Andresson, widely credited for developing the concept of PMF, defined the term as follows:
“Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.”
After the introduction of the concept, there has been a considerable amount of thinking on defining the concept better and the quantitative and qualitative metrics one can use to measure if they have achieved ‘Product-Market Fit.’ Those developments of thought are out of the scope of this piece, but the point of me beginning a ‘Content Market Fit’ essay by referencing PMF is that the concept is helpful to draw parallels to CMF. And CMF is, in some ways, also a great complementary fit to PMF, in the sense that, without CMF, having just PMF will not make a product thrive.
I will divide the following discussion of CMF into three sections: Definition of ‘Content Market Fit’, how to achieve & measure ‘Content Market Fit,’ and what to do once you have achieved a base level of ‘Content Market Fit.’
Defining ‘Content Market Fit’
If we were to extrapolate from Marc Andresson’s definition of PMF, CMF could be defined as follows: “Content Market fit means being in a good market with content that can satisfy that market.”
Put simply, if your audience finds value in the content you are creating, shares it with like-minded people, and appreciates your effort at least through words, you can say you have CMF.
Now, this might seems quite simple but just PMF is difficult to find in the case of products, finding CMF is equally challenging. After all, more products fail than succeed, and more content ends up not being consumed than being consumed. We only use successful products, which is why we develop a false sense of how many of the products launched succeeded. And the same goes for content. We don’t realize how much of the content produced ends up not being consumed at all.
Now, one of the major reasons why people fail to achieve CMF is because they give up too early. People will usually produce a few content assets, not see the kind of response they were expecting and give up the whole exercise. As a concept, CMF can come in handy in cases like these because it kind of turns the whole process of achieving success with content into a sort of scientific method. But just like it is with PMF, CMF also offers no shortcuts. Until you find fit, you will have to keep iterating. And even after you have found CMF, you will still have to continue to be on your toes leverage it to take it to the next level & avoid losing it.
How to Achieve & Measure ‘Content Market Fit’
To be clear, CMF is not something that happens overnight. Neither is it something that you will suddenly wake up to. It’s not like you wake up one day and one of your internal dashboards shows you have achieved CMF. It is instead an accumulation of small signals that cumulatively come together to say that you have achieved a base level of CMF to scale up your content efforts.
You can look at these CMF signals using the perspective of three pillars — Content, distribution & audience.
Content: Content can be further broken down into three pillars: voice, brand, and format.
Voice: When people think about differentiation in content, they mostly tend to think about content material. But your voice can be a competitive moat and key differentiator. For example, even boring financial concepts can be made interesting if explained with sarcastic commentary and funny twists. In the context of Content Market Fit, a positive signal that you are closing in towards CMF would be that you have found your own unique voice and don’t sound just like your competitors.
Brand: In a crowded market, your brand distinguishes you from competitors. Contrary to popular belief, one should start working on brand building from the very beginning. In fact, if you have a clear mission and vision from the start, building a brand with your own unique voice becomes easier. In the context of Content Market Fit, a good signal that you are inching closer towards CMF would be that customers begin to think of you as a brand, and not just another business selling the same product or providing the same service like others.
Format: Content comes in different formats — articles, white papers, webinars, infographics, podcasts, videos, slides, and more. Before once gets to the base level of CMF, one needs to crack at least one of these formats to drive sizeable business impact. If a particular format does not work despite having tried your best to make it work, you must look to master a different format. One important thing to keep in mind is that different companies have different DNAs, meaning writing articles might be the strong suit or some, others might be great at creating videos. So you need to figure out which formats suit your inherent capabilities as well.
Distribution is undoubtedly as important as the content itself. If nobody consumes your content, your effort goes to waste. Distribution puts your content in front of people.
To distribute your content, you could use either of these channels — Organic Search, Paid ads, Email, Social Media, Events, Webinars, etc ). In the early days, it makes more sense to look to master one channel and then expand to include other channels. The deciding factor for choosing which distribution channels to prioritize should be based on the content format you are comfortable using. If you prefer writing articles, prioritize organic search and email. If you prefer creating videos, prioritize YouTube.
Exploring channels & cracking the art of distribution using at least one or more channels is a sign that you are achieving CMF.
Audience: If your content does not appeal to your audience, the effort put in creating and distributing it will be useless. So, to ensure your effort gets rewarded, you should try to understand your audience, and depending on that understanding, create content to serve them. You should also ensure all company stakeholders participate in content creation and avoid treating the content team as an isolated silo. The bare minimum that should be done is to make sure the content team speaks to other teams regularly, learns from their experience, and incorporates necessary feedback into their content.
Regular audience appreciation in the form of emails praising your content, engaging comments on articles & videos, and becoming a regular part of your audience’s content diet are all signs that you are getting closer to Content Market Fit.
In summation, once you begin to see that all three pillars — content, distribution, and audience — are aligned and you are seeing your content efforts are beginning to increase your brand awareness and moving the business needle, you can say you have achieved a base level of CMF and you can start scaling up your efforts.
What to do once you have achieved a base level ‘Content Market Fit’.
Now, why do I use the terms ‘base level of CMF’. Well, it’s because you need to be consistent and scale your content efforts to further improve CMF. Apart from continuing and improving your content efforts that are already working, you should also be mindful that you can lose CMF if you take the foot of the peddle. While you should actively avoid copying competitors, you should also keep an eye on your competitors to make sure you are not playing a new game with old rules.