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Eightfold founder Ashutosh Garg on how to achieve “pitch-market fit”

Why the right product and the right product story work hand-in-hand.

Von Katy Lind, Zendesk for Startups

Zuletzt aktualisiert: March 11, 2024

The early days at a startup are often focused on achieving product-market fit: arriving in the right market with a product that customers want to pay for—and, ideally, can’t live without. Ashutosh Garg, unicorn founder, encourages up-and-comers to consider another type of alignment: pitch-market fit.

Garg co-founded Eightfold AI in 2016 with the mission of helping everyone in the world land in the right career. Today, Eightfold is a talent-intelligence platform valued at more than $2 billion, used by Fortune 100 companies worldwide to hire, retain, and grow diverse workforces.

Garg joined the Sit Down Startup podcast to share how he plotted a roadmap for success with pitch-market fit, from the early days of Eightfold through its growth into an enterprise SaaS unicorn. Tune into the whole episode to hear the surprising outcome for one of the company’s most demanding early customers. And read on to learn more about pitch-market fit.

Make your pitch about the customer’s problem or pain point

Where product-market fit helps ensure the product is optimized to address customer pain points, pitch-market fit helps ensure that the pitch is optimized for the same. Garg defines pitch-market fit as a vision and a story that speaks to your target market. If VCs aren’t excited about the pitch within the first five minutes, the product might not be the right fit. Or—it might not be the right story that resonates with the market for your product.

To Garg, the value of the product must be a no-brainer for the prospect after hearing the pitch. Garg would pitch his talent software as an appeal to their problem by saying, “Everyone has a hiring problem…I can use [Eightfold’s AI] to identify each and every one of your applicants who is going to be a good fit for you. So, instead of going through millions of resumes, you can focus on the key people.” This statement centers a known pain point and describes how nice it is on the other side. If the prospect isn’t nodding their head with excitement after hearing something like that, it’s back to the drawing board–on the pitch and often also on the product.

It’s not about your product, it’s about the value to the customer

Too often, startup founders build brilliant products that solve complex problems that no one wants to hear a story about, much less pay for. To prevent this common trap, Garg’s pitch included a more specific number rather than stating only that they will save hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most frequently, the numbers that hit home are people hours or the cost of inefficient internal tools. Garg also finished his pitch with this simple question, “Would that be of value to you?” Even a “no” answer can be positive in the long run, because it forces the founder and their team to hone in on ROI.

Make your early customers successful, no matter what it takes

A sale is never really closed, even after the contract is signed. For companies with a customer-centric mindset, retaining customers and keeping them happy is an important way to drive growth.

But imagine those customers a step beyond happy: that is, working smarter and more efficiently because of your product and partnership. Customer success stories can be valuable information when considering pitch-market fit, so keep an open and proactive dialogue with those initial clients, ensure they are still getting value from your product, and do the work to course-correct if they’re not.

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