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Sean Ellis Test A Successful Method to Figure Out ProductMarket Fit
PisanoSep 3, 2020 12:46:38 PM6 min read

Sean Ellis Test: A Successful Method to Figure Out Product/Market Fit

If you have an idea of a brand new product in mind, it is very important to be precise about the following details; who will use it, how much and how it will be used, which pain spots it will be effective on and finally how it will bring in money. It is not a surprising thing to fail in business life when great ideas are marketed to the wrong target group in a wrong time., or WebTV of Microsoft These ideas did not become history since they were regarded as bad ones. They became history because their consistency with the market was not evaluated in the right way and they tried to suggest a non-existing requirement as a demand.

Currently, there are different companies who brought above-cited ideas into life more or less in the same way. Facebook became the most important social network after SixDegrees. was a farsighted company to actualize an idea of pet market back then, nowadays there are hundreds of sites that serve the same purpose. Back in the old days, WebTV enabled you to access the internet via TV, which is now considered a common thing. That is to say, those were not useless or bad ideas, on the contrary, they were ahead of their time.

Then why did they fail? Why couldn’t they take advantage of being a pioneer and why did they become history?

Product/Market Fit

The term “product/market fit” was first suggested by Marc Andreessen; one of the co-founders of Netscape. He defines the term as follows;

Product/market fit is to exist within a good market with a product that can satisfy the market itself.

According to Marc Andreessen, it is impossible for an initiative to be successful unless it complies with product/market fit. Thus, it is not only a necessity for your idea to be in harmony with the market, but it is also a must. No matter how good or farsighted your idea is, it will not be sustainable if it does not fit the market.

One of the most notable metrics used to evaluate product/market fit is Sean Ellis test.Ellis; serving as a consultant company for developing start-ups with his firm named 12in6, sees product/market fit as the most crucial stage in a development phase of a start-up.

Sean Ellis test was formed thanks to the experiences gained during the consultation period, and in a very short time, it became a standard throughout the industry. The most indicative question addressed to the clients in this qualitative test is as following:

How would you feel if you could no longer use our product?- Very disappointed- Somewhat disappointed - Not disappointed (it really isn’t that useful)

If the ratio of the answer “very disappointed” is more than %40, then well-done to you; that means you have the product/market fit.

According to Sean Ellis, people who will take the test should have certain qualifications:

  • People who experienced the core product or the service
  • People who have experienced the product or the service at least twice.
  • People who have experienced the product or the service in the last two weeks.

This will provide you with the right target group to do the test.

You can see below the results of Sean Ellis test done by Hiten Shah with 731 Slack users in 2015, and you can reach the complete test here. Slack had become irreplaceable for its customers and isn’t that obvious that it is the reason behind its success?

However, not every product might be as lucky- more precisely- as compatible with the market as Slack. Then, you should be irreplaceable for your target audience by making a couple of changes.

What if my test score is below %40?

Our product which we actualize by putting great effort might not always be compatible with the market, then, unfortunately, you might need to change it. We all know that the ones who keep up with the changes faster than anyone else are the survivors; not the strongest, the fastest or the smartest ones. Thus, you should examine the way how your customers’ demands change and alter your product accordingly. However, to avoid misunderstanding, there is one point we should make clear: We do not talk about giving only what the customers want, but to adopt the needs of your target group and offer innovative and creative solutions.

One of the easiest ways to understand your target group is to listen to them. You can achieve this via questionnaires by which you can have useful feedback about your product. You can proceed with many questions such as; for which purpose your product is used the most, whether it is used in the way you have foreseen or not, the differences between the paying and the nonpaying users etc. To get better results you can check our related article here. You can also have similar insight by one to one or in-depth interviews or with focus groups. However, these kinds of interviews will take longer and they won’t be very cost-effective.

One of the most significant benefits of those studies concerning the market is as following; when there is an increase in product/market fit concluded by a false choice of the target group, it indicates that the solution cannot be found in the product itself but in the customer mass. Thereby, it is possible to avoid a great amount of workload and get better results in your test by making minimal additions and different marketing strategies.

One of the most important elements that decrease the product/market fit is the pain spots that are wrongly detected. You should think thoroughly about how big the problem is or whether it can be neglected or not. Should the problem is detected in a wrong way, it might be necessary to make big revisions in the product or in the target audience.

Lastly, do not forget to make the necessary follow-ups about the way your product is used. To know what your clients seek for, at which point your clients have trouble the most, where they spend more time and what their complaints are will give you the chance to improve yourself.


Product/market fit is one of the most important measures that should be taken into consideration when giving life to a new start-up. Sean Ellis test is the most efficient and the fastest method to evaluate the consistency of your product with the market. You should not forget that Sean Ellis test is only a criterion and it does not give %100 guarantee. However, it provides you the necessary insights so that you can act farsighted and improve your product accordingly.

If you wonder about how to take the Sean Ellis test to evaluate the product/market fit in an easy way, we have some great news for you. Click here and voila! You can reach Sean Ellis test that is created with Pisano survey tool! Now you can have beneficial reports with the meaningful data you get from your users and score your product/market fit in the fastest way without any charge.