Solve Actual Problems

Imagine you are taking a test. You are presented with several word problems and are instructed to pick one to solve. Instead what you do is write your own problem – one that you think is a good one to solve, and answer that one. You’re so confident that the teacher will be impressed because you thought of it and you love it and you think it’s a great solution. But when you get the test back, it has a big red F on it. How could that be? Your solution is sound and well thought out. You were invested in it! The teacher explains that while the solution seems like a good one, you didn’t solve any of the problems he asked you to solve. You made up your own based on what you believe. This is a bad way to take tests. But this happens all the time with new products or services. I will come up with an idea I think is great, sink time and money into it, and ultimately it will fail. The reason is I’m trying to solve problems people don’t think they have. The key to a successful product or service is solve actual problems.

The key to a successful product or service is solve actual problems. Click To Tweet

It happens all the time. You or someone you know has a great idea for a new product.You start to work on, create a first version, and take it to market, but it doesn’t do so well. You discover that you solve problems you perceived for your target market, but they didn’t see those problems. Here are 2 examples: Coalwork, and my first iteration of WP in One Month.

Solutions that have no Problems

In the case of Coalwork, the coworking space closed after about a year and a half. We were solving a problem we thought Scranton had, but the people of Scranton didn’t think they had. Folks weren’t keen on paying for ‘just a desk’. Instead, many felt they could go to the library or a coffee shop and achieve the same result. I loved the space, as did the 3 other full time members, but we didn’t get much traction because very few saw the value.

Similarly, very few saw the value in paying me $199 for a 5 hour class on WordPress in Scranton. I thought I was solving a great problem: nobody is doing live, in-person WordPress classes. Perhaps in a bigger city, or with the right target, this would have worked. But the people in NEPA didn’t see this as a problem, and therefore assigned no value to a solution.

Solve Problems Worth Solving

When I pivoted WP in One Month, I decided to solve a different problem with a completely different audience. That problem is twofold: developers have the tough job of making a good product and teaching people how to use that product. With WP in One Month, developers can focus on making the best product they can and let me focus on the teaching aspect, while also adding assets to their documentation.

The other problem is that people who watch online videos or read documentation can’t ask specific questions in real time. By offering live, product-based webinars, both the developers and I can add more value to webinar attendees by answering their questions and getting real-time feedback. This model is working because I’m catering to my target audience’s customers, and I solve problems both parties have.

Ask yourself, 'Whose problem does this solve?' Click To Tweet

When you consider your idea, the best thing you can do is look at it objectively and ask yourself, “Whose problem does this solve?” If the answer is, “just mine,” it may not be worth pursuing, provided you want to sell it. If the answer is, “it’s a problem I think this industry has,” that’s even worse. The best thing you can do before investing any more effort is talk to people in that industry. If they don’t see what you see, you don’t have much of a market.

Talk to your target market to see if they see the same problem you do. Click To Tweet

Talk to People & Accept Feedback

Working in a silo is rarely a good thing, so get out there and talk to people who have different perspectives. It’s important to ask the right questions as well, though that could be whole other post (hint: don’t ask leading questions). When you talk to people, be open to their feedback. Don’t take it as, “they don’t understand,” or “they don’t see what I see.” If someone doesn’t understand your product, what are the odds they will pay for it?

When you talk to people, be open to their feedback. Click To Tweet

I will play devil’s advocate if you come to me with an idea. I don’t necessarily think the idea is bad; I want to see that you have thought through it and are confident in it succeeding from an objective point of view. The key here is that you need to solve problems that are actual problems. “Nice to have” won’t bring in the money. “Fix a problem that will save me money” will.

Nice to have won't bring in money. Fix a problem that will save me money will. Click To Tweet