The Problem with Problems

Following up from yesterday… While the idea of starting with problems is simple, systematically uncovering problems worth solving is quite difficult -- for a number of reasons.

Here are the top three:

1. Our Innovator’s Bias gets in the way
We unconsciously invent or fake problems to justify building our solution due to our emotional attachments to the outcome of our products. This is normal and happens to everybody.

2. Getting prospects to talk to you when you can’t pitch
The purpose of problem discovery is learning not pitching. Lots of entrepreneurs struggle with framing the conversation so prospects are willing to talk to them.

3. Getting prospects to open up about problems
You can’t simply ask customers about their top problems because they often don’t know, don’t want to tell you, don’t know what to tell you, or give you a solution instead of a problem.

So, is there a better way?

The answer has been staring us in the face…

Meet The Innovator’s Gift

Entrepreneurs spend a disproportionate amount of time framing problems in terms of their solution which is vulnerable to the Innovator's Bias.

The secret is framing problems in terms of the obstacles that prevent customers from achieving their desired outcomes with their old solutions.

The Innovator’s Gift is realizing that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. Problems and solutions are two sides of the same coin. And new problems worth solving come from old solutions.

What this means is that new problems worth solving can be discovered by studying how people use existing solutions.

This is the key to unlocking all the challenges I listed above. It makes it easier to target prospects, get them to talk to you, and leave away with a much deeper understanding of their problems (insights).

It is not uncommon to end up understanding your customer’s problems better than they even understand them. When you can describe your customer’s problems better than they can, there is a transference of expertise.

This is exactly what happens at the doctor’s office. You show up with some symptoms. The doctor diagnoses you and when they can start predicting how you feel, you trust them and follow their prescription. Marketing a product is no different and marketer, Jay Abraham, even has a name for this: The Strategy of Pre-eminence.

And yes, there is a step-by-step framework for doing all this… The process involves uncovering the behavioral forces that

  • drive customers to buy and use existing products,
  • uncovering where the problems lie,
  • building a “better” solution that causes a switch.
New problems come from old solutions.

Remember you can’t change people unless they have been triggered in the past (earlier lesson). But once they are open to change, you can greatly influence their decision (pull them towards your product) by crafting a compelling offer they cannot refuse (a mafia offer).

This is the essence of achieving customer/problem/solution. There is a tool we built for this that you can download here: The Customer Forces Canvas.

For more context, check out these blog posts:

That’s plenty reading for now… Until next time,

Take care.

Ash