Product Development – The solution-oriented nature of products

Thinking of Your Product as a Solution

In the same way that business opportunities can’t exist independently of the entrepreneur, successful businesses (and the products they sell) can’t exist independently of the problems they solve for their customers—the two are intertwined.

Customer problems don’t always have to be “pain points.”

Products that exist to solve problems but don’t accentuate customer passion to the fullest aren’t solving problems in the way that we normally think of.

If a new product comes along and thrills these customers by speaking to their passion or reframing their previous experiences as less-than-ideal, that product essentially solves a problem for that customer.

In this context, a pain point may not represent a negative aspect, but instead simply a barrier to a much more fulfilling experience.

Example

iPods as solving a problem that consumers didn’t know they had.

product-development-ipod

In the same way, adjustable golf clubs are a perfect example of a product that enhanced the ways consumers experienced their passion while solving a problem that they didn’t know they had.

Golf enthusiasts are known for their willingness to spend lots of money to achieve even modest improvements in their game, and because the sport of golf is equipment-intensive, players keep a close eye on new product developments.

When using traditional clubs, players are locked into using the equipment they brought with them on the course, based on a guess at the conditions that may arise during play.

product-development-golf

Adjustable clubs changed the equation by allowing players to adjust the characteristics of their equipment to match the conditions they encountered on the course.

In the same way that an MP3 player enhanced music listeners’ experience by providing them with benefits they didn’t realize they wanted, adjustable golf clubs provided golf enthusiasts with benefits that changed the way they enjoy the sport they are passionate about by reframing regular playing conditions as a problem with adjustable clubs as the solution.

Don’t Become a Solution in Search of a Problem

In the case of the chicken and the egg, there is no definitive answer to which came first.

When it comes to the development of your products or services, however, you don’t want to become a solution in search of a problem.

Designing products with a specific solution to a specific customer problem will always produce stronger products, but that’s not the only reason you should start with the problem and work backward from there.

designing-a-product

The products or services that your venture offers are a central part of your value proposition.

The importance of your startup’s value proposition cannot be overstated.

If your processes, your operations, and your financial model are the how of your business, then your value proposition is the why.

Your value proposition, what it entails, and its importance is covered here, but for now, keep it in the back of your head as consisting of the answers to two key questions:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • How are you different from your competition?

In other articles, we explore a number of ways to define, segment, and delight your customers, but a fundamental first step in understanding exactly who your target customers are is identifying the problem you will solve for them.

As you will see, your value proposition is the core of your business; a venture that doesn’t solve a problem for its target customers (or doesn’t have target customers) will waste significant resources struggling to find its way and will ultimately never get off the ground.

“Build it and they will come” is not a business strategy.

A common pitfall of new entrepreneurs is to think that their product or service is so attractive that it will “sell itself.”

Not only is this not a viable business strategy, it never works!

It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles, how tech-enabled, or how sexy your offering is—no one will purchase it unless it solves a problem for them and they fully understand its features and benefits.

Think critically about the problem that you want to solve for people.

  • Does the offering you have in mind follow through on solving their problem?

If not, you have a solution in search of a problem, which is a lot like putting the cart before the horse. Or the chicken before the egg.