Specify The Problem You Are Solving

Question MarkBoard members and CEOs of marketing and tech startups often ask me to provide informal feedback on their product marketing and positioning. That’s what I do! 🙂

I usually volunteer a couple sessions like this every week. This often includes a blink test on the website, a sales presentation and a product demo.

Because this was an especially intense week of volunteering feedback, a common theme became incredibly obvious: Among the top challenges tech startups face is a failure to boldly communicate the core problem they are trying to solve, and for whom. Instead, they tend to muddy the message by being inclusive of too many audience segments, and resorting to a long list of features, capabilities and widgets.

It’s obvious but many people need to be reminded: Define the audience and their pain (known or unknown to them). Introduce the painkiller and demonstrate how the pain will go away and turn into pleasure. People don’t buy features, they buy experiences that make them feel good.

Of course, it’s better to have a communications and positioning gap, because that is easier to fix.  If you are unsure of the problem, that means you have a serious identify crisis. You should forgo scaling promotional and sales activities, and go back to the drawing board.

Either way, it’s best to be specific and decisive with a hypothesis, and iterate as needed until you hit the mark. Then move on to scale.

Photo by Milos Milosevic.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

4 replies on “Specify The Problem You Are Solving”

  1. I completely agree Max. Without a clear definition of the problem, every effort is waste.

  2. Thanks Milos Insighful – (BTW Over from AVC)

    This problem is one we struggle with. We have a pretty complex piece of software that different people use for different things,and we are gradually finding traction, but we still fail to position ourselves clearly. Even buying clients struggle to describe exactly what we do.

    We get a question repeatedly “we at company X have a solution that does some of this but does not offer benefit Y – We do want to use your solution because it does “fill in various observations here” better than we can so how would you define the difference ?

    We can explain it mathematically or from an engineering perspective but the truth in one sentence … “We dont show you the energy you are using, but what you are wasting and why!” sounds like a ridiculously all encompassing answer, that we fear nobody can take on board. Would be very interested to hear your feedback.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! It is not easy to quickly and succinctly articulate the human benefit achieved from a product, and this is especially challenging for engineering-centric organizations with a lot of pride for the technical elements of their inventions. That is what product marketing and positioning is for. 🙂 If you can’t simplify your proposition down to the core pain remediated, your org will fail to scale. As for the different customer segments that appeal to different propositions benefits or positioning, that also is a tricky one. You need careful analysis to map out your prioritized segments, and start with a strong umbrella proposition, and then create positioning variations that speak to each of the prioritized segments. You can only do this with wide and comprehensive market testing. It’s a balance of keeping things simple while being relevant to potentially important customer segments. Product marketing is a mix of art and science. I’m happy to talk or email further (or more specifically). I have a few weeks free time until I start a new project. Warm regards.

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