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Real Startup Book

Problem vs. Solution

Do we need to learn about the problem (ie, market) or the solution (ie, product)?

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Problem vs. Solution

Do we need to learn about the problem (ie, market) or the solution (ie, product)?

To narrow down the long list of applicable methods to something actionable, we first separate our questions into those that concern the problem and those that concern the solution.

Problem

  • Who is our customer?
  • What are their pains?
  • What job needs to be done?
  • How are they doing this job today?
  • Does the customer segment already have a solution to this pain?
  • Is this customer segment really willing to pay for a better solution for this job?
  • Is our customer segment too broad?
  • How do we find our customers?
  • How much will this customer segment pay?
  • How do we convince this customer segment to buy?
  • What is the cost of acquiring a customer in this customer segment?

Solution

  • How can we solve this problem?
  • What form should this solution take?
  • How important is the design?
  • What’s the quickest solution?
  • What is the minimum feature set?
  • How should we prioritize?
  • Is this solution working?
  • Are people using it?
  • Which solution is better?
  • How should we optimize this?
  • What do people like/dislike?
  • Why do they do that?
  • Why do prospects buy from us?
  • Why do prospects not buy from us?

In this case, “problem” refers to any question or element that is mostly or completely connected to the identity of the customer segment.

Problem questions include those about which channels we can use to reach customers. For example, we cannot use traditional broadcast television advertising to target customers who don’t have a television set.

“Solution” is simplified to mean anything regarding the value proposition or its creation. This includes resources needed to produce the value proposition, as well as any key activities, partners, or costs.

The value proposition really sits at the intersection of problem needs and the solution itself. The solution has no value outside of the customer using it, but we are again simplifying for the purpose of navigation.

If we are using the Business Model Canvas, problem questions are those on the right side of the canvas, including customer, channel, relationship, and revenue. Solution questions are those concerning the value proposition and everything left of it, including key activities, key resources, key partners, and costs.

Where Should We Start?

This book is agnostic about where we start. We may already have a solution and be investigating who to sell it to, or we may have a customer segment with a strong pain point and are trying to find a solution. But when in doubt, start with the customer.

If the customer segment changes, then the solution usually must be adapted to the customer. But if the solution changes, customers may simply use a different solution. Human behavior is notoriously difficult to change, though not impossible.