Wireless electronic shifting wasn't something we were asking for, but now we all want it.    

Does your customer even know what they want?

Last post, I gave you 10 questions to help define your customer so you can refine and perfect your product to meet their needs and ease their pain points. This assumes your customer knows what their needs are. That they know what they want. Sometimes they don’t.

Think about this in two ways:

1) The customer has a problem, but the solution isn’t obvious.

2) The customer doesn’t realize they have problem, but when a solution appears they gravitate to it.

1. A PROBLEM WITHOUT A SOLUTION

This one’s a little abstract. People don’t know what they don’t know. I fell into this before starting my sports drink company. I didn’t know I wanted to start that company, and I didn’t really know I wanted to create that type of product. I saw some weird stuff going on at mountain bike races (watered down Coke, flat Mountain Dew, and diluted Gatorade), but it didn’t quite click yet. I was ignorant of the possibilities. And ignorant that I could do something. It took an external event (seeing another person create a vitamin formula and have it private label manufactured) to show me there was a “solution” to a “problem” I didn’t really know I had.

The trick here is that I didn’t really know I had a problem, so I wasn’t seeking a solution. In this case, it took seeing someone else do something to make it click. I think Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Work Week does a good job of both making us aware of our simmering-below-the-surface frustration with the status quo and illuminating the myriad ways people can do something on their own.

To turn this into a business opportunity, you’ve got to tune into society’s unspoken frustrations and concerns and present a solution that wakes them up to the “problem” didn’t even know they had.

2. A SOLUTION WITHOUT A PROBLEM

Sometimes the problem isn’t known, but once a “solution” appears, that’s all people want.

The old school example is if you ask people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse. They got the car and it was worlds better. Same could be said of the typewriter. People weren’t asking for a word processor because it wasn’t even on their radar. But man, is it ever better!

Fast forward and we’ve got electronic shifting on our bicycles. Were cyclists asking for it? No, but we sure jumped on it as soon as Shimano made it!

All of these were solutions to a problem people didn’t realize they had. You could argue it wasn’t even a solution to an existing problem, per se, rather that something came along that was sooo much better it revealed the weaknesses of the previous solution.

Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, NC, took a similar approach to this. They created a really cool venue that flipped the bar concept on its head. It wasn’t a dark bar where you’d go to escape. Rather, it was a wide open, inviting atmosphere that welcomed family and community. It wasn’t that people were actively seeking an alternative to the traditional bar, but when something better came along, they embraced it.

THE TAKEAWAY

What can you improve upon such that it goes beyond incremental improvement to become a generational evolution or revolution? What can you do that advances the state of the art so much that it makes prior options obsolete?

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