The Key to Startup Success: Validating Your Problem-Solution Fit Before You Launch
Fall in love with the problem before you start solving it.
Fall in love with the problem before you start solving it.
When it comes to addressing customer needs, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of finding solutions. After all, solving problems is what we do as entrepreneurs, product managers, and designers. But before we can start thinking about solutions, we must take a step back and ensure that we focus on the correct problems.
One way to do this is by using the Problem Hypothesis framework. This involves identifying a specific problem that you believe your customer is facing and then conducting interviews with potential customers to validate whether or not this is a problem they have.
Interviews Make the Difference
Conducting interviews with potential customers is essential in the Problem Hypothesis process. These interviews help you validate whether or not your problem hypothesis is accurate and allow you to learn more about your customers and their needs. However, it’s important to remember that these interviews aim to listen more and talk less. You want to allow your customers to tell you about their experiences and challenges rather than trying to pitch them a solution. By listening to what your customers say, you’ll be better able to understand their needs and identify the root causes of their problems.
In the words of Steve Jobs, who was a genius understanding underserved needs, “Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.” While it’s important to listen to what your customers tell you about their needs and challenges and not on solutions, it’s also essential to take a step back and think about the bigger picture. This means going beyond surface-level problems and digging deeper to understand the root causes of customer pain points. It’s easy for customers to identify the symptoms of a problem, but they may only sometimes be able to articulate the underlying cause.
I’m always surprised by how much value those interviews deliver. The allow you to see the needs from the customer’s perspective, which can be different from yours. By taking a more holistic view of customer needs and conducting in-depth interviews and research, you’ll be better able to identify the root causes of customer pain points and develop innovative solutions that genuinely address those needs.
Does And Don’ts of Interviews
There are a few key “do’s” and “don’ts” to keep in mind when conducting customer interviews:
- Always take notes in a way that allows you to analyze and compare the results. This could mean using a structured template or simply jotting down key points.
- Look for common themes and patterns in the feedback you receive. This will help you identify the most pressing issues and areas for improvement.
- Embrace bad news: Even if the information is unpleasant, you gain solid insights that bring you closer to the truth.
- Watch and filter out general talk, compliments, and “great” ideas.
- Avoid craving for recognition. Customer interviews aim not to impress or persuade the customer but to gather valuable insights and feedback.
- Refrain from selling your idea or solution. This can be tempting, especially if you’re excited about your product or service, but staying focused on listening to the customer and gathering their thoughts and opinions is essential.
- Don’t go into too much detail about a problem too quickly. Understanding the customer’s motivations and needs is essential before diving into potential solutions. This will help you identify the root causes of problems and develop more effective solutions.
No problem? No problem!
I’m working with successful companies that don’t solve a “problem” but do an excellent job for their customers. Do something better. A great example is Soeder, which produces and sells probably the best soap in the world. Do they solve a problem? A small one but one of their users is only aware when they start using their soap. Today’s soaps are often harmful to the skin and don’t smell good. Something I realized when I first bought one of their products, and I fell instantly in love. The question is: What to do if you don’t solve a problem?
The “jobs to be done” framework is a helpful alternative to the traditional problem-solution approach to addressing customer needs. Rather than focusing solely on identifying and solving specific problems, the “jobs to be done” framework encourages companies to think about the tasks or “jobs” that customers are trying to accomplish and how their products or services can help them do those jobs more effectively.
One of the key benefits of the “jobs to be done” framework is that it allows companies to take a more holistic view of customer needs. Rather than focusing on isolated problems, the “jobs to be done” framework encourages you to think about the broader context in which their customers are using their products and how they can create a better overall experience.
Validate A Solution Before Writing One Line of Code
Once you’ve validated your problem hypothesis or “jobs to be done,” you can start thinking about potential solutions. But before diving into solution mode, validating your proposed solutions is essential.
User testing allows you to gather valuable feedback from real users and ensure that your product meets their needs. User tests can be conducted in person or remotely using Google Meet. During the test, which typically lasts around 20 minutes per participant, you will present users with a prototype of your solution and ask them to either complete simple tasks without guiding them too much or rating the potential solution. Ask open-ended questions to allow them to express their thoughts and feedback.
The tests need to be recorded so that you can review the reactions to your prototype in detail. Remember, the prototype doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s meant to help you validate and prioritize the solution ideas.
Create Products Customers Love
By following this process of problem validation through customer interviews and solution validation through testing, you’ll be better able to ensure that you’re addressing real problems that your customers care about and that your solutions are effective in solving those problems. “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard,” said Guy Kawasaki. So make sure the idea has potential before you start with the implementation.
In summary, when it comes to addressing customer needs, it’s essential to focus first on the problems and validate whether or not they’re worth solving. Move on to finding solutions only after validating the problem through interviews and research. By following this process and deep diving into the problem space, you’ll better understand your customer’s needs and create solutions they genuinely love.
By the way, I just started my “Product-Market Fit & Beyond” newsletter. By signing up, you will get access to the tools, resources, and expert guidance you need to take your idea to product-market fit and beyond. Sign up here.
I'm a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor at GROWTH UNLTD. Get your startup to product-market fit and beyond: https://www.growthunltd.com/