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Given 1 hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes understanding the problem and 1 minute resolving it.

5 key questions to help you define your problem statement

What is the one thing that triggers us to buy something, anything, whether it’s a service or product? What makes us choose one offer over another? 

After working for over 15 years in marketing and consultancy, I can say, I am a marketer to the bone. Thus, I am not an easy customer. The nice packaging rarely works for me, because I check the ingredients, I can dissect catchy headlines and promises; I can stop myself from impulse buying. So, if there is no difference between X shampoo and Y shampoo in the ingredients, I buy the cheapest. Reasonable, methodical, right?

Now, try to talk reason to a new mumma bear ☺ Hah! 

When my daughter was born, she had really sensitive skin. My hormones, mixed with my new motherhood worries and my crazy love for this new creature overrode my strong reasoning abilities… I bought any brand who sweet talked to me about “highly sensitive babies’ skin, 100% organic and natural, specially developed for new-born babies who need extra softness”. We had around 10 bottles of different creams, ointments, oils in our house and it wasn’t enough. It took 10 months and a brave man like my father to make me return to reason. The entire family has been using those creams and three years later, we still have some left. 

My problem was highly emotional, highly important and highly urgent in my eyes, therefore I bought from whoever was able to echo my concerns and issues in their brands. 

The one thing that makes people buy is the problem they perceive and want to solve. The stronger they feel a need to solve the problem, the easier it makes for them to buy. 

However, what makes them choose you as a provider of the solution is their belief that you are the right fit for their problem. 

So, understanding the problem and having a clear problem statement will help you, not only define your customer and go-to-market strategy, but will condition your way of communicating as a brand to your audience. 

Having said that, defining a strong problem statement is not an easy task when it comes to solopreneurship or microbusinesses. 

A photographer takes great pictures, a graphic designer creates nicely branded collateral for your company, a family lawyer helps you divorce with less pain (hopefully), an architect designs your house as a nice, practical environment, a florist creates beautiful bouquets for your wedding, and so on. What else is in there to dig? So much more. 

Truly, it is vital to define the exact problem that you are solving, in order to create your edge in the market and differentiate yourself from your competitors. 

5 Key Questions to help You Navigate through this Task

But before exploring these questions, I want you to think about one of your most loyal customers, who you have an easy relationship with (existing or old customers). Now, we will force ourselves to imagine their world and answer the following questions from their point of view. Let’s look into these questions from a solopreneurship or micro-business point of view.

Question 1: What is the Problem? What is Currently Happening?

Let’s take the example of a food photographer who is working for a caterer. 

The classical definition of a problem is: the caterer will create a new menu and needs photos for it. 

From the caterer’s point of view, here are different questions that she might have in her mind: “I cannot afford 2 – 3 days of shooting. I need a day of shooting.  But how on earth can I manage cooking a 30-piece menu, prepare and present it nicely and keep it all fresh for the shoot? Also, all my desserts will melt under the spotlights. Is my kitchen too small to fit all the cooking and the photographer’s equipment?”

So, as you can see the problem is not just that the caterer needs new photos – new photos are the final task. The problem is that she has a lot of worries around the operational side of a challenging shoot. 

Think about it, what would make her buy from you? Seeing that you take beautiful food pictures (which is expected anyhow) or hearing that you understand the challenges, that you have done similar types of shoots and you have solutions for organising the day in a manageable way. 

Question 2: When, Where and How Often They Face this Problem?

The answer to this question will give you a clear understanding of how “nagging” the problem is for them. How much space is it taking up in their lives? 

Let’s take a designer who is working with SMEs. SMEs have small budgets and rushed marketing decisions. Therefore, Canva has been a life-saver for many of them. Having said that, even with Canva, they might struggle to get it right or quick enough. They face this problem, almost on a weekly, if not daily, basis for their social media designs.

The reality is that, as a designer your design book will impress them less than your capacity to offer them solutions that can make their lives easy; to work on Canva and get professional results. 

Question 3: Why is this a Problem?

Asking this question will allow you to check your assumptions. More often than not, I have witnessed my coaches “inventing” problems to fit their solutions. This is a common mistake because, as entrepreneurs, most likely we are in love with our ideas and “solutions”. We see life from the perspective of our solutions. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a real problem that we can solve with our solution? 

Once I coached a primary school tutor. Her solution was “I teach parents how to teach their kids science subjects”. I was pretty surprised to hear that and asked “Really? Do parents want that?” She was so convinced that her solution was a real fit for parent’s “assumed” problem: bad relations with their kids due to lack of patience during study/ tutoring hours. I asked why? “Why don’t they have patience?”. The answer was “Oh, because either they don’t have time or they are very tired after work”. Okay, so her solution was to create more work and more responsibility for them, while there are tutors who take that burden off the parents’ shoulders by doing the job. See, this is a great example of a sexy looking solution that is actually a “false” solution? 

Question 4: What is the Impact of the Problem? (physical, emotional, cost?) 

This question requires deep thinking on every level. 

What is the impact of not having a sleek looking brand?

Inconsistency might cause the audience to misunderstand, which might cause disengagement, which might in turn cause the loss of potential clients, and thus impact revenue. 

An unprofessional look, which might chip away from credibility and differentiation, which might have a knock-on effect on the owner’s or team’s confidence, which might impact directly sales, thus revenue. Actually, poor branding could have negative impact on business outcomes. 

Assessing this type chain reaction will give you access to the bigger picture which even your customer might not be aware of. 

Question 5: How Difficult is it to Reach their Ideal Solution?

Once you understand their problem from their point of view and have assessed the impact of it not being resolved, you need to look into the current available solutions. 

AWE TIP: Get your problem statement as sharp as possible

How easy is to find a fit solution for their exact problem, how fit are the current existing solutions? This exercise will allow you to define the position of your own solution from an easy and “fit for purpose” point of view. The lower the number of available fit solutions, the higher the chance that they hear your “perfect solution”.

Gaining clarity on the problem has 3 main benefits for you as a solopreneur: 

  1. It will help you define your ideal customer and market opportunity
  2. It will help you hone your marketing activities
  3. It will give you a perfect pitch and higher chances to be heard by your audience. 

Now, over to you.  What is your problem statement? Are you just a copywriter, mortgage broker, financial advisor, personal stylist, etc. or are you doing something really special for those who have a big problem that you can solve?

If you need help defining these types of strategic essentials for your business and build a solid foundation for growth, join EMPOWER Tribe.

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