The Embedded Entrepreneur - Problem discovery (1)

In reality, communities are messy, thousand of people talk about thousand of things.

Mental models and checklists are helpful to identify the problems within a community.

Finding interesting problems

Problems are intangible, every person feels a problem differently. People don't pay for solutions to problems they're not having, once they feel the pain they will look for the remedy immediately.

Vitamins vs. painkillers

Solutions can be like vitamines or painkillers, you don't feel the immediate need for vitamins, but they may be good for you in the long run, but you can't delay having pain killers.
Both have their own markets, but if you're a self-funded business, you want to be a painkiller.

Three kinds of problems

  1. Time-related: Make people feel like they're wasting their time
  2. Resource related: People complain about losing money
  3. Problems of the self: This prevents me from getting where I wanna be

Critical problems characteristics

- Critical problems hurt

- They are non-optional, can't be opted out

- They keep coming back

- You can't solve them quickly

People are willing to pay you if you help them:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Make money

Problem awareness

States of problem awareness:

  • Unaware of their problems
  • Problem-aware: Unaware if someone has already solved it
  • Solution-aware: They know there's a solution, but don't know you have it
  • Product-aware: Ask for alternatives
  • Most aware: Needs convincing to use your product

Regular complaints about a problem are a sign that the problem might be critical. When someone is complaining they're not in the best state to talk about it with you, take note and come back to them later.

Complainers look for consolation, but help seekers look for a more interactive experience.

Most requests for help are from beginners, but sometimes experts too.  Looking for them might lead you to critical problems that bother even the most professional people.

People that jump at the opportunity to help another community member are the ones that you want to follow and interact with. You can ask them about the problems they regularly encounter.

Recommendations and alternatives

Whenever someone asks for recommendations, you should take note of:

  • What resources are most often recommended?
  • Who gives the recommendations? Are they trustworthy?
  • Is there a follow-up? Did it work for them?

If every single recommendation is a free tool, you might find it difficult to sell something comparable later.

Asking for recommendations is valuable for problem discovery: Here's a solution to a validated problem that is not sufficiently solving it.

That means, someone else found a problem worth solving but failed to execute the solution well enough. When people propose alternatives, that means the product they want to replace doesn't quite work.

You already know the problem to be valid, this helps you invalidate any idea that you might have and doesn't quite match with your customers' reality.

Other signs of problems:

  1. People sharing systems they made to solve a problem: Excel sheet that helps them solve a problem
  2. They are looking for someone to solve a problem

Thanks for reading, this is only halfway through the problem discovery chapter. I will share the next half tomorrow, so stay tuned.