Understanding your customer’s problems and how you help solve them is one of the most important factors in building a successful brand. You have to be able to show your customers that you get where they’re coming from, that you understand their pain, and that you have something to offer that will help them.
You may be selling a great product, but if people don’t understand that it helps them solve a real problem, they won’t feel a compelling need for it. They might just buy from your competitor, who more clearly lays out the problems.
Here’s the deal: The more precisely you can articulate your customer’s problems, the more likely they are to see you as the solution. When they see you as the solution, they’ll choose you over the competition every time.The more precisely you can articulate your customer's problems, the more likely they are to see you as the solution. Click To Tweet
What we mean by “problems”
Your customers most likely have different kinds of problems. Some are pretty obvious, while others might require a little digging to uncover. To get a feel for the different types of problems to look for, have a look at some examples of problems and solutions from a few different industries:
Problem: You have a wet basement. Every time it rains, water pours into your basement, and it floods. You desperately need a dry basement.
Solution: You hire a basement waterproofing company. They do one thing, and they do it extremely well – they guarantee a dry basement.
Problem: Buying shoes online is a stressful, time-consuming process. You love the convenience of shopping for shoes online, but returns are such a hassle. You need to be able to try on a few pairs before you purchase.
Solution: Zappos.com. They offer fast, free shipping both ways, a no-questions-asked return policy, and outstanding customer service.
Niche Food Products
Problem: You crave a big juicy burger, but you know how bad they are for your health. You also know how the big meat industry is destroying the environment.
Solution: Beyond Meat makes a plant-based burger that looks and tastes just like a meat burger, but with zero cholesterol and half the saturated fat. Your craving is satisfied, and you feel good about doing your part to help the environment.
How to find your customer’s problems
The easiest way to figure out your customer’s problems is to ask them. You can ask them individually, or create a short survey and send it out. Whether you have a casual one-on-one conversation, a formal interview, or create a survey, the key to getting your customers to open up is to ask the right kinds of questions.
There are two types of questions you can ask your customers that will get them to reveal their deeper, more meaningful problems, and give you insight into how you can help them:
- Open-ended questions
- The 5 Whys
Open-ended questions vs. leading questions
Leading questions are those types of questions that you already know the answer to; you are just looking for validation. Leading questions often only require a simple “yes” or “no” response. These types of questions will not provide many insights into your customer’s underlying problems.
Examples of leading questions:
- “How frustrating is it to have a flooded basement?”
- “Is finishing your basement important to you?”
- “Wouldn’t it be great to have a dry basement?”
All three of these questions will only generate surface-level answers. The customer feels forced into a specific response, and no new insights are learned.
When asking your customers about problems, always ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions give your customers the opportunity to share whatever is on their mind and often reveal problems or issues you’ve never even considered.Open-ended questions give your customers the opportunity to share whatever is on their mind and often reveal problems or issues you've never even considered. Click To Tweet
Examples of open-ended questions:
- “How does having a flooded basement make you feel?”
- “What’s most important to you about having a dry basement?”
- “How would a dry basement change your life?”
All three of these questions inspire the customer to share whatever is on her mind. She is free to speak her truth, and you learn about some new problems you didn’t even know existed.
The 5 Whys
The 5 Whys is a quality-control methodology developed by Toyota to better understand cause-and-effect. The way it works is quite simple: you present a problem and then ask “why” five times until you get to the underlying cause of the problem.
You can use this to uncover hidden problems your customers might not even be aware of. Start with an obvious problem, then ask why 5 times until you get to the real underlying issues your customers need help solving.
Here’s an example of how the basement waterproofing company might use the 5 Whys:
Problem: You have a wet basement.
- Why do you want a dry basement?
So we can finish the basement.
- Why do you want to finish your basement?
So we can have extra living space.
- Why do you want more living space?
We are expecting another child soon, and we need the space for the kids to play and the family to hang out together.
- Why is it important for your family to hang out together?
So we can be more connected and share more experiences as a family.
- Why is it important to share experiences?
So our kids can have a lifetime of remembering those good times together.
We may have started with the need for a dry basement, but we ended up understanding their deeper needs of quality family time, connection, and good memories.
How to solve your customer’s problems
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple formula for solving every customer problem. But, when you gain the insights and acquire a deeper understanding of where your customer is coming from, it opens up some pretty awesome opportunities for you.
Create products and services especially for them. You can create products or services specifically designed to solve their unique problems. You can also make changes to your current offerings to suit your customer’s needs better.
Solve the deeper problems. By getting to the root of their problems, you get to provide a better solution. The wet basement problem is about more than just having a dry basement. It’s about family, and connection, and a lifetime of memories. You get that now. You could show a family all gathered together on Christmas morning opening presents by the tree in their newly-finished basement.
Speak their language. When describing your customer’s problems and your solution, use the language they use when they share with you. You should use the words and phrases they use, so your messages resonate with them more easily.
Having a deep understanding of your customer’s problems is crucial to your success. If you want to be seen as the solution, you have to be able to articulate their problems simply, clearly, and in their own words. When you do this, it shows your customers that you thoroughly understand them, that you’re on their side, and that you just happen to have the perfect solution.
What unexpected problems do you solve for your customers? Feel free to share in the comments below.