Issue #255

Sent to members on February 22, 2019

Some Problems Are Easier To Sell

Some Problems Are Easier To Sell

Since I help a lot of people who are working on starting their online business from scratch, I deal with a lot of people who are working on deciding their market, their niche.

One of the things I always talk about is product/market fit and how our businesses are ultimately about solving people’s problems.

But, what kind of problems?

Some problems are just easier to see and more urgent for needing a solution. Others… not so much.

Seth Godin recently wrote one of his usual pithy pieces that makes a solid point here. His post: Some problems are easier to sell.

He says that human beings are pretty much wired to pay attention to problems which are:

  • Visible.
  • Non-chronic. Meaning, not a long-term problem, but something which stands out separated from normal.
  • Symptomatic. In other words, there are obvious symptoms to the problem.
  • Painful. Obvious. If it doesn’t hurt, people don’t care.
  • In our control. People don’t like feeling powerless, but if the problem is something they feel they can do something about, they’re more motivated.
  • Keep  us from feeling stupid. In other words, people need to understand it.
  • Status driven. People will pay more attention to the problem if they feel it will affect how others perceive them.
  • Expensive. If the nature of the problem can be quite costly, it increases urgency.
  • Solvable. It needs to be something that can be solved.

This is actually a pretty solid list.

Some problems naturally lend themselves to these properties. For instance, if you’re in the health market and you help people solve some specific ailment, then that problem is probably pretty top of mind to them.

Other problems are less obvious. For instance, many bloggers who get into the personal development space end up having a hard time because what they’re talking about just isn’t focused on a real problem. As much as people might want to be happier or more fulfilled, it isn’t often a problem with enough necessity for them. Let’s look at something like self-fulfillment as a problem:

  • It isn’t visible.
  • It is likely long term and has become a habit and just normal.
  • There aren’t usually any real symptoms.
  • The pain isn’t usually very great and you can’t point to it.
  • It feels like you might not have control over things enough to do anything about it.
  • It isn’t really costing you anything.
  • It may or may not be solvable, depending on the person’s perspective.

Many of those “touchy feely” kind of problems suffer from this. And hence, it is tougher to sell as a problem in need of a solution.

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Many times, you can re-position a problem to make it more tangible. Sometimes, you can pivot what you do a bit to re-focus on something more tangible.

For instance, a personal development blogger might decide to focus on something more specific… like fear of public speaking. They might focus on people in lines of work where they might have to speak. In that situation, that fear is tangible. They feel the symptoms (butterflies in the stomach). They’re worried about how it affects their status, or even their job. It is visible. This is an easier problem.

And many times, even in your marketing, you can relay stories and other content that makes a problem more real and relevant by focusing on these aspects.

My kids don’t really care for doing their schooling. But, look at it from the kid’s viewpoint. Is this a problem that is “sellable” to them? They’re too young to really understand why school is important. It does sometimes make them feel stupid (since it is school). There’s no real symptoms, it isn’t painful… right on down the line, there’s not a lot there that provides that sense of urgency.

Are you trying to “sell” a problem in your business that would be like trying to sell school to kids? 🙂

If you’re finding it hard, maybe it is time to repackage what you’re doing so we find a problem that is easier to sell.

– David

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