Clifford, great article and practical guide.
Kevin Y
11

Hey Kevin!

Thanks for reading the post and thanks for the question!

Let me see if I can help give some clarity to what you’re asking.

First, just to paraphrase, you’re asking if solutions already exist to a problem in the world, doesn’t it just boil down to a marketing problem since the solutions are the same?

While maybe not a great example, let’s take a look at airlines and airplanes.

Did you know that there are over 5,000 airlines in the world? (At least according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_airlines.)

And while it’s hard to get an exact number of aircraft manufacturers from this list (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_aircraft_manufacturers_by_ICAO_name), let’s suffice it to say that it’s more than one.

Or how about something a little more technical? How about the number of programming languages out there? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_programming_languages

Any one of these aircraft manufacturers, airlines, or programming languages is a solution to a need or a problem. Presumably they all do a good enough job, or no one would be using them. But as we’ll see, just because there’s already someone out there solving a need or a problem one way doesn’t mean that it’s for everyone, or that there isn’t room for improvement.

Case in point, take Virgin Air. People thought Richard Branson was nuts for starting an airline. He probably was. But he saw that there was an opportunity to do the whole airline thing differently than what everyone else was doing. That different approach resonated with some people as a “better way”. People that want a fun plane ride with frills would say Virgin is the better choice than say Southwest. People that want the cheapest flight and don’t care for frills would say Southwest is a better choice than Virgin.

What is marketing?

The actual definition is an exchange of value or something obtuse like that.

But most people understand it to mean the 4Ps:

  1. Product
  2. Price
  3. Promotion
  4. Place

By tweaking any one of those four variables, you are in essence creating a solution that will appeal to different people because of its different characteristics.

So yes, it does boil down to marketing. Everything boils down to marketing.

Modifications to the product, price, promotion, or placement of your offering can make it look like a dramatically different solution to the same problem that will appeal to a certain subset of people (while turning away others). Ask die-hard Virgin Air customers to fly Southwest or vice versa and you’ll see what I mean.

Unless you’re looking to colonize Mars, the solution already exists in the world (and even then, Elon Musk is probably going to beat you to it — solution and competition!).

That does not mean that you should not try to find a segment of the market that is currently underserved by existing solutions, a segment of the market that is unaware that solutions to their problem exist, or a segment of the market that would benefit dramatically by variations on existing solutions.

You have to be different in some way that is meaningful to your target market.

It’s all marketing.

Just not in the way that most people think of it.