Solve a problem people have today, not a future one
It’s conventional wisdom that successful products solve a problem for people. What’s less talked about is the importance of “problem timeliness” of any potential solution.
Imagine you’ve discovered a problem that a large number of people have. You have a solution which requires your customer buy and use your product years before experiencing any pressing symptoms of the problem. Think about that — you are asking them to time travel into the future, imagine their painful scenario, and take action today.
I found out the hard way that there are not many successful products solving someone’s future problem. So now I take the timing of the problem into consideration. If your customer doesn’t regularly or deeply feel the pain of the problem today, it’s a very hard sell.
One notable exception: Insurance. It’s a $1.2 trillion dollar industry which is quite lucrative despite appearing to solve a future problem. On the surface, this makes sense:
- You imagine future health problems, buy health insurance.
- You imagine a future car accident, buy car insurance.
- You imagine your untimely death, buy life insurance.
Despite compulsion to buy these products by your own logical fears about the future, few people do without being pressured to, mostly by local and national laws.
However, there’s one way to change a product’s positioning that helps bring a future problem into the present — focus on anxiety. None of us know the future and uncertainty often manifests as stress and anxiety about the unknown. Focusing on illustrating how your product relieves those feelings could be a winning way to sell a future problem’s solution.
In short, when I find myself comparing a product idea or feature to insurance, I become cautious to pursue it. But if I do, I help people realize today’s benefits, rather than focus on the future problem it solves.