Coming Soon: Many More Ways to Solve a Problem

Image: PJ Nelson/Flickr

When your business is to serve people and to help them find products that solve their problems or fill a need, you want to be focused on serving those people.

That’s why, as CEO, I’ve spent the past two years changing the internal mindset at Softonic from “we’re a download site” to “we help people solve problems”.

In doing so, I’m following a time-proven strategy to move a company past a narrow, product-driven focus towards an expansive mindset. Long ago, in a classic 1960 Harvard Business Review article, Theodore Levitt asked the question: “What business are you really in?” He suggested that if horse buggy whip manufacturers had defined themselves as being in the transportation business, some might not have disappeared when cars replaced horses as the primary means of transportation.

We recognize that a software or an app download is only one potential solution to your problem.

For example, imagine that you need to present next week to your boss. You might stop by to download a better presentation or design app. But you also might benefit from taking an online class on the art of persuasion, or from reviewing a showcase of the ten most illuminating business presentations. Even better, what if you could find a presentation template based on cognitive science principles for focusing the attention of senior management?

These are all solutions that Softonic could provide you in the future.

So why am I telling you this?

In part, I want you to know how Softonic is changing and to stop by periodically to watch as we make our transition towards this more solutions-oriented, user-centered approach.

But I also want to remind you about the benefits of adopting a more expansive mindset in your own career and business. When all you do is sell a narrow product, you are limited in your ability to serve customers. In other words, you will only hold a very narrow position in their lives. To change this, it pays to be much more focused on what your customers need rather on what you have offered in the past. The better your ability to do this, the more helpful you become to your customers.

Lots of companies are obsessed with the potential value of their customers; it’s like a bunch of fishermen comparing their catches and bragging about who snagged the largest fish. These companies want the benefits of a sale, but not necessarily the obligations of serving a customer.

A more logical approach is to become obsessed with the needs of your customers, and to constantly ask: how can we better serve them? The more you help, the more loyal they become, and revenues ultimately follow. But revenues don’t lead, because being obsessed with transactions is a soulless way to do business.

And, yes, you guessed it… we want to be a lot more helpful in the months to come.

When I look around the Web, I see sites that offer bits and pieces of what we’d like to provide, but none that offer as comprehensive a set of diverse solutions as we plan on providing. The trick isn’t just to provide what you need, but also to make it extremely easy for you to find and utilize that offering.

In truth, this is no small challenge. We serve over 100 million people a month, and the span of what you download is both broad and varied. In other words: there’s a lot of stuff on our site already. As we add many new types of content beyond downloads, we need to make it even simpler for you to find exactly the right solution for you.

Fortunately — although this may not yet be obvious to you — we are well on our way to accomplishing exactly that. Stay tuned…

Scott Arpajian is CEO of Softonic, one of the world’s top 50 web sites.

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