Step 1: Define The Problem with Customer Conversations

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What problem are you solving? How you answer this question can transform your business from an obscure project to a thriving, sustainable company.

The problem your business solves is very close to the heart of your business, the core. An accurate and clearly defined problem can be like rocket fuel for your business. So, the goal of this step is to clearly define the problem.

The power of this step is not only in choosing the problem, but also in the research you'll do to confirm you've found the right problem for your unique audience.

To do this, please complete this course: click here to start the Winning Insights with Customer Conversations Course >>


Get to Know Your Customers

You'd be surprised how many entrepreneurs set out to start a business with all the hope and excitement and best of intentions only to smash into one disappointment after the other again and again. Why does this happen? Because they were trying to solve a problem nobody has.

Don't make this fatal mistake. There's work to be done to define a problem that actually exists. The best way to discover a true problem is to pay attention to your audience.

We talk to them, we research them, we listen, observe and learn from them.

You learned about this in the 3 Rules to Build by video, but we don't mind saying it again:

We often see this entrepreneurial roadblock: entrepreneurs get stuck inside their own heads, not doing the necessary research to learn from their customers.

When we get to know our customers and make time to listen to them (we mention several ways to do this below) we open ourselves to their feedback, gaining insights and strengthening our business idea.

To learn insights from your audience you need to do three things: find them, pay attention to them and research your competition.


1. Find them

You have a good sense of your ideal customer from the Defining Your Audience course. In that course you did research to find where they hang out online.

  • Keep a list of places you know you can go to hear what they're saying. (Social media accounts, forums, blogs with comments, LinkedIn groups, Reddit subreddits, etc.) If you need help on this head back to the course on Defining Your Audience, specifically the worksheet and lesson on research tactics.
  • Don't neglect your own offline network. There's a good chance you know at least a few people who are good representatives of your audience. These folks are a great resource for you!

2. Observe and talk to them

Spend time in those places you've identified on the list above and do 2 things:

Observe your audience:

  • What are they talking about?
  • What words come up often?
  • What are the emotions or sentiments being passed around this community? What are they feeling?
  • How is their behavior different from their expressed values?

Talk to them:

  • Why are they interested in this topic?
  • What are they struggling with right now?
  • If they could wave a magic wand, what would their new reality look like?
  • How motivated are they to cultivate that reality?

It's normal to resist doing the work of talking to your customers. Do it anyways. It's arguably the most important tool you have to create a business that thrives.


3. Research Your Competition

Another great way to discover things about your audience is to do some research on your competition.

Don't feel scared if there's other competition out there! The fact that competition exists is a good thing because it indicates that there may be a real problem to solve for this audience.

  • Identify competitors serving the same topic, audience or both. Keep a list of these. Answer the following questions for each competitor you find:
  • What problem are they trying to solve? Is it clear? Why or why not?
  • Would your ideal customers find what they are looking for here? If not, what's missing?

Common Struggles: Dead Ends & Comparison Traps

You might get really excited when you're doing this work. You may also have moments of frustration, wondering why you can't seem to put your finger on a specific problem. You might also ask yourself how you will ever be "as good" as some of the other entrepreneurs you see.

It is precisely in moments like these that the "3 rules to live by" video can re-center you, keeping your head clear and reminding you that your idea is a hypothesis and the real work is sticking with it until you develop the product + market fit that feels right to you.

Think of it this way: Michael Jordan is one of the best to ever play basketball. But he missed more than 9000 shots in his career, lost almost 300 games, missed 26 game winning shots. As he puts it:

"I've failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed." Michael Jordan

When you get frustrated (we all do from time to time), remember that we succeed only because of the failures we survive through.


Define the problem

Now it's time to identify and define the problem your business will focus on. This is not the problem you'll focus on foreverfor now.

Think of it this way: if you were writing a book for your target audience about the topic you've chosen, and in that book you could effectively solve ONE problem, what problem would it be?

Identify that problem and write it out as clearly as you can.

Note: If you're struggling with this one, now's a perfect time to bring your thoughts to the forum for some feedback and help. The Question & Answer section is a great place to get feedback on your business idea.

When you're done, click next and we'll talk about Business Archetypes.