How do you know if your startup has identified a problem worth solving? The trick is to never assume that every identified problem will create a successful business. You will significantly increase your chances of startup success if you focus on solving only those problems that are causing serious issues for your customers.
Customer problems can be put into two categories: Headache problems and migraine problems. A headache problem is a recognized annoyance that a customer isn’t willing to spend much time or money fixing.
I take my dogs on a lot of walks, and I have to pick up behind them after they defecate. It’s annoying. And I wish I didn’t have to do it. If you asked me if picking up after my dogs on our walks was a problem, I would say Yes! But I’m not going to spend any money on a fancy pooper scooper that I have to bring with me on my walks. My current solution, used bags from the grocery store, works well enough, and I honestly have never gone online to look for other options. This problem is just like a headache. It’s annoying, but short of taking some over the counter medicine, the majority of people wouldn’t do anything else to treat it.
A migraine problem is a completely different story. Here are the symptoms that can accompany a migraine (from Medicinenet.com):
- Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
- Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting, upset stomach, abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sensations of being very warm or cold
- Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)
Migraines are such a serious problem, that people have tried anything and everything to decrease the pain: brain surgery, antidepressants, botox, anti-seizure drugs, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, etc. This is a problem worth solving.
Two days ago one of my dogs, Winston, got really sick. He was vomiting every few hours and couldn’t keep anything down. He kept looking at me with his puppydog eyes, trying to communicate to me that something was wrong and he wasn’t feeling well. After about 20 hours of this without any marked improvement, I rushed to the vet’s office to get him checked out. This was a migraine problem. It didn’t matter what tests the doctor wanted to run, or what prescription he wanted to issue, I would pay anything and everything to make him feel better.
When you are talking to potential customers and trying to figure out if they identify with the problem you think is worth solving, make sure you are asking the right questions to determine whether you’re solving a headache problem or a migraine problem. These questions can include:
- On a scale of 1-10, how seriously does this problem affect your life?
- What do you currently do to solve this problem (note: if they don’t really have a current solution, then it’s not a real problem)
- How much would you pay to solve this problem?
- What other solutions have you already considered? Tried?
What have you done in your startup to figure out if you were solving a headache problem or a migraine problem?
If you like this post, sign up to receive similar weekly posts by email!