Companies can fail if they focus on the solutions they provide and don’t understand WHY customers buy from them. Your customers buy from you to get a job done, or to solve a problem. If you know what this is, you can provide even better solutions for longer term success.

Your customers buy from you to get a job done. Simple. And while we know this, we can still get caught in the trap of falling in love with our solutions.

The example that almost always is cited is Kodak. Kodak had invented the digital camera before it’s competitors but didn’t see its use – because it believed it was in the business of photo chemicals and paper. But Kodak was actually in the business of the job its customers were trying to get done – to keep and share memories.

And when you look at its business from the point of view of the job its customers were trying to get done, you see its competitors not as other makers of photo chemicals and paper, but as others who helped people keep and share memories. Now we not only have digital cameras, but also social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn, as well as the office supplies and printing businesses that allow us to keep and share our memories in print.

So, how do you define what problem you are solving? How do you define the job your customers are trying to get done?

Here is a simple four-step process you can use to identify the problem you solve for your customers.

  1. Write down what you currently do. Keep it simple without going into too much detail.
  2. Then write down who your target customers are. It is not everyone. It is never everyone! Who most benefits from buying from you? Get specific.
  3. Now think about what problem they solve from buying what you do. If your target customers are consumers (individuals), what can they do once they’ve bought from you? For example, if you sell mortgages, then the problem you solve is helping people buy a house.
  4. Write down the problem in simple terms. Don’t get technical, and don’t include your solution.

What you might find having completed this exercise is that you have new ideas on how you can help your customers solve their problem better (faster, easier, less cost). You might also realise you have additional competitors that you hadn’t thought about before.

Now you can communicate to your staff what business you’re really in: the problem solving business.

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