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What If Your Product Doesn't Solve A Problem?

What If Your Product Doesn't Solve A Problem?

You may have heard business mentors and coaches say "don't sell the product, sell the problem it solves". When you feel as though you have a product that doesn't solve a problem, this feels like an impossible maze to navigate around. I used to sell handmade gifts, so believe me, I've been there too! But, after pondering on it for months, I finally figured out what problem my product solves.

When starting a small business, you need to find your niche. A niche is essentially a smaller and more specific section of a wider market, for example, wide-fit women's shoes is a niche of the footwear market. This is so important, because it enables you to directly speak and market to a group of people. When people are spoken to directly, they convert far easier as they have that feeling of "this was made for me". As your business expands over the years, you can venture out of that niche, but during the beginning stages, it's very difficult to grow when trying to sell to multiple groups of people with multiple problems and goals.

With my first business - my handmade gift business - I soon discovered my niche was luxury gifting for women. This became apparent after I introduced a range of products which were far more affordable than what I was currently selling, but the expensive options continued to sell, whilst I only managed to sell a handful of the affordable gifts over 3 months. You want to be known as the place to go to for a specific thing; for me, it was luxury gifts, they could find affordable gifts elsewhere, it wasn't my speciality.

I wondered how luxury gifts could ever solve a problem. They're just gifts, everybody buys gifts, right? Everything I sold was beautifully handmade and unique. I realised the problem I was solving, was that people wanted to spoil their loved ones to something they hadn't ever had before - perhaps for a sense of pride - and they wanted to display effort, without actually having to make the effort of hand making it, which is where I came in! People were able to surprise their loved ones with an exquisite and sentimental gift, without having to deliver it themselves, and all they had to do was click "buy now". The type of person wanting to spend more on a gift - as mine were typically priced £30 to £60 - is also the type of person who wants to have their gift stand out among the rest, as financially comfortable people often show their love through buying things for people. Additionally, people with a higher income often have professional careers, so have less 'free time' to invest into creating thoughtful gifts. As soon as I figured this out, it became so much easier to understand. I was essentially saving people time and effort, whilst enabling them to hold onto their pride and status.

Whilst I knew this to be true, I also knew 99% of people didn't ever want to admit to finding security in their social status. So, of course I didn't ever mention this. I instead worded it in a way that they would feel more comforted by. When you discover the problem your product solves, chances are you won't say it as direct as it is. The same would apply to home decor and jewellery. People decorate their home, often for a sense of pride and status when people come to visit. People often wear jewellery because it makes them feel more prestigious. But, nobody wants to admit they're that type of person, so you wouldn't ever say it as clear cut as that. So, how do you get around it?

You show it, instead of saying it. People aren't dumb, and they're able to see something and attach that inner-sense of pride and status to it. So, you wouldn't say "wear this jewellery to look wealthier", you'd instead show somebody who looks wealthy, wearing the jewellery. The people viewing that will instantly make that link, without knowing, in their mind, and be intrigued into buying it as they want their life to look like that. The same applies to home decor. If you go onto The White Company's Instagram account, they're not telling you about how rich and wealthy you'll feel after using their products. They're instead showing you what your life would look like through photo and video.

Of course, not every product is related to pride and status. Some solve very direct problems, for example, a hair scrunchie prevents hair breakage, allowing your hair to grow. But, some products don't fall into either of these two categories, so you have to look beyond your product and into the wider market.

Let's say somebody has £10 to spend. They could buy your product, or they could buy a competitor's product, or a completely different product. Why should they buy yours?

An example of this would be buying wax melts over candles. They could spend the £10 on a candle, but a wax melt business would save them money (solving a problem) by allowing them to get a longer burn time for less money. On the flip side, a candle adds an element of decoration to your living space, whereas a wax melt doesn't quite do that.

You need to think about what your ideal customer is already buying, and how you can solve a problem in relation to that.

- Are you more affordable, saving them money?

- Are you more efficient, saving them time?

- Do you have better customer service, giving them more security and less stress around buying?

- Do you offer returns when others don't, reducing their fears when buying?

- Are you eco-friendly, meaning they can be sustainable without compromise?

- Are your products more durable, meaning they'll last longer and therefore save money over time?

- Do your products have unique features that solve a certain problem?

- Are you saving people effort and energy?

If you can't answer "yes" to any of this, something needs to change. For people to invest in your products, you need to give them something in return aka solving a problem for them. It doesn't need to be a big problem; it can be something so small that is a generic frustration for humans on a day to day basis.

If I was selling a candle, for example, I wouldn't be showing photos of the candle. At the end of the day, most people aren't buying it for what it looks like, unless it's a decorative candle. I'd instead be showing videos of me coming home from a long day at work, getting in my comfy clothes, wrapping up in a blanket with a book and lighting a candle. This would show that element of relaxation that people aim to get out of buying a candle.

I'd say the only exception to this rule is artwork. I personally don't believe your art should ever be created to solve a problem. Art isn't really a 'product' in the same way as other products. Art is more so created to make you feel something.


Keep moving forward,

The Small Business Handbook Xx





  • Posted by Abigail Holley on

    This is fab, and gives more clarity as to how we should be inspiring to buy our products as opposed to direct selling.
    My struggle is zoning in on my niche. I sell Gel Wax Melts, so my niche customer would be someone who buys wax melts? And then I inspire them to buy Gel versions as they’re quicker and easier to use.

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