As innovators, most of us subscribe to the belief that customers don't care about our business, product, or service ideas - they only care about the problems they experience and whether our ideas solve them more efficiently or effectively.
This underlying principle is why we spend much of our time talking to customers, conducting qualitative research with them, and using the pains we identify as a jumping-off point for developing new propositions.
But if identifying customer problems and building solutions to them is all that's required, then why isn't every new venture, product or service idea we have a hit?
It's because not all pains are created equally; some just aren’t that important to customers, some are important but not significant enough for customers to want to pay to solve them, and some considerable problems don't exist at a scale that makes solving them commercially viable. And, if you focus on solving the wrong problems (not significant enough, no willingness to pay, not scalable), that can lead to misguided efforts, wasted resources, and propositions that ultimately don't gain any traction in-market.
So, how do you quantify pains to better understand how acute the problem is, how widespread the pain is felt, and how likely customers are to want to pay for a solution?
I thought it’d be helpful to share some of the methodologies we use at Future Foundry to help avoid this trap during customer research.
It requires a little more arithmetic than is usually found in qualitative research, and for that reason, you’ll need to speak to more customers than you might be used to, but you have to move beyond anecdotal evidence from, say, ten customers into spotting patterns among at least 100. This will help you to capture a broad spectrum of insights and opinions, gather more statistically significant results, identify consistent patterns and trends, mitigate the risk of bias, develop a more comprehensive understanding of the market and reduce the risk of developing a product or service that doesn’t meet the needs of your customers.
This is the flow, and if you want to make sure you’re zeroing in on the right problems, you might want to steal it:
- Frequency of Occurrence
How often do the key issues occur within our target market?
- Identify the fundamental problems experienced by your target audience.
- Allow customers to self-report the occurrence of problems.
- Collect data over a set period.
- Look at the frequency of each problem's occurrence.
- Problem Ranking
Which problems are most severe and impactful for our customers?
- List out all identified problems.
- Define criteria for ranking (severity/ impact).
- Score each problem against these criteria.
- Rank the problems based on their scores.
- 'Extreme User' Analysis
What unique insights can we gain from users who are most and least affected by the problem?
- Identify users at both extremes (most and least affected).
- Conduct in-depth interviews with these users.
- Analyse their feedback for unique insights and patterns.
- Impact Analysis
What would be the potential impact of our solution on the customer's life or business?
- Predict the potential impact of a proposed solution on the customer.
- Consider both qualitative and quantitative aspects.
- Conduct pilot tests or case studies if possible.
- Willingness to Pay Experiments
What are customers genuinely willing to pay for our solution?
- Develop different pricing models or tiers for the solution.
- Conduct conjoint analysis to gauge reactions to different prices.
- Refine pricing strategy based on these findings.
And remember, when you’re identifying pains, you have to:
- Focus on the underlying need instead of jumping directly to solutions.
- Transform abstract concepts like "safety" or "convenience" into tangible, actionable terms.
- Base your findings on robust, quantifiable evidence rather than solely on anecdotal data.
These techniques will give you a much better chance of developing solutions that address real customer problems and pave the way for a commercially successful business, product or service further down the line.
PS. If you're looking for some help in crunching the numbers, grab a call with our team here.