What REALLY is the Problem?

March 16, 2015

 

As a full-service marketing research provider, we frequently encounter clients whose products and capabilities are exceptional. However, all too often, the products being offered act as a commodity and the client attempts to differentiate itself through service. Make no mistake, many a company has successfully differentiated itself through service; however, in highly technical industries, such as oil and gas where virtually every company touts itself as “high-quality”, “customer-focused”, and “good value”, an effective positioning strategy may be difficult to develop.

To help inform positioning strategies, prior to designing research initiatives for its clients, Tricone Marketing Research always asks:

  • What problem is your company solving for its customers?
  • How are you doing it in a way that no other company can?
  • Why is this valuable to your customer?
  • How do customers find you?
  • Where do you want to be?

“We Don’t Offer Products, We Offer Solutions!”

Although a brand, heck any brand, would love to be thought of as “the solution”, many, in my experience, fail to know exactly what problem they are trying to solve. Through sound qualitative research, such as in-depth interviews, bulletin boards, or focus groups with internal stakeholders many deep insights can be uncovered. In this type of research program, it is frequently realized that:

  • A company really doesn’t understand the root cause of the problem, and it may be a symptom of another bigger problem
  • No clear picture as to the magnitude of the problem has been attained
  • The “problem” may not be one that needs to be solved
  • The market opportunity associated with “the problem” may not be one that is attractive enough to provide a solution for
  • The “problem” is truly one that may be outside the organization’s capabilities or area of specialization

When the focus shifts from “the problem” to “the solution”, strategists begin to shift from a “problem solving” mindset, to a “problem understanding” one. In addition, it is realized that qualitative research with customers/potential customers will be needed in order to get a complete understanding into:

  • The real cause of the problem
  • The impact of the problem as it relates to performance/productivity/profitability
  • The potential magnitude of the problem
  • What the ideal solution looks like

After acquiring deep insights into the problem, and determining that it is a problem it wants to solve, an organization is better able to inform its positioning strategy. Granted, the research discussed to this point is only to gain insights into “the problem”. A sound research initiative will be one designed not only to inform about the problem, but also about the market, the competitive environment, the value drivers associated with a solution, the current customer experience, the buying process, and the validation process. These will be discussed in future postings as part of this series.

 

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