Challenges

For a Winning Product Launch, Address Genuine Customer Needs

“Successful businesses are grown by entrepreneurs who recognized a need and provide a solution that solved a pain point for others,” James F. Grebey wrote in The Determined Entrepreneur. “By recognizing a pain point you have the opportunity to be the first person to provide a solution to the market.”

Pain points are nothing more than challenges: They keep consumers and business users from having what they want when they want it.

For example, before the dawn of automated teller machines, consumers had difficulty accessing cash from their bank accounts after hours. The introduction of the ATM addressed this pain point.

The crying or whining child in the back of a minivan used to be another huge pain point for parents but it's been resolved in part with the introduction of the backseat DVD player that instantly entertains and quiets fussy kids.

Yet another pain point used to be entrepreneurs’ inability to deposit checks on busy days. This trouble was put to rest with the introduction of remote-deposit capture services that allow them to do so from the office with the use of check-imaging software.

The opportunity to adress consumer needs exists in every industry. “Paint points prevent people from having it better,” Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and small-business attorney Kayhan Fatemi tells me during a recent interview. “You do not need to look too hard to find a pain point. The challenge is coming up with an innovative and elegant solution.”

Mark Blanchard, CEO of a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company that runs the Internet marketplace PassUBuy.com, recently described to me on KCAA Radio’s Money Talk how pain points he had experienced inspired his launch. He had personal property stolen after a prospective buyer visited his home to inspect items listed for sale. 

“The idea was really born, as most ideas are, either from frustration with what is currently out there or the lack of a product on the market that is needed,” Blanchard said. “We did not really see anyone capitalizing on social-media friend networks.”

Blanchard's experiences led him to include certain features on PassUBuy.com’s platform. Items listed on PassUBuy.com are initially shared only between Facebook connections, and listings can't be shown to anyone who's more than two degrees of separation from the seller.

This ensures a certain level of familiarity between buyer and seller and is designed to prevent fraud. Plus, when a seller's connections' sharing of a listing lead to a sales transaction, they receive a 2 percent commission for their busywork on Facebook.

“A singular pain point is the highest-priority problem that you want your brand to solve,” wrote John Vyge in The Dragons' Den Guide to Assessing Your Business Concept. “The purpose of focusing your product or service solution on a singular pain point is to have your product or service become the preferred choice of the customer or client.”

Every business and business plan should have at its core the goal of providing solutions to one or more of customers’ pain points. The following are some tips for identifying pain points:

Related: 6 Key Factors in Scoring a $1 Billion Valuation for Your Startup

1. Be of service to others.

Business planner and author Tim Berry has encouraged entrepreneurs to ask themselves, “Who is better off because your business exists, and why are they better off?”

Successful entrepreneurs make themselves and their products or services indispensible by solving problems and making life better for customers. Don’t do what you want to do. Instead, solve a problem by giving the market what it's dying to have. And do it better than the competition.

2. Find new pain points.

“When Apple designed the iPod it was usable only with headphones," acccording to the XtraPal website. "Users soon grew frustrated that they had no way of playing their thousands of songs out loud.”  

“This led to many other companies developing docking stations and speakers for the iPod,” the site added.

Entrepreneurs are well served by making customers cognizant of pain points that they never knew existed. PassUBuy.com’s Blanchard made Facebook users aware that they spend valuable time sharing content on Facebook without earning a financial return. Then he told them, “Guess what? If you share this content you can earn money.”

Related: 9 Entrepreneurs Reveal How They Validated Their Business Idea

3. Have a unique solution.

Entrepreneurs intending to enter a market should ensure that their redress to the pain point is new and not more of the same. Consumers are creatures of habit. All things being equal, they will not try something new. They must be lured with an improvement over the status quo.

Hermosa Beach, Calif.-based Joseph Love, creator of Sing for Success, shared with me how he has been able to tap the executive coaching market through his innovative approach: “Executive and CEO coaches usually focus on everything but the voice. I position myself as [offering] supplemental or stand-alone coaching that uses mastery of the voice to create professional success.”

4. Determine a pain's intensity.

“Before you start building your product, ask yourself: how intense is the pain I am targeting?” Web app product manager Justin Jackson wrote on his blog. “This is important, because the level of pain a customer is experiencing will determine how much they are willing to pay for the solution and how desperate they are to find" one.

Successful entrepreneurs are in continuous communication with their target market. They should be listening for pain points during on-site visits with clients, phone calls, emails, conferences, social-media interactions and by seeking out other venues where the target customers are likely to vent their frustrations.

Entrepreneurs should analyze the pain points and determine which can be addressed and focus on the most significant ones as they are most likely to provide the greatest return on investment.

Related: Raising Capital? Answer These Questions to Score an Investor's Check