Problem Solution Fit: without understanding customer problems there’s no solution

Before you set yourself on the quest of generating and testing the „right“ solutions for your customers it sounds like a great idea too, first of all, understand that very „right“ problem.

New products are inherently hard to launch because both the problem and solution are unknown.

Whether it is a business environment or end-consumer segment, — your customers do not wake up in the morning dreaming of having that awesome new gadget or a new super convenient service for cleaning their apartment.

How to get to the problem solution fit via the Jobs to be done is what you will read in this article.

Problem Solution Fit : What it's actually about

For startup founders and entrepreneurs, for large companies, multinationals, and even freelancers problem-solution-fit means the search or development of new original or unexpected solutions on a case-by-case basis with the primary purpose of being able to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and develop a better understanding of customers’ views and needs. 

When such a solution is found, and a company comes up with an approach that from various perspectives represents a game changer for customers we can say this is the case of a problem-solution-fit. 

However, if companies skip the testing of the Problem-Solution Fit they came up with, they will risk landing in the situation where nobody wants their solution, which is rather sad given the amount of time and finance put in.

Your product comes later

When we enter the stage of Problem-Solution-Fit assessment we do not engage in testing some specific product ideas, — it is yet too early for a product. It’s all about testing whether the kind of solution itself looks attractive. It’s enough to describe the value proposition you came up within a few sentences without features and technical details. Keep it as simple as possible.
Problem Solution Fit

This simple diagram illustrates the way how Eric Ries, one of the founders of Lean Startup methodology, formulates the strategy for Problem-Solution-Fitness: 

1. Do people actually have the problem that I assume they have?
2. How do they deal with their problem now?
3. Does my solution make a meaningful difference?

Problem Solution Fit is just the beginning

Get the Customer Insights Suite Light. This lean toolbox helps you create exciting customer relationships. 

Customer Insights Suite Light dark version

Forces of Progress

In their natural environment of the day-to-day life, consumers’ decisions and views are often predetermined by their character types, which to you, as a company and a marketer; seem rather obscure, because you can’t know what’s in their heads. Below you will find a clear picture illustrating the magic 4 Forces of Progress.

These forces for progress are the emotional forces that generate and shape the needs of consumers for a specific product. These forces can be used to better describe and understand the high demand from customers towards certain solutions with JTBD (Jobs to-be-done, tasks to be completed) or demand for some specific product.

There two groups of forces that work against each other while forming consumer demand. The first group is Push and Pull. These are any forces that stick together to generate demand. The other group is Habit and Anxiety. This is the combination that reduces demand. Your customer is in the middle, and your customer is experiencing this emotional mess.

Forces of Progress
Ash Maurya from LeanStack has managed to develop a wonderful working basis of Customer Forces Canvas in order to achieve structured progress in creating Problem-Solution Fit for her business. 
It suggests additional extended areas along with the Customer Forces which first exist only as assumptions, but in the process can be quickly substantiated through a series of problem-solution interviews.
Customer Forces Canvas
It comes to the development of the following elements in the canvas, with a minimum of time to learn the maximum about the forces acting on a customer:
  1. The triggering event
  2. The desired outcome
  3. The previous solution
  4. The considerations for alternatives
  5. The new solution
  6. Inertia that restrains the customer
  7. Friction that gets in the way
  8. Actual outcome – the job behind it
  9. Next milestone

Problem and Solution Interviews for quickly validating customer pain points

The work to understand customer needs is only successful if you carry out this work validly with potential or existing customers. 
So not just in a quiet little room at a lonely canvas. At best, these serve as a documentation basis for collected validated and invalidated impressions from the customer side. 
For the actual discussions with customers in the course of customer development, the following guidelines can help you.

Problem Interview

Interviews to get to the bottom of the Jobs to be Done and related challenges and forces can be handled very well with the following structure.
Here first in the first step, in order to find the problem of the customer.

(without entering data)

Problem interview script
Solution Interview Script

Solution Interview

Interviews to suspend the possible solution to the harsh reality and to collect feedback for it can be done with the following structure.

(without entering data)

Customer Empathy Mapping is one extremely valuable method supporting the Problem-Solution-Fit. You can read more about how simple-to-use and awesome tool the Empathy Map is and how it works in our article “What customers want“.

Now it is your turn

Your way to Problem-Solution-Fit is the process that is greatly influenced by your interaction and dialogue with your (potential) customers.

You have already learned about some simple and effective tools that will help you on your journey. Now you will work on proving the product-market fit. 


About Me

As a growth marketing expert and customer developer, I experience every day how important a customer-centric corporate culture is. 

In combination with agile testing and optimization processes, you will bring your growth fully on course.


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