Does Your Business Solve a Real Problem?

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There are several factors that determine success in business, like having the right team and following a sound business strategy. There is, however, one aspect that significantly contributes to a company’s longevity: whether or not your business solves a real problem.

The reality is that many entrepreneurs overlook this critical part of building a business. More often than not, the focus skips straight to gaining revenue and scaling the organization. While those are important, the likelihood is they will naturally follow if you address the need of clients. Your business has a better chance to flourish if people are willing to pay for you to help solve an issue.

Consider this guide as your starting point in achieving this goal.

Identify Real Pain Points for Consumers or Other Businesses

Begin by doing an internal evaluation. In another article here on our site, Alan Melton advises focusing on your prospect’s needs to help your business win clients. One of the steps mentioned is to “draw out your prospect’s pain points or business problems.” If there are multiple issues, narrowing down the list to three of the most serious is a smart move. You can then use the gathered data to form appropriate solutions.

Looking at some of the largest corporations today can help with this analysis. Microsoft increased and supplied the demand for personal computers, while Amazon brought e-commerce mainstream. Ask yourself how your product or service can improve the lives of its users.

Doing market research also falls under this category. It lets you identify the troubles experienced by consumers in your target market and helps you recalibrate as necessary to solve their issues. There are numerous tactics you can apply for this task, some of which were highlighted in our post ‘How to Run Market Research and Set Up UX Tests‘, including surveys and focus group discussions.

Focus on a Pain Point and Match It with a Must-Have Service or Product

The principle of needs versus wants applies in this phase. Simply speaking, your business will be a necessity if it solves a client’s problem.

Consumers are more likely to pay attention to you if you have something that they should acquire. This is especially crucial today when a large chunk of the global population has a limited attention span. People have a lot on their plates – be it jobs or personal affairs, which means that needed products take priority.

Take Uber, for example. In bustling cities where industries run non-stop at a fast pace, people must have 24/7 access to transport services quickly and conveniently. Trains and buses follow schedules. Taxis are spotted by chance or booked ahead of time. Uber identified the need for instant car service and filled this gap in the market.

One of our other guides covered common mistakes entrepreneurs make, and they include trying to do everything as well as making a product for everyone. These can harm your business as they may confuse consumers about what it is you really do. Find your niche instead and focus on it, like what Tree City Advisors are doing by providing personalized financial advice to clients. Their specialty is to help businesses and individuals hit financial goals, which is a major challenge for a lot of people today. Same as Uber, Tree City Advisors found a pain point, and they’re using their expertise to address it.

If you’re facing difficulties in finding your niche, there’s always the option to create one for your business. This was the strategy employed by Duncraft, which sold bird supplies like feeders and seeds to customers in the United States. They compete with similar enterprises, both big and small, yet they’re successfully maintaining demand for their business by consistently producing unique and reliable backyard bird products.

Assess If You Relate to the Problem Personally

This step is vital for consistency and long-term vision. When you’re passionate about providing a solution to your customer’s problem, you get more determined to deliver results. Consider the perspective of Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston who said, “The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them.”

We also delved into this subject in the post ‘Creating a Powerful Purpose for Your Business’. Drafting your own powerful purpose statement is a good idea, as the message can emphasize the impact you make on the industry or even the world. You can then share this statement with your team. It will help motivate or inspire the people in your company to have the same level of commitment.

That drive can push you and your team to keep going even if you experience setbacks along the way. You may get rejected after seeking additional funding from investors. A serious drop in the economy may have affected the supply chain, which in turn impacts your inventory. Despite such challenges, you’re less likely to get disheartened because you know that people need your business.

Create a System for Addressing the Problem

Take time to meticulously develop a system on how to approach and address the problem you identified. You may create your own strategy or borrow ideas from other companies. For instance, InnoCentive employs a process called ‘challenge-driven innovation’. Clients share issues related to their business, which are then presented to a group of people they call ‘solvers’. The group is comprised of professionals across the world, such as scientists and engineers.

This system was put into action in the case of their client, EnterpriseWorks/VITA (EWV). The problem defined by this non-profit organization is access to potable water for approximately 1.1 billion people worldwide. To solve this really serious problem, EWV realized that access to water is not enough on its own. In less developed countries like Uganda – the target location of the project launch – many people need to travel long distances just to fetch water. Therefore, the source of the drinking water must also be reachable conveniently.

With the help of solvers, EWV was able to develop a product made of plastic that can store around 1,000 liters of rainwater. As it gets exposed to the sun, UV rays can then purify the water, making it safe for consumption, or it may be transferred to smaller containers for boiling. The product is affordable, foldable, and lightweight to make distribution relatively easier even in remote areas, yet sturdy enough for long-term use. A year after launching the product, there were over 1,400 units sold and installed in the country.

The problem you intend to solve doesn’t necessarily have to be as grand as providing drinking water to an entire region or country. If your product or service benefits its user’s quality of life, even in a small way, then you’re already addressing a real need.

Explore Alternative Methods for Solving the Issue

Don’t stop with one or two solutions. It’s always advisable to have backup strategies. Explore alternative solutions because the approach you chose may not always work, or there may be unexpected drawbacks that may end up wasting your efforts.

For example, we here at Deliberate Directions acknowledge the need for a business to have a quality website. It builds the credibility and legitimacy of your business, improves its visibility to your target audience, and lets customers establish a connection with your brand.

To create a great website, you must have the right domain name. A fitting domain name is crucial because it’s the first detail of your company that users come across when browsing online. One of the real problems business owners face is finding out that the domain names they prefer are already taken. To get over this obstacle, Namechk highlights different alternatives you may consider, like buying a name from its present owner or using a country code top-level domain instead of the usual .com or .net, such as .us for a US-based business entity or .au for Australia. Using variations is also a viable approach. You may add another relevant word to a name, a location identifier such as state or city codes like ID or NYC, or form an abbreviation of your actual business name. Acquiring the proper domain name for your business might be a task that seems straightforward at first glance, but it can be a pain for entrepreneurs as it requires time, effort, and resources.

No matter the problem targeted by your business, remember to put contingency plans in place. Being an effective owner means covering all your bases and preparing for as many eventualities as you can.

Test Prototypes of Your Solution

Once everything above is defined, it’s time to do a dry run. Harvard Business School explains how entrepreneurs can use prototypes, which is about tackling the problem hands-on with test products or inserting yourself in actual scenarios your business might face.

There’s the concept of ‘lo-fidelity concierge testing’ that works for businesses like restaurants or hotels. Consider a restaurant booking system as an example. You can run its operation yourself and accommodate reservations via calls, emails, or SMS. Study the user experience of people booking via your system. Take note of all the positives you can carry over to the final product as well as necessary improvements.

Alternatively, you may build actual prototypes of your product in limited quantities using modern techniques like 3D printing. Another approach is to conduct a test run with a small pop-up store. Evaluate how customers respond to your product or service to see if you’re truly solving their problem.


To determine if your business solves a real problem, you must identify pain points in the industry or niche in which your company operates. Focus on creating solutions that can address these issues and establish a system on how to roll out or launch your project. Be sure to define short and long-term contingency plans that will serve as fail-safes for your chosen strategies. Then finally, do a test run to gauge the impact of your product.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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