99point9percentThere are a lot of “theories” about what works to build a successful business, to sell, or to create an effective marketing campaign.

And most have some merit, and can be very useful within a certain context.

Yet, you can easily get distracted by thousands of irrelevant details, so much so that you can forget that there’s just one thing that really contributes to business success.

What is that one thing?

Solve a problem.

Or, to take it one big step forward…

Offer a unique solution to a pressing problem at a clear value…

Let’s break that down…

“Offer a unique solution…” 

It’s hard to sell a me-too product.  You’ll always be undercutting competitors, trying to compete on price.  And that’s a sure way to the poor house, or business bankruptcy.  Instead, offer something unique.  Something that offers any one of a number of advantages over competitors.  This way, when you lay out buying criteria, there’s a clear path to choosing your product.

Not everyone will choose your product based on its unique qualities or advantages.  And that’s okay.  They don’t have to.  Only part of your market has to choose you to be a success.

Of course, we don’t want to gloss over the solution part of this.  Your product or service should be a clear solution to a problem the marketplace has.

Which brings me to…

“… to a pressing problem…”

Nearly every market that exists can best be described by the problem it represents.  Even wall art: “I need to fill the space on the wall with something that represents my personality.”  Or music: “I need entertainment, fulfillment, or just to have a good time.”  And of course things like business solutions: “I need more customers!”

If you can find the problem, you can find the market.  And if you find what appears to be a market, the best way to figure out how to serve that market profitably is to identify the core problem it wishes to have solved.

But a problem alone doesn’t make for a great market.  The more pressing, urgent, or acute the problem is, the more pent up desire there will be for your solution.

I have a lot of problems in my life I don’t need to solve now.  Usually, they’re the relatively little things.  So I don’t go out searching for solutions — and I’m definitely not shopping for products.

On the other hand, I’ll occasionally feel a need so pressing that I immediately go out and buy something.

For example, I have a favorite pair of leather boat shoes I wear almost every day.  I had them for a long time, and I wasn’t in the market for shoes at all.  But then one day the sole came unglued, and I looked at them and realized they were pretty worn out.  Suddenly, I had a pressing problem and was in the market for a brand new pair of shoes.

This is a problem that constantly comes up — hence the prevalence of shoe stores throughout all towns and cities, as well as online.

Others may be more unique or less widespread, but equally urgent when they arise.

Or, the problem may be unrecognized and unfulfilled in the market, but be something members of the market (aka people with that problem) will immediately recognize as soon as a solution is presented.  For example, having access to the internet and apps and games and your music collection and everything else through your phone, without a keyboard.  Others were starting to get into this space (specifically, Blackberry), but from the moment Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, that “problem” became pressing for millions to solve.

As this example proves, there are a lot of ways to think of pressing problems.  But if you’re looking for the surest path to success, you generally want to stick with solving clear problems that already exist in the marketplace.

“… at a clear value.”

Here, you want to think of the trade-off.  Will your prospects and customers feel like the amount they are investing is a value.  That is, do they feel like they’re getting a good deal in taking you up on your solution to their problem?

This doesn’t preclude any specific pricing strategy.  In fact, people can spend a TON of money, and still consider it a good deal, or a clear value.

The more clear that value it is, the better off you are when it comes to justifying the price and offer in the selling process.

Some things to think about.  First, what is the price point, and how does that compare to other solutions?  What features, benefits, and buying criteria favor your product to justify a price difference to the other solutions?

How quick will the benefit or get a return on the purchase?  If there is instant gratification, that often justifies slightly higher pricing, versus something where the gratification is delayed.  (Example: candy in the check-out line is way more expensive per-ounce than the candy in the candy aisle at the grocery store, but the fact that you’re going to eat it right away provides the instant gratification you need to pay more.)

And finally, what is the total lifetime benefit or return on your solution?  Is it something that pays off for years?  Or is it something they spend money on once, benefit for a very short period of time, and then are on to the next thing?  For example, a marketing campaign that will make money for years might be worth disproportionately more to a business owner than a single email set to go out on a single day, even if that email makes more money in the short run.  Or, shoes you can wear 1,000 times before they’re worn out may be worth 10X shoes that will show wear after 100 times wearing them, on that alone.

This applies to business, advertising, selling, everywhere!

When it all comes down to it, if you follow this one simple rule, you’re setting yourself up for business success.

Maybe you provide business services like copywriting that solve a problem.

Maybe you provide a product that solves a problem.

Maybe you sell information that solves a problem.

Whatever it is, if you’re solving a problem for the market, you’re off to a good start.

Further, you’ve made selling easy.

If your offering solves a problem for your target market, all you have to do to sell is come forward and say it.

“You have this problem.  I realize that problem sucks, and you want to solve it.  I’ve looked at all the solutions out there, and recognized there are some shortcomings.  But this solution I’ve identified will work for you, better than the rest, and here’s why.”

If that’s a legitimate narrative for your business, market, and offering, it’s a total breakthrough.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr