Customer Development

with Steve Blank

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Pain Gain

Solve a pain or create gain for the customer with your product.

Steve Blank

8x Entrepreneur, Author, Customer Development Expert

Lessons Learned

Needs are universal, across all 7 billion people on the planet.

Serving needs creates markets several multiples larger than merely solving problems.

If the pain you are solving occurs daily or hourly, you are solving something important.

Dig Deeper

  • THINK: Customer Need
  • ACT: Rank Pain or Gain

Lesson: Customer Development with Steve Blank

Step #7 Pain Gain: Solve a pain or create gain for the customer with your product

As you remember, I said it's not only about your product or service features, it's also about pain killers. That is, what are you going to reduce or eliminate for the customer? So, here's a hypotheses about what some pain killers might be because pain killer until now might have sounded like, "Well, wait a minute. Do I hand the customers aspirin?"

The answer is yes. You're really going to solve a pain for them but the pain might be is your product going to produce savings, that is, in time or money or effort? Is it going to make them feel better, that is entertainment products. They don't solve a problem, but they solve a need.

Does it kill frustration, annoyance, is there things that give them a headache. Does it fix solutions they already have but are under-performing because you have new features, or you're better or faster? Or does it end difficulties and challenges that customers encounter every day?

Does it make things easier or help them get things done or eliminate resistance? Does it wipe out or add to negative social consequences, like loss of face, power, trust, or add to social status like Facebook, or Twitter etc., or even LinkedIn.

Or does it eliminate risk? Is it financial, social, or technical risks or what could go very wrong?

So, with painkillers, your hypotheses should include which one of these or which others because this list is finite, there might be other things you're solving and doing to take away pain from customers.

You need to be able to articulate based on your interactions outside the building with customers. Here's what they said, and when I bounced our product off of them, they said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, that really solves this pain," and more importantly, is an important pain.

By the way, just as an aside, I've been talking about a problem or need as part of the product and I just want you to remember that it's kind of interesting to differentiate between solving a problem, e.g. someone has an accounting problem or a word processor or they can now use Google Docs versus Microsoft Word versus a need.

What's a need? A need might be a need to be entertained, a need to communicate. Needs are things that are universal across all 7 billion people on the planet. Your total available market plus or minus a couple of billion, maybe kids zero to five don't have those needs, but eventually you will find market sizes for needs to be multiples by order of magnitude above solving problems.

So, I'm not suggesting that you don't solve problems. I'm not suggesting that you try to turn every problem into a need, but let me suggest the one company in the 21st century that did this better than anybody else on the planet, was Apple and the iPhone.

They took a communication device and made it a status symbol, and they transitioned from a product that solved a problem, integrated web browser, email and phone, into now that something people now every year obsolete their own products by wanting to get the next one because it's now a need rather than a product.

Just some tactics in figuring out pains, I rank each pain that your products and your services kill according to their intensity for the customer. What you are looking for is to try to understand, "Is this a life-saving pain," or, "Yeah, you know, I've lived with this for years. I guess I can live with it for another couple of years." How important is it in the list of pains that customers have in the area that you're serving?

The other thing that you want to think about is not only how intense is the pain, but how often does it occur? If it occurs just once a year, people might live with it. But if it's occurring daily or hourly, you are maybe solving something pretty important.

Finally, the last piece and detail is, what gain are you creating? What are the benefits the customer expects, desires, or is surprised about? So, again, you're going to start with your hypotheses about what makes the customer happy.

Are you going to create savings in time or money or effort? Is this a product that delights them because the outcome is better than you could even imagine? You've got better quality or more of something or less of something that you don't like? Does it just simply outperform current solutions that delight a customer?

Does it make a customer's job or life easier? Or does it create positive consequences that a customer desires? Again, it could be asocial consequence for a need. It could be a business consequence, they get more sales, etc.

And so, much like thinking through pain, you'll start with a set of hypotheses, but the only way to understand this is outside the building in front of lots of customers.

Much like ranking pain, I want you to think about ranking gains. So, think about and make a list of what each gain your product and services create according to its relevance to the customer. This is a big idea, the relevance to the customer.

Much like in pain, you're going to make your first list thinking you got it. "Here's what I'm going to solve for pain and here's what I'm going to create for gain. I absolutely know this. Why? Because it's my opinion," or you might have been a domain expert.

But you know what? At the end of the day, your business isn't about your opinion. What you need to do is now hear this from customers who say, "Here's why it's relevant." And much like pains, you want to understand if this is a significant and substantial gain creator, and again understand the frequency with which it occurs.

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