The Importance of a Clear Problem Statement for your Product-Based Startup

I have recently rounded off a short video series on my Instagram, on the importance of establishing a focus in your startup. Founders and entrepreneurs continue to be so focused on the end goal, that they fail to niche down on one particular problem and solution — which, more often than not, will result in a failed startup.

It’s easy to get carried away in the preliminary stages of starting a business. Ultimately, if you’re investing time and money in your product, you are going to believe it will change people’s way of life. However, the goal is to understand that it is not going to change everyone’s way of life. When approaching investors and a customer-base, you want to ensure you have pinpointed a problem that they need solving.

If you think your product is for everyone, it’s more likely for no one. We are so frequently being presented with solutions, that often entrepreneurs jump into solution-mode without defining the problem being solved. So how do you establish your focus and ensure you optimise your product so that it doesn’t get lost in the sea of solution-based products?

By creating a clear, focused problem statement.

How to Produce Your Problem Statement?

There are several stages and ways of producing your problem statement. But the rule of thumb is that you need to define how things ‘should’ be working. How should this particular process work? In short, concise sentences, describe how the process would function if this problem didn’t exist. Then, move onto explaining the problem in more detail and why it matters.

Once you have stated your problem and defined its impact, you can back it up with market research and the financial costs of solving it. If something is a minor inconvenience, your customer will not pay disproportionately to resolve it.

Being Realistic With Your Problem Statement

Building a solution can lead entrepreneurs down various unnecessary paths. Being realistic with your problem statement is about ensuring there is a real problem to solve, and not just a fantasy that you, the founder, believe is going to change people’s lives.

Identify whose problem you are solving — who is your customer? Why do they need your product? And validate this with actual stakeholders. Don’t rely on trends for the basis of your problem statement, look at the long-term implications on your customer’s lifestyle, and conduct your own primary market research to ensure you have addressed their problem.

Making Your Problem Statement Clear

You should be able to run through your problem in 30-seconds, or in three to four sentences. Any more than this, and you’ve likely run into the ‘addressing multiple problems’ pitfall. Re-focus and ensure you’ve niched down on what your product is and what one thing you are solving.

Don’t get bogged down by being caught up in the complexities of a problem statement. Narrowing down to a clear, simple problem statement will take the most effort.

If you have a tech product and are looking to optimise your processes and methods for success, reach out to me on Linkedin or via email: alex@thetechgorge.com .

Alex Weekes is a Digital Product Manager, Associate Lecturer, and Startup Consultant working with some of the world's most innovative startups and technologies.

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