“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.” ~G. K. Chesterton

Lan Su PortalYou have a solution and it is whiz bang. You know the one. You started your business to share it with the world. This solution of yours is valuable and it addresses a big, prevalent, important problem. The world will be a better place with this problem finally eradicated and you know exactly how to make it happen. Let’s call this your target problem and the people who have it your target audience.

The thing is, you have a big frustration. Most of your target audience isn’t looking to solve your target problem. In fact, many of them don’t even know or care that they have it.

Have you encountered this dilemma in your business? It isn’t because yours is not a worthy cause — it is because yours is an unknown cause. But you’ve figured that out already. So you have decided to enlighten everyone about the target problem. That process is proving to be a bit arduous however.

You could spend all your time and treasure educating the marketplace about the target problem but that is turning out to be a long and treacherous road. What if there was a way that paradoxically was not as direct and yet shorter? Instead, what if you were to focus on another problem your target audience has, a problem they are already motivated to solve? We’ll call this the portal problem.

You don’t have to sell your target audience on their having the portal problem. They are already achingly familiar with it. You don’t have to sell them on it being worth their while to solve either. They are highly motivated to get rid of it. All you have to do is establish that you can solve their portal problem in an acceptable trade.

So solve it for them in such a way that you deliver good value. Wait, am I telling you to give up on your solution to the target problem in favor of a more commercially viable (and boring) solution to a different and far less interesting portal problem? Not at all.

There is a reason it is called a portal problem. It opens a door for you. While solving their portal problem you are also going to make certain to solve their target problem. Nail that sucker.

Afterward, enlighten your delighted customer as to their additional problem you solved after the fact. Show them what they missed. You already have their trust. After all, you did what you said you would do for them regarding their portal problem. And now here you are, going the extra mile. If your target problem is real (and you know that it is), they should by now be basking in the benefits of its solution. It is delight upon delight for your customer. There is no better education you could provide than the revelation of a former and now solved problem.

We could compare this to the way many companies sell add-on warranties, only with the injection of far better intent. It is well documented that add-on warranties are high profit sales for sellers and yet low value purchases for buyers. Therefore many companies push them without regard for their customers’ well being out of their own selfish desire for higher profits.

But what if those companies threw in a warranty at no additional cost because they knew it would solve a long term problem for their customers of which they are presently not aware? As people start to rely upon those warranties and recall the generous way in which they received them, long term customer loyalty would be locked in and reputation among new potential buyers would skyrocket.

That sounds pretty good but imagine how things would go south if these companies were to lead with the warranty. Customers would think, “I don’t want to buy a warranty, I want to buy a television / a washing machine / a pickup truck!” The Warranty Store is not going to do very well compared to the Automotive/Electronics/Appliance Store.

You need to be the Portal Solution Store. At the beginning of the relationship, your target audience will likely view your target solution as incidental. But you know better. If you care enough about your target audience to lead with the portal problem of their concern, you will then and only then earn the privilege of solving their target problem.

People didn’t know they needed a computer that was design wonky. But Apple Computer did. People didn’t know they needed fast food made from ingredients that were never frozen. But In-N-Out Burger did. People didn’t know they needed a bottled tea with less sugar. But Honest Tea did.

Apple didn’t lead with design, they lead with ease of use. In-N-Out didn’t lead with unfrozen, they lead with a simple menu. Honest Tea didn’t lead with less sugar, they lead with better taste. But they have all managed to deliver and get people excited about their target problem and more importantly their target solution.

Are you an business owner who feels stuck? Are you overwhelmed? Do you feel like you are spinning your wheels? These are the problems we solve at Vera Claritas every day and we solve them definitely. But as important as they are, they are merely the portal problems. Do you want to know the target problem we make it our business to solve? You’ll just have to work with us to find that out. But rest assured, both portal problems and target problems fall before us because we are on a mission to help business owners take their target solutions to the world.

“You’re solving the wrong problem.” click to tweet

If the world needs more of your target solutions, let’s talk. We regularly provide free consults. Sometimes those consults result in an offer to work with your company. We are clear about who we can help. It all starts with a conversation. We offer it at no cost but it isn’t free. It will take some of your time and it may challenge some of your assumptions. Let’s solve some portal and target problems together.

Photo credit: Alene Davis

You’re Solving the Wrong Problem
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2 thoughts on “You’re Solving the Wrong Problem

  • Permalink

    Ok, I get what our target problem is and I have figured out a portal problem. It’s just it costs us money to solve their target problem, more money than I can ask to solve their portal problem. So now what?

    • Permalink

      You have two possibilities: 1) Find a bigger portal problem; or 2) make the portal problem you’ve got bigger. By #2 I mean solve the problem for longer or even forever. Solve it in greater depth by solving its precursor problems. Solve it in greater breadth by cover other related problems that perhaps aren’t as pressing to your customer but where they still see clear, present value. Do see what I am doing here? I am solving your portal problem so that you will accept my target solution. 😉


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