Cementing the lesson about identifying the core problem

Sometimes you explain a principle in a simple way that makes it both memorable and easy to understand. Sometimes when when you make this explanation you cement the principle in a new, deep way for yourself. I did this the other day when defending using carefully crafted web copy to sell products instead of feature lists. I was attempting to show that selling a product based on the problem it solves is not a way to trick customers into purchasing.

I used the example of selling water. We all know what water is and why we use it. Listing the features of water looks like this:

  • A clear fluid
  • 2 parts hydrogen
  • 1 part oxygen
  • Becomes a solid at 0°C
  • Becomes a gas at 100°C

This isn’t useful.  People are looking for solutions to their problems. One of the key things water solves is thirst. There are other things that quench thirst, but nothing as natural as good old fresh water. Instead of a features list a better copy could be, “The healthiest way to quench your thirst.”

That makes the principle easy to understand. The key is understanding the problem, which can be a lot of hard work. Never assume you know the problem. Confirming the problem is a big part of the initial customer development and that’s the lesson I want to cement for myself.