This is How You Succeed as a Startup: Solve a Migraine Type Problem



“The customer’s perception is your reality.” — Kate Zabriskie

If you want to stay relevant as a business or in your job, find a “migraine types” problem worth solving.

This is especially true if you are a startup.

Too many startups fail because they don’t test their idea with customers.

They spent a lot of time and effort trying to “push” their ideas onto customers.

Instead, they could let customers “pull” their ideas.

The key is to find a migraine problem worth solving.  A migraine problem worth solving is one that customers care deeply about and they would pay you for.

In the book All in Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything is On the Line. Diana Kander shares insight into how to find problems that customers care about.

Customer Problems are Either Headaches or Migraines

Focus on the serious stuff.

The rest of it is noise.

Kander  writes:

“You will need to significantly increase your chances of startup success if you focus on solving only those problems that are causing serious issues for your customers

Customer problems are either headaches or migraines. 

Your ordinary headache is just something annoying. ‘Oh, I have a headache,’ and maybe you take an aspirin or you don’t.  Either way, it goes away and you don’t even remember it an hour later.”

What is a “Migraine Type” Problem?

Migraine type problems are worth solving.

The pain is high.  So the value of a solution is high, too.

Kander  writes:

“And then there are migraine problems … They are horrible!  The pain is like an icepick in your brain … With most pain you can lie down or do something to make it bearable.  With a migraine there is no escaping

The world is blurry and your stomach is churning … That’s a problem worth solving

Hence the commercials. Hence the drug and Botox and billboards on the side of the road advertising doctors who treat them with everything, including brain surgery. 

From the handful of migraines I’ve had, I can tell you, on a scale of 1 to 10, the pain is a 10. A throbbing 10.”

Be Like a Detective

Be like a detective and learn the problems that count.

Beware of false positives.

Kander  writes:

“You have to take yourself out of sales mode when trying to identify your customer and their problem. 

Your objective should be to learn, like you are a detective.  

Like someone who is testing a theory.  Like a negative result is just as valuable as a positive

The worst thing you could get is a false positive because that would just waste more of your resources moving forward.”

Use Your Customer’s Words

Use actual statements from your customers to keep yourself honest and reflect the language from real people with real pain.

Kander  writes:

“You need to first and foremost figure out if prices is a problem and which customer segment it’s a problem for. 

And you can’t use your own words to answer these questions. 

You can only use actual statements that you hear your potential customers say when you talk to them.”

You Have to Hit a Nerve

You’ll know when you hit a nerve.

The conversation will suddenly take on extreme importance.

Kander  writes:

“I can’t tell you just how obvious it is when you find a migraine problem.  Once you hit that nerve, they aren’t just going to agree with you and walk away. 

They’ll tell you what they are currently doing to try to solve it. 

All the things they’ve tried in the past that didn’t work.  Even how much money they’ve spent trying to find a solution. 

When you bring up a migraine problem, you’ll see the customer’s eyes dilate right in front of you, like you just stuck your finger in a serious wound.  That’s where I made my money with Sparksys. 

The bigger the pain, the easier it will be to sell the solution.  Plain and simple.  You’ve got to hit a nerve.”

Listen First and Then Talk

Stay curious and listen to learn.

Kander  writes:

“Listen first and then talk.  I can’t stress that enough.  Just remember to listen.  Don’t load questions.  Don’t sell them on a problem.  Just listen to random strangers. 

If they’re willing to talk, let ’em talk.  Ninety percent of the stuff they say may be crap and may be boring, but there’s always a sliver of value there. 

As long as they’re honest and know you’re not trying to sell them something.”

Here’s the takeaway …

If you’re struggling with why nobody wants to buy what you’re selling, or wants to use the services you offer, ask yourself whether you first really checked with  potential customers whether they want it or need it.

One of my mentors put it pretty bluntly.  He said you might think you are good or that you might have a good idea.  But you don’t know until you test it.  You really test it when you actually ask somebody if they would pay you for it.

It’s easy to be good.  And it’s easy to have good ideas.  For a dime, I’ll give you a dozen.

It’s much harder to take it to the next level.

The good news is that potential customers and opportunities are all around you.

If you don’t know what they care about, just ask them.  When you strike a nerve, they’ll tell you all about their pain.

And, if you are struggling at work with being relevant, or struggling to get a job, the same idea applies.

Solve “migraine type” problems for people and you’ll always be relevant.

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