2 min read

What's Your "Real Problem"? 🤨

As an entrepreneur, you solve problems for a profit. That's your job.

Your business success is built on creating real solutions to real problems for real people.

In the case of people, "real" means getting specific enough that you can identify an actual human being who represents a group of people you can serve, and learning enough about that person that you can unlock deep, educated empathy and experience their life as if it were your own.

In the case of problems, "real" means you need to pick a problem to solve that your "real people" are aware of, and already want to solve because the problem causes them psychological or emotional pain.

Just because you can see that someone has a problem doesn't mean that it's a problem they're aware of and focused on (you can probably think of some family or friends who have glaring problems you can see, that they don't seem to be worried about).

To get clarity on which "Real Problem" your "Real People" are focused on, Maslow's Hierarchy of Marketing is an incredible tool. You may have heard of it, perhaps as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs (or the Theory of Human Motivation, which is what Abraham Maslow originally titled the concept in 1943).

I call it the Hierarchy of Marketing, because the pyramid illustrates the human experience based on a series of problems and helps you narrow your focus to a single category of problem to solve.

For today's lesson, then, your task is to use your understanding of your "real people" to figure out where there focus is, right now.

  • Are they focused on solving physiological problems just to function, like managing energy or depression or a health crisis?
  • Are they focused on solving safety problems to get their head above water, like getting a good job, saving an emergency fund, or buying their first house?
  • Are they focused on solving love & belonging problems like nurturing a healthy marriage or working less to create more free time for family & friends?
  • Are they focused on esteem problems like getting an industry award, prestigious promotion, or perhaps buying a fancy car and clothing to live a rich life?
  • Are they focused on self-actualization problems like feeling fulfilled in a professional career with purpose, or leaving a legacy they can be proud of before they're gone?

Maslow's hierarchy is sequential, because people can only focus their energy on solving problems in one layer at a time, and they can't think about higher order problems until they've satisfied enough lower order problems to move on.

Similarly, your customers won't buy your solution to their self-actualization problems if they're focused on physiological problems, because they aren't even aware those higher order problems exist.

Your target customer won't even consider a marriage retreat if they're drowning in debt and struggling to pay their mortgage or rent.

Where are your real people spending their time and energy?

What category—and then what specific problem—will you solve?