Problems vs. Needs

Recently I spent some time watching a presentation (actually it’s a detailed course) by Steve Blank a seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur entitled “How to Build a Startup”. And for anyone starting a business or is involved in a startup this is highly recommended. Part of the course deals with the concept of “Pain Killers” where he elaborates on the difference between Problems and Needs. For someone in the B2B Lead Generation business, the identification of Problems, Needs, and Pain that prospects are experiencing provides us with an opportunity to explore those pains in greater detail and, perhaps engage the prospect in exploring the solutions our clients offer. So understanding the difference can be critical.

How does Blank define Problems and Needs?

“... it's kind of interesting to differentiate between solving a problem or if somebody who has an accounting problem or a word processor or they can now use Google docs versus Microsoft Word versus a need. “ “What's a need? Well, a need might be a need to be entertained or a need to communicate. Needs are something that are universal across all 7 billion people on the planet. Your total available market plus or minus a couple of billion. Maybe kids 0-5 don't have those needs but eventually you will find market sizes for needs to be multiples by orders of magnitude above solving problems. And so, I'm not suggesting that you don't solve problems. I'm not suggesting that you try to turn every problem into a need. But let me suggest the one company in the 21st century that did this better than anybody else in the planet was Apple and the iPhone. They took a communications device and made it a status symbol, and they transitioned from a product that solved a problem, integrated web browser, e-mail, and phone into something that people now every year obsolete their own products by wanting to get the next one because it's now a need rather than a product.”

The takeaway? Generally problem-solving while important, is often both short-term and one-off. Being able to identify the nascent human needs that will drive demand for your solution (as Apple meets the need for status, entertainment, communication and simplicity), coupled with the ability to satisfy one or more of those needs, will produce a stronger, longer-term relationship, assuming your product or solution continues to satisfy the need.

Generally companies look to solve problems other businesses have. If they could deliver more comprehensive solutions to solve needs (vs. problems) then a deeper and longer relationship will ensue.

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