Vision – what problem are you solving?

I love this quote from Alina Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity:

“Behind every successful brand is a passionate individual who inspires others to see the future in a new way” 

It’s such a strong statement summing up vision, which we use to kick off our Clarity workshops with clients.

Talking to many business owners, they always see the future differently. There’s something about the present which isn’t quite right for them. Maybe it’s OK, but what if it could be so much better? There’s a problem there that others don’t spot, or the dots just haven’t been connected yet.

Like an itch that has to be scratched, the entrepreneurial business owner *has* to solve this problem, and the more people they can inspire to see the world the way they see it, the quicker it can become reality.

The problem Microsoft originally wanted to solve

Many visions start off this way. For example, Microsoft's vision (which has since changed) was ‘a computer on every desk and in every home’. Bill Gates and co. saw *that* as a problem, i.e. everyone needed a computer or at least access to one. It was a problem he set about fixing for a good proportion of his life.

The problem you want to solve

However, you may not know the problem you are solving. You may have inherited a business or are at the starting phase and haven’t thought about it before. Really understanding the problem helps to get to the core of what it is you do and why you do it –not just the surface problem but how it actually transforms your customers’ lives.

Let me give you an example. I was recently working with a company within the automotive repairs industry. On one level you could say that the problem they solve is that of providing a high-quality repair service. The customer receives their precious vehicle back in working order. 

However, looking at it more from the customer's point of view –and specifically from an emotional perspective, can change the approach taken to marketing the business.

Think about driving a car for a second. We place enormous trust in our cars; that they will work consistently and, essentially, won’t kill us –the brakes failing at the worst possible moment for example. 

The stakes are high. The job a mechanic does can essentially save someone's life –or cause them to have an accident. So the service that’s being provided is so much more than giving the car back in working order. It’s also about providing the customer with a vehicle that they can trust to get them from A to B safely. The repairers are providing peace of mind for the customer.

Then consider the reason the customer is using the vehicle in the first place. It could be a company car for a local self-employed landscaper, or it could be the main catalyst for independence for a young driver living with her parents in a remote location. Using these examples, without the vehicle or trust in the car, the problems are:

a) the business is unable to continue running as it relies on transporting equipment and rubbish
b) the young person loses their autonomy, feels alone and shut in 

Turning problems into a successful vision

Let’s look at a major brand. What problem is Apple’s iPhone solving? It’s not just about your need/desire for a smartphone. The iPhone is much more than a phone –or even a computer in your pocket. 

You are buying the feeling you get when you use the device. Sometimes it’s the ‘wow’ factor of a specific feature. Other times it’s simply a feeling that it does exactly what you expect, and Apple is fulfilling its promise of delivering exceptional customer experiences with intuitive and beautiful user interfaces. Owning an iPhone means you are carrying part of the Apple brand with you, you are embracing the Apple lifestyle. Many people want and choose to buy into that –including myself, it has to be said.

Marketing Minds says, “The Apple brand personality is also about simplicity and the removal of complexity from people’s lives; people-driven product design; and about being a really humanistic company with a heartfelt connection with its customers.”

This desire for simplicity, the need for something that ‘just works’ –and looks beautiful, is an important part of the problem that Apple products solve.

What’s your vision?

So, back to you. What’s your vision? Here are my tips on how you can identify the problem(s) you are solving for your customers. Once you’ve spent time working through this exercise for your business, you’ll be in a stronger position to define your core vision. 

1. What is it you do?

Think about everything you do. This may be as simple as ‘selling bespoke illustration services to clients within the financial publications sector’ or you may have multiple product lines. Note them all down.

2. Find the initial problem

Think about the surface level problem each product or service is solving. Be as specific as you can. 

3. What’s the emotional problem that’s being addressed?

Now look at the deeper problem, as in the examples given above. How does your customer feel after partaking in your service or buying your product? What is the emotional need that is being fulfilled?

4. Spot the themes

Look for patterns within the problems relating to all your products and services. Are there strong common themes appearing? Think about how this relates back to what you are trying to achieve as a business.

I’d love to know how you get on with this exercise and the outcomes. Let me know in the comments field.