There’s incredible opportunity in solving ingrained problems, especially the ones that slide under the radar. Whether this means offering custom clothing for tall people, or providing solar cookers for communities without electricity, there’s opportunity for business success within fixing problems.
Here are some of my takeaways from my own entrepreneurial journey in the rain gutter industry where I spotted a problem and created a viable solution with a product called The SpoutOff. I have 30 years of industry experience, so I understood the market opportunities as well as the customers’ pain points.
Improving a Hidden Problem
Simple gutters have been around for a few thousand years. In the U.S., the colonists fixed gutters onto their houses. It’s an old technology, that’s seen little innovation over the years. The mechanics of gutters remain the same, rain falls on the roof, trickles down, and then channels into the gutters to the ground or collection devices. Gutters though, are often forgotten about, which is why I have put such an emphasis on the gutter industry.
Millions of US homes have issues with small rain gutter outlets that can easily clog, making it difficult to maintain. Neglecting or not having rain gutters can increase interior and exterior problems such as causing floods as well as destroying the homes’ foundation, structure and outdoor landscape. Rain gutters tend to be invisible work horses of your home. They perform an important function, directing rainwater away from your home, but most of the time, you don’t even realize that they are there, but it’s crucial they receive more attention. Not having a rain gutter or having a faulty one can cause major soil erosion from water that is falling off a home. This can also lead to trenches forming in garden beds, which can lead to drowning out plants and cause uneven floors and cracks in chimneys
For CEOs and entrepreneurs, it’s wise to develop products with multiple benefits layers. My product has “safety”, “convenience”, “cost”, “sustainability” and other values that work together to make an attractive purchase. People have their own motivations and things they care about. A product or service that addresses multiple motivations is smart for any business, whether you’re offering a program for small business taxes or an innovative garden tool. The product or service needs multiple tangible and meaningful benefits that are easily communicated and understood.
Defining a Buying Market
Entrepreneurs should always consider the current or potential market size for their products. A simple statement, but one that’s often overlooked or overestimated. For my industry, the market size is massive. Most homes have gutters, and there’s more than 80 million residential homes in the country. Many successful products and services will have smaller market sizes, but it’s necessary to have a defined and sustainable block of customers. It’s the fundamental step of ensuring there’s a need for the product or service and matching that need to a potential group of people.
Defining the market requires you to identify the target customer, estimating the number of those customers, considering your penetration rate (how deep the product will reach the customers), and then figure out the potential value of the market. It could also involve survey data, so if you’re attacking an ingrained problem, you need to gauge how persistent and widespread this problem is for people. Is it a minor inconvenience that happens twice a year, or a monthly issue that takes time and money to resolve?
Timing the Product to Trends and Feelings
I launched my product during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tie-in was the shift towards residential spending, DIY projects, and improving one’s home. This focus on the home meant a slight rise in spending for such projects during 2020, a year where of course most industries suffered. The product was well into development pre-COVID, but the launch made the most sense during a period of elevated sector spending.
CEOs and entrepreneurs need to time their innovations in response to market conditions as well as competitive movements. They also need to have marketing and support infrastructure in place, so the launch goes smoothly, and new customers feel valued and have an outlet for questions.
Considering emotions in product or service launches does not mean a manipulative journey, where the customers are tricked or presented with fearful messages. It means creating something offering tangible and repeatable value, conquering pain points, and then using emotional marketing to present your product. People make most buying decisions based on emotional responses.
Experienced CEOs know how to work with marketing to understand these emotions and motivations and then develop and present the right products. This is especially important when solving ingrained problems because the customers should feel emotions of relief and surprise, two very positive thoughts that can generate sales and brand loyalty.
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