Problem validation is vital in any business, especially for introducing a new product or service. Without validating the problem, businesses risk spending time, money, and resources on a product that customers may not want or need.
This article will explore the importance of problem validation and how to master this art effectively. You will learn:
- What is problem validation, and why is it important?
- How to identify and validate your customers' pain points?
- The best tools and resources for problem validation
- The actionable steps for problem validation
Let's get started.
What Is Problem Validation?
Problem validation is the process of determining whether a problem truly exists and whether it is worth solving. It is an important step in the product development process that helps ensure that resources are allocated effectively toward solving the right problem.
However, it is crucial to approach the process with an open mind and be willing to consider different perspectives and insights. This can help identify the problem's root cause and potential solutions.
Additionally, researching the market as a part of market validation and analyzing data can provide a clearer understanding of the scope and impact of the problem. Validating a problem before investing resources into a solution can help to reduce the risk of failure and increase the likelihood of success in the marketplace.
By focusing on solving the right problem, businesses can ensure that they are creating products or services that meet the needs and desires of their target audience.
Why Is Problem Validation Important?
There are a few reasons why problem validation is important. Here are just a few:
- To make sure you are solving the right problem: Problem validation is crucial to ensure that you are solving the right problem. It's essential to ensure that the problem you are trying to solve is the actual problem and not just a symptom of a larger underlying issue.
- To better understand the problem: You need to understand the problem as deeply as possible to solve it effectively. You can also use the results driven by concept validation to uncover details and insights you might not have otherwise discovered.
- To assess the potential impact of your solution: Before investing time and energy into developing a solution, it's important to ensure that it will address the problem meaningfully. Problem validation can help you determine whether or not your proposed solution is likely to be successful.
What Can You Do to Validate The Problem?
When it comes to problem validation, a few key steps can help you determine the significance of the problem you're trying to solve. Let's look at these individually.
1. Existence Of The Market Category
(Several Competitors Offering To Solve The Same Problem)
To validate if you're creating a new market category, you must check if our product has a category fit. If it does, you can consider that your product or idea fits within that category.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that creating a new category might be harder because you have to educate the market and develop the category, but the growth opportunity could be bigger.
Some examples of products that fit into a new market category include Under Armour's sports clothing and Apple's smartphone (even though it was too early for the mainstream market at first). In fact, Microsoft Teams, which came after Slack created the category and proved the demand is also an example of this.
2. Confirm With The Industry Experts
Industry experts can provide invaluable insight and knowledge when validating a problem. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Connect through social networks or ask contacts for introductions if you still need to get a relationship with the experts.
- Briefly introduce the problem you want to solve and explain how they can help you with your research.
- Request a short 1:1 meeting or survey, at most 10-15 minutes.
- Ask them about the process related to the problem you want to solve. But, only discuss your idea once you have confirmed your problem assumptions.
- By the end of the meeting, you can introduce your idea and ask for feedback or recommendations. It can be a great validation step if the expert is willing to help amplify word-of-mouth for your product.
3. Interview At Least 30 People From Your Target Audience
This step involves interviewing and observing individuals in your target audience, including both the users and those who initiate the use of the product or service. The number of people you need to speak with will vary based on the complexity of the problem you're trying to solve.
But if you’re confused about where to find these people, it's better to approach spaces and places where they mostly hang out. Here are two cents to help you out -
- Find online communities and groups on Reddit, Slack, and Facebook.
- You can go for pages. Use SparkToro for this. Once you find these groups, start networking to understand their problems better.
- You can also use problem research tools to help reach your audience. Our top 3 picks for this are - Respondent.io, Userinterviews.com, and Pickfu.com.
Also read: Customer Validation: Guide To Validate Your Customer Base, Along with a Suitable Go-To-Market Strategy
4. Articulate Clearly And List Down Problems To Solve (Jobs, Outcomes, Pains)
Before diving headfirst into solving a problem, it's essential first to articulate and list the specific jobs, outcomes, and pains your target audience is experiencing.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by mapping out your customers' journey and empathizing with their needs and pain points.
- Briefly define the Jobs, Pains, and Outcomes of your customers.
- Jobs-To-Be-Done: This statement describes the specific tasks, goals, objectives, problems, or outcomes that a group tries to achieve or avoid in a given situation. Here’s a guide if you need more guidance on this part.
- Pains: These things frustrate or prevent your customers from getting their jobs done. Pains can also include potential bad outcomes or risks. Here’s a template for trigger questions that might help you.
- Outcomes/Gains: These are the benefits and outcomes your customers expect, desire, or require from your product or service. For a better assessment, it is recommended to use trigger questions for evaluation. Here’s a template you can use to access these questions.
- Translate the information gathered in the empathy map and customer journey into Jobs, Pains, and Outcomes. These will serve as inputs to build your value proposition.
- Use a board or database to keep track of the problems you have identified, including Jobs To Be Done, Pains, and Outcomes.
- Prioritize the problems according to their potential value for your customers. This will help you to focus on the most important issues first.
By following these steps, you can clearly articulate the problems you are solving and build a value proposition that resonates with your target audience.
5. Get Confirmation From Your Target Audience Of The Existence Of The Problem You Are Solving, With Evidence
To validate the problem in problem validation, obtaining evidence supporting the problem you’re trying to address is crucial. Here, you’ll need to focus on solving two main areas:
- Underserved needs - These needs are significant yet not adequately met by current solutions. By creating a product that addresses these, you can have an edge and provide a better solution that improves the outcomes of your target audience.
Tesla’s focus on creating electric cars is a great example of this. This idea addressed the underserved need for more environmentally friendly and sustainable transportation options.
- Overserved Needs - Needs that are deemed unimportant by your customers, who are already satisfied with existing solutions. In such cases, there is an opportunity to build a less complex and cheaper product.
The case of Betterment can be taken as an example here. In this case, the need for investment services is already being adequately met. Still, they identified an opportunity to create a less complex and cheaper product than the existing solutions.
And how did this help?
By doing so, Betterment attracted customers looking for a more convenient and affordable way to invest their money. You can try out the smoke test to test your value proposition and delve deeper into problem research. Here’s a quick guide to dive deeper into the steps.
6. Research The Compensating Behaviors Of Your Target Audience
When trying to validate a problem, an important part of your research should understand your target audience's compensating behaviors. Compensating behaviors are how people try to solve their problems without a product or solution that adequately addresses their needs.
Let’s look at a classic case to understand this - Smartphones!
Before the introduction of smartphone cases, people had to carry a digital camera, a cell phone, and whatnot. But with time, the scenario changed as a smartphone could do everything for them.
Hence, to identify the compensating behaviors of your target audience, start by asking yourself one fundamental question -
What are your customers doing or using to compensate for the lack of a product to solve their problem?
Is it -
- The technology?
- An action?
- A process?
- An Asset
- Or the Labor?
Once you've identified these behaviors, you can use them to create a product that solves their problem more effectively. Alternatively, you can also consider the Model of Compensatory Consumer Behavior.
This model suggests that consumers may compensate for the absence or inadequacy of a product by seeking alternative solutions or using other products in combination.
By identifying these behaviors, you can know how people compensate for the lack of a product in the market. And there you go, you have your opportunity to create a better product that solves their problem more effectively. Here's an insightful read for more reference on this.
Also read: Price Testing: Why it Matters, Proven Methods & 6 Surefire Ways to Validate Willingness-to-Pay
Best Tools and Resources for Problem Validation
Validating a problem can be daunting for many entrepreneurs, but with the right tools and resources, it doesn't have to be. In this section, we'll share our top picks for the best problem-validation tools and resources to make your journey to success a little easier.
Let’s first look at some pretty useful tools to validate a problem.
- Validation Board
A Validation Board is a useful tool for problem validation because it helps entrepreneurs and product teams identify and validate customer problems in a structured and efficient way. It enables teams to brainstorm and validate their assumptions in a structured and iterative way.
It is a mind-mapping tool that allows you to organize and structure your thoughts and conduct idea validation visually. When you are trying to validate a problem, it can be helpful to visually map out the problem and its potential causes, as well as any potential solutions or mitigations.
Rev1 is a platform that offers a range of services to help startups and entrepreneurs with market research, customer discovery, prototyping, and access to resources such as funding, mentors, and talent. These services can be useful for startups by testing product ideas and features.
Now that we have the tools let’s look at a few resources you can refer to for a better and deeper understanding of the topic
“The Ultimate Guide to Problem Validation" by HatRabbits
This article discusses the importance of problem validation and the key steps involved in the process and provides practical tips and tools for conducting effective problem validation. Overall, it is a useful resource for anyone who wants to develop a new product or service and wants to ensure that they are addressing a real and pressing need in the market.
"The Art Of Problem Discovery. How To Validate That People Want What You're Building" By Ash Maurya
This article provides tips on how to identify and validate customer problems. It includes advice on how to conduct customer interviews, how to identify customer needs, and how to use this information to build a better product. The article also includes a visual framework for problem discovery that can be used to guide the validation process.
"How To Validate If A Problem Is Worth Solving" By Matt Minds
This article outlines a process for identifying and validating whether a problem is worth solving. The author advises using customer feedback to refine the prototype until it meets their needs and determining whether the problem is big enough for people to be willing to pay for and use often.
If the problem is worth solving, the author suggests continuing to iterate on the product until achieving product-market fit. If not, it is best to "kill" the idea and move on to the next problem.
Problem validation is an essential part of the product development process and one that most companies and entrepreneurs neglect. With a comprehensive understanding of problem validation, you can determine if your idea has the potential to succeed before investing in costly solutions or building products from scratch.
Doing this research ahead of time will save valuable resources such as money and time in the long run and ensure that your product meets customer needs. All it takes is some basic research into potential customers' problems—the research that should be at the heart of any successful business endeavor.
Resources for further reading:
Now, time to answer some of your most common questions on problem validation:
How do you validate a problem statement?
You can validate a problem statement by hypothesizing what you think about the market problem, and then talking to experts and potential customers to actually understand the problems.
What is the validation of the problem and solution?
Validation of a problem and its solution is the first step towards learning more about the issue you are ultimately trying to solve. Entrepreneurs sometimes jump to conclusions about a solution before fully grasping the issue. You must fully comprehend the issue at hand in order to develop a solid, well-considered answer.
What tools are used for problem validation?
Interviewing people and performing surveys are often sufficient to validate a problem. However, if you want to do it more efficiently, you can use tools like Validation Board, MindMeister, and Rev1.
What are problem validation questions?
Below are some of the questions you can ask your potential customers in the problem validation survey:
- How do you currently solve ‘X’ problem?
- How do you try to address the problem now?
- What are the shortcomings in the current solution to your problem?
- How does the problem affect your everyday life in general?
- How much time and energy do you waste because of the problem?
- What is the fine or penalty they endure if you choose not to address a problem?
- How would your life improve if the problem stops existing?
- How much would you be willing to pay for the solution to that problem?
How many interviews do you need to validate a problem?
To validate the problem, you'll need to interview at least 30 people from your target audience. This will help you to understand whether or not people are experiencing the problem and conduct price testing to see if it's something they're willing to pay to have solved. Moreover, adding open-ended questions will be of great help.
What challenges do you face around problem validation?
It’s usually difficult to find and reach out to potential customers. Even if you find them, most people will not be much interested in helping you with your goals. Furthermore, cognitive biases can affect their responses and even your own. You can read about more problem validation challenges here.