Whose problem are you solving?

May 20, 2019

One of the most preached sayings within UX is to always serve the user. Always focus on the user! Obviously this is a great thing to focus on, but it does require two things that from my experience that are not always apparent.

First, you need to actually KNOW your user. What do you they like? what are their pain points? What is their dream scenario? Organizations tend to go to extreme lengths here to define their users - personas, edge-cases, and detailed funnels. The second thing though, and this is where I often feel companies tend to fall behind, is how they communicate this to potential users. While the company knows entirely who they think their users are, it's hard for users to understand whether or not a product is a good fit for me.

The right solution for you, but who are you?

One of the ways I personally like to stay up to date with new technologies and services is by using them on my website or in my side projects. For instance, I'm currently moving from Jekyll to Gatsby and I've been looking for a replacement for Gumroad (spoiler: I found one!). But browsing through these different e-commerce solutions made me realize how hard it is to understand who they are aimed at, their target market. They seem to make their own very detailed personas of who they're serving, but when it comes to communicating, these same companies tend to paint in really broad strokes.

Looking for a solution for selling my books, I've used Gumroad - an all-in-one solution that works really well but unless you pay them a monthly fee, they take almost 9% of each sale. There's also more mature e-commerce solutions like Shopify (a company I love), but their lowest tier is $9/month and it's not really a system that's perfected for selling digital content. And finally, I can build something myself using Stripe and a string of Zapier hooks - which is what I'll eventually will move towards.

Similarly, trying to give good advice to smaller clients that have an e-commerce is really hard with the current tools. Should they opt for Wordpress with WooCommerce? Something custom with Stripe/Paypal? Or perhaps look at tools like Squarespace or Webflow? They each come with their own sets of pros and cons, but they all go out out of their way to describe how their solution is for you without really defining who they think you are.

A recent experience: A tool that's been receiving massive praise on Twitter is Superhuman. Superhuman is an email client. That costs $29/month. That's right, an email client, basically something that's forever been free is now almost $350 per year. And people are obsessed with it! Kinda makes you interested doesn't it? So as I mentioned, I always want to try out new things, I requested access and eventually booked my slot. You see, Superhuman is not something you just download. It's only for invited members and before you begin using the tool, you have a 30 minute on-boarding session with an on-boarding specialist. It was actually a nice experience and you go through some of the most valuable keyboard shortcuts and how the tools works (both desktop and iOS). I figured that even if I just save 30 minutes per month, it's still worth it right? Well, turns out that Superhuman wasn't for me. Basically it's some of the core features from Gmail (like snippets, keyboard shortcuts, snooze) but on steroids. It's a super powerful tool for sure if you receive hundreds of critical emails every day. But for someone who's perfected all of my filters, I get around 20 emails (to my inbox) on a busy day. Rest are filtered away and I'll get to them eventually.

You could say Superhuman allowed me to self select myself out of their program without them having to communicate too aggressively in their marketing phase. It wasn't until I had signed up and been officially onboarded (the getting to know you phase), did I see that the product wasn't right for me. A good time to learn, but perhaps a step too late. In reality, none of these examples actually took the time to know me (or you) enough during the early phase that I can confidently say that the choice of service is an easy one. As was said before, they know the user, but do they know you?

Defining who your customers are also mean excluding people

No brand or product is truly for everyone. It could be the features that you don't have or it could be because of the price you're charging. Either way, it's fine. Instead, try to use your uniqueness and your features as a way to truly let people know who you are talking to - them as individuals. Convertkit tells visitors they are an email marketing platform for creators. So it's not the best fit for banks, non-profits, or general stores. They even give examples of when you should NOT switch from Mailchimp (their biggest competitor) to Convertkit. Similarly, Podia - a platform for people selling courses, memberships and digital downloads - offers a great landing page that gives a great overview of who they are talking to (as it turns out, it's not me and again, that's fine!).

Do your potential customers know if they are a good fit?

So, while you know who your potential customers are, have you made sure that they know it too? Have you, like Convertkit, taken the time to define who your customer isn't? Sometimes the easiest ways to engage with your customer is to do exactly that - take the time to communicate with them. Be clear from the start about not only what your product offers, but what it offers TO the customer. Does the customer really want to know everything your email client will do or will the knowledge that using your product means they will spend less time in their email actually be a better selling point? It really depends on your customer doesn't it? So, it's time to get past just knowing who your users are and start understanding if your product is a good fit for them. Who's problem are you solving?

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