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7 May 2020

How to understand & solve your customers’ problems

How to understand & solve your customers’ problems - The Value Engine

“Do not focus on money, instead focus on a problem that needs to be solved for the world….money will follow you as a bi-product.”

Manoj Arora

The World Has Changed – What Does this Mean for Me?

The news tells us, social media tells us, numerous webinars tell  us – the world has changed, and they’re right. But, how do you make sense of that change, for your business, your customers and your market? And how do you create insight and offerings which solve your customers’ problems and in doing so, make sure that you are relevant and valuable in this new world?

In this blog, which forms the 2nd part of a 3 part series on Marketing & Innovating in the Crisis, I’ll propose structured approach for:

  • Understanding your customers’ world.
  • Creating insights from this understanding.
  • Using those insights to redefine your value proposition and messaging to better engage and serve your customers.

It all Starts with the Customer

I’m not going to ask, what does your customer want? I’m going to consider, what does your customer need & value?

  • What jobs do they need to get done?
  • What are the main pains which they have to manage?
  • What makes their day, creates gains and solves their problems?

To do this, I’ve used the Value Proposition Canvas model, created by Alex Osterwalder.

For the moment let’s focus on the left hand side of the canvas, which consists of Customer Job, Gains and Pains.

Customer Jobs

There are 3 types of  customer jobs – functional, social and emotional. Let’s take a quick look at a real world example, buying a luxury watch.

We then consider pains and gains, asking if these have changed in current times. In the above scenario some pains which are connected to current times could be:

  • I can’t explore and choose a luxury watch when I can’t visit a retailer.
  • I’m nervous of making a big purchase in troubled times.

The innovators amongst you are probably already thinking of smart ways to address these challenges. I’ll come to that later, for now here is my first suggestion:

1. Map Your Customer’s World

Using the Value Proposition Canvas shown above make some time to map your customers world:

  • What key jobs do they need to get done, (functional, social & emotional)?
  • What are their pains?
  • What are their possible gains?

How to do this:

So, you’ll need to blend multiple data sources to get the best picture, here’s a few ideas:

  1. Talk (and more importantly listen)  to your customers,  asking open questions.

Some possible questions:

  • How have the jobs which you need to get done, changed since the pandemic?
  • What are your biggest challenges right now?
  • How are they solving those big challenges?
  • What’s taking up most of your time?
  • What’s working?
  • What’s not?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What could be better?
  • What’s frustrating you?
  • Do you see upsides from the current situation?

Take a similar approach to harvest the knowledge from your sales teams, review your web analytics, what’s popular, what’s not, has anything changed? Then blend these insights with big picture insights such as google trends and industry news to gain a picture of your market.

Armed with this data, get a couple of your best people and make a stab at defining and prioritising those customer jobs, pains and gains.

Look carefully, are there any jobs, pains or gains which match these criteria?

  • Important – fixing this issue solves big problems or gives big gains
  • Tangible – Customers can really see & feel the gains and the pains
  • Unsatisfied – At present there is no good solution to this problem
  • Lucrative – A few customers will pay a lot to sort this, or many customers will pay something for this solution.

If you answer yes to the above questions – well done – you’ve the key foundations of success – great insight. If not don’t worry – you almost certainly have found some insights which can create value.

Compare Your Customer’s Jobs, Pains and Gains with your Offering

Once you’ve done this, map your offer against the customer, job, pains and gains as shown in Alex Osterwalder’s model below


You now need to ask two questions:

  1. Could I tweak my offer so that it targets the most critical post pandemic jobs, pains and gains?
  2. Could I sharpen my messaging to better address my customers current jobs, pains and gains?

Let’s consider these questions in reference to our luxury watch example.

  • I can’t explore and choose a luxury watch when I can’t visit a retailer.
  • I’m nervous of making a big purchase in troubled times.

Possible Gain Creators

  • Develop a bespoke online customer experience in which customers can have a face to face online session with a product expert to explore the products in detail at a time and place of their choosing.
  • Review asset value growth trends for collectable luxury goods – is there data to support that buying in a downturn is the smartest thing to do and can I communicate this data.

As you can see from the points above, by giving real focus to the customer’s world we find new insights which can be the catalyst for new ideas and creativity.

3. Think about the Customer Journey

Once you’ve captured these insights and generated offering and messaging ideas, consider mapping your messages at each stage of the buying journey:

  • What key messages will resonate in todays’ climate for awareness?
  • What mix of rational and emotional messages will engage customers and  drive consideration?
  • What reassurances and encouragements do I need to give to take away barriers to conversion?
  • And importantly – how can I constructively engage with existing customers to reassure them of the relevance and stability of my brand and value proposition in tough times?


I’ve proposed the following actions:

  • Take a structured approach to gaining new customer insights in a post pandemic world
  • Make sense of this through the lens of jobs, pains and gains
  • Consider if these new insights could drive tweaks to your offer or messaging
  • Consider your customer journey in light of any new insights

By relentlessly focusing on the needs of your customers you’ll be able to serve them better and reflect your authentic interest in their needs in your messaging. By doing so you’ll earn trust, solve their problems and create a stable foundation for your business resilience and future growth.

During this process it’s possible that you may have come up with a great value proposition for an entirely new product or service idea, if so, well done, this is exciting.

In my next blog I’ll talk about how you test and prove (or disprove) that idea quickly and  cost effectively and find out if it’s a winner which can unlock new sources of growth for your business.

In the meantime, I’d love to learn more about you and your offer so do drop me a line at and we can schedule a chat.

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