The “Problem/Solution” Spectrum

Sent by Jonathan Stark on June 1st, 2019

It has been said that all human actions are motivated at the deepest levels by one of two things:

One way to think about this when it comes to an XY Positioning Statement (i.e., “I help X with Y”) is that at the most abstract level, there are really only two XYPS in the consumer space:

Keep this in the back of your mind the next time you’re exposed to any form of mass marketing and I think you’ll notice that I’m not the first person to make this observation ;-)

That said, claiming that you help people find love or avoid death is so broad that it’s hard to make a credible case to a buyer. “People” is as broad as it gets in terms of target markets. And “Love/Death” is as broad as it gets in terms of expensive problems.

While it make be true that literally every person wants more love and less death, even the most uncritical observer would probably be skeptical of claims like these.

Here’s the thing…

There’s a rough parallel in the business world. At the most basic level, all business owners want to make more money and/or cut costs.

Therefore, when it comes to an XY Positioning Statement in the business context, there are really only two XYPS:

But again…

While it may be true that literally every business owner wants to spend less and make more, even the most uncritical buyer would probably be skeptical of claims like these. They’re trite and easily dismissed as spammy.

That said, it’s good to be aware of these underlying motivations while you’re thinking about how you can bring value to a business. Start from a money motivation, work your way back toward your expertise one step at a time until you hit a point on the “problem/solution” spectrum that resonates with your ideal buyers.

For example, imagine you’re a React developer who wants to work with SaaS business. Here’s a list of potential XYPSs sorted from the most “problem-y” to the most “solution-y”:

(NOTE: Technically, the last two aren’t XYPSs but I included them because I wanted to go “full solution-y” and that’s hard to do with an XYPS structure.)

Both of the extreme ends of the spectrum (i.e., 1 and 6) are would probably not be compelling to an ideal buyer. Number 1 is too trite to be credible and number 6 is too disconnected from any obvious business outcomes for an ideal buyer to connect it to a problem they’d like to solve.

Number 3 may or may not be good. For it to be effective would depend on how often SaaS business know they are suffering from “bad UX”, AND how strongly they link “UX issues” to “making less money”.

Number 4 may or may not be good. For it to be effective would depend on how common UI data sync issues are with SaaS business, AND how strongly they link “UI data sync issues” to “making less money”.

Number 5 would work to attract leads in cases where the buyer had already decided to use React, but it’s not ideal from a pricing standpoint because it presents the seller as a pair of hands.

From the standpoint of lead generation and premium pricing, probably the most effective XYPS would look something like number 2. It speaks directly to a common business problem that is linked closely to making money, and it is (perhaps) specific enough to be considered credible by ideal buyers.

Yours,

—J