Customer, Problem, Competition, and Success



This is a simple frame for testing your vision, your pitch for a project, or your proposed solution.  One of my mentors uses it all the time to test the thinking and to make sure the team stays on track.  I’ve adopted because it’s a great way to stay focused on the basics.  Don’t let the basics get in the way of great results.

The frame is pretty simple to use.  You simply walk the categories and ask questions to explore the thinking:

  1.  Who is the customer?
  2. What’s the problem?
  3.  What’s the competition?
  4.  What does success look like?

Here’s how they help:

  1. Know your customer.  Your customer is a strategic decision.  Asking who the customer is, forces you to decide who’s in and who’s out.  This helps you figure out what’s relevant and what is not.  This helps you build empathy for relevant customer problems, once you know who your customer really is.  This helps you determine whether there is a market and whether you will be relevant to your customer.  It also helps you identify your ultimate test bed.  If your customers aren’t happy, you missed the boat.
  2. Don’t be a solution looking for a problem.  Asking what’s the problem forces you to ask whether you are focusing on the right problem.  Is it really a problem?  Do your customers think so?  Is this the next best thing to work on?  Are you playing to your strengths?  Knowing the problem can also help you build customer empathy.
  3. Know what the competition is doing.  You should know what’s been done, and you should be clear on your differentiation.  Are you competing on the problem, the approach, or the implementation?
  4. Know what success looks like.  Asking what does success looks like, forces you to figure out your tests for success.  In this case, I’ve found it helpful to both be able to draw your vision, and to know the key measures that you can evaluate.  The sooner you can draw your vision, the earlier you can beat up the idea to make it better, as well as get people on board.  When you figure out what to measure, it’s important to consider who the opinion leaders are, who the key stakeholders are, and who your key customers are.  Chances are, the tests for success can be very different, especially if your stakeholders lack customer empathy.

It’s a simple frame, but it can help keep you focused on the right things.

Photo by BruceTurner.