Director, UVU Business Resource Center
As we discussed last month, success in business is achieved by solving a problem that exists in the market place, doing so in a unique way and offering a value proposition recognized by the audience with the problem. We focused on how to spot problems that need solving… niches in the market that are left begging for a solution, or more frequently, a meaningful improvement to an existing solution. This edition of How to Succeed in Business will focus on what providing a unique solution really means.
For example, I had an earnest client come into my office seeking my assistance to fund his “unique” solution to central processing unit (CPU) for use in our personal computing devices. The CPU is the electric brain that crunches through the ones and zeros that make up machine language that is the basis for all of our programs. One of the key measurements of a computers value is the speed with which it crunches through those numbers. The two major players in this space are Intel and AMD, formidable competitors. So you can understand why I listened to his solution with some degree of skepticism.
His solution was to build a faster chip. I was curious to learn if he had developed the next generation of quantum chips, so I probed his claim. I asked if he had indeed developed a breakthrough chip architecture that would push more digits through the chip per clock cycle, or if he was going to increase the clock cycle to improve performance, or both. His response was that he was simply going to create a faster chip and he’d like my help raising the $1 Billion necessary to do so. You can imagine my consternation at having my time wasted by such a wild, unfounded claim.
However, as outlandish as this attempt at a unique solution was, I get the much more frequent, but every bit as earnest claims that a client can build the same solution for less. Although price is a compelling element in the purchasing process, competing on price alone is usually the slow spiral of death for the undercapitalized competitor, which is usually the new entrant into the market.
What I’m referring to in the “unique solutions” category is to offer something not currently in the market, or to “reinvent” something in such a way that it becomes a truly unique offering. An example of this later type of innovation might be the reinventing of something as common as an arm sling, the kind you wear after you’ve broken a wing doing something interesting.
Type “arm sling” into Amazon and you get 2,222 results. It’s a space that is literally inundated with offerings, all hovering around the $19.99 price point. With that much competition, where is the opportunity for a “unique” solution, much less a making money one?
One way you might solve the problem of immobilizing an injured arm is to appeal to something other than immobilization. For example, I’ve found myself in need of just this type of equipment a number of times in my life. Invariably, I am asked what happened, to which I rehearse the event in as flattering a narrative as I can get away with.
What if, instead of an innocuous blue sling, I had a picture of my accident silk screened onto the sling itself? What if my sling became a poster for the kind of lifestyle I live, and a badge of honor for how fully I live my life?… a life so well lived on the cutting edge of danger, that I occasionally break my body in pursuit of a meaningful adrenaline rush.
Instead of an instrument of healing, which it still is, it has been transformed into a badge of honor. Appealing to my vanity, and advertising my lifestyle by offering a glimpse into the B.A. that I think I am. In fact, the sling could come with a website address, populated with all the other images and video capturing the nuances and detail of the injury, also contributing to my persona as “one bad dude”.
This solution won’t appeal to everyone, but 14 to 30 year old men would eat it up, and they’ll have more than enough images captured on their friend’s smartphones and GoPro cameras to fill the website.
Where would one advertise our sling and what messaging would we use to address this audience? That answer becomes pretty self-evident… anywhere these individuals participate in activities where there’s a higher than average chance they’ll break their arms.
Now the question that remains to be answered is how much to charge for such a unique solution to a fairly common problem. We’ll address this last element in next month’s article.
In the meantime, if you feel you’ve identified a unique solution to an existing problem, would like a reality check and possibly some help polishing and monetizing it, come to the UVU Business Resource Center for our assistance.