Scenario A

Imagine you want to sell sandwiches. You know a lot about ham, and so you create a ham sandwich. Of course, you need the right sticker for the wrapping so people know it's you. So you hire the best sandwich-logo packaging firm in the country to do your Ham logo. Ordering 50 kgs of ham and 100 loaves of bread, you bust your butt to make 500 sandwiches with the awesome logo sticker on the plastic wrapping.

It’s a lot of money, but that’s okay. You’re going to sell a butt-load of ham sandwiches, right? Everything that’s perfect - the sandwich, the packaging, the website - all of it. Now it’s time to find hungry people who love ham-sandwiches.

Scenario B

Imagine you noticed that there’s numerous hungry people. Intrigued, you ask them why they’re hungry and what they do to satisfy this pesky ‘hunger’ problem. You do this a few times and notice a startaling trend starting to emerge. Most people say they’re too busy to eat a big, complicated meal. Instead, they need something quick they can eat on the run. They’re also going ‘low-carb’ now.

Thinking on this, you figure you can create a sandwich with carb-free bread, a wrap with lettuce and ham, or a protein smoothie. Unsure of the right option to build your food empire, you decide to get just enough ingredients for each idea and some newspaper to wrap the sandwiches in. The smoothie is in a Styrofoam paper cup. You head to the local market to test this idea and get feedback.

The mistake in the scenario A is the mindset that you’re in the ham-sandwich business. By definition, the only problems you’re suitable to solve are the ones where people a) are hungry b) like ham-sandwiches c) prefer your ham sandwich over others.

While this assumption may pay off, it’s investment and time heavy without any certainty that the product (the sandwich) will find it’s fit (customer). More importantly, you can’t adjust if you find ham sandwiches isn’t tickling anyone’s fancy.

In scenario B, a series of bets is placed against a problem - hunger. So an exploration into how people solve the hunger problem is tested and experimented with against some potential viable options. The process, refining and adjusting, continues until you reach some kind of metric or market ‘fit’.

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” - Seth Godin


Credit: MidJourney

This process - the exploration and experimentation - isn’t about achieving perfection or even 100% certainty. It’s about making more informed and therefore better decisions. Whether it’s to continue experimenting, to move forward to scale up or to stop altogether.

Don't Sell a Sandwich, Solve a Problem

Finding risk in developing new products starts with being problem-orientated, not product.

Brent Wallace

March 6, 2024

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