Products should solve market problems. Otherwise, all that’s been created is something neat, not something useful (or profitable).
How do companies evaluate market problems and build the right solution? The answer: listening and research. But, what does it look like to actually do this work?
The following are three case studies involving how organizations discovered market problems and designed effective solutions.
Case Study #1
The Market Problem: Career Path Uncertainty
Project Management Institute (PMI), is a not-for-profit professional association, solving the problem of career path uncertainty.
While many of PMI’s members are advanced in their careers, there is a large segment just starting their project management journey.
PMI noticed an emerging market problem, and that was the early-career project management professionals segment was swimming in a sea of information and in an ocean of uncertainty.
This segment knew they wanted to advance their careers, but getting there was cumbersome and ambiguous. Of course, they could wander around Google search engine results, but what information mattered or, more importantly, what information was wrong?
No career trajectory is entirely linear, and there is no standardized approach to reaching the next milestone. This is the problem.
Market Problem Discovery Through Lemonade Stands
PMI has chapters around the globe. Some are small and others large, but they all have the same mission: to prepare organizations and individuals at every stage of their career journey to work smarter.
It was these chapters that the organization started hearing requests for more help finding reputable resources for those just starting their project management careers. In response, product manager Kerry Brooks deployed teams to set up lemonade stands at events and outside chapter meetings to ask questions.
The qualitative feedback they received helped them design a solution.
After they built concepts and landing pages, they were able to A/B test messaging and conduct surveys and better understand the difference between their “say data” and “do data.”
“Say data” is what people say they want and “do data” is how their audience acted when a solution was presented.
The qualitative and quantitative data helped them validate and launch their solution.
Market Problem Solution: PMI Navigator Career Platform
Users build a profile on this platform and select one to three near-term goals. Then, they receive a custom-built roadmap designed to lead them to their next career milestone.
The roadmap is full of actionable resources like events they should attend, podcasts they should listen to, books and articles they should read, etc. Once they complete a goal, they can move to the next.
This solution solved the problem of ambiguity by giving the users clear directions on what content was valuable and the next steps to take.
Case Study #2
The Market Problem: New Lease Accounting Standards
A lease is an agreement between a property owner and a person who wants to use the asset. So, lease accounting is the process of recording the financial impacts of leasing activities in accounting reports.
During the last four years, the Financial Accounting Standards Board released new standards for this type of accounting. The problem was, current accounting software wasn’t able to accommodate these new standards.
LeaseQuery was first to the scene with software that could manage these new standards. But, as with any product, being first isn’t a long-term competitive competency. So, they launched a market research strategy to help them expand their product to better serve their customers.
Market Problem Discovery Through a Question Library
Interviews are a high-value activity when it comes to uncovering unmet needs and trends. But, LeaseQuery takes a systematic approach to this work. Product manager Joy McCaffrey has created a bank of questions she pulls from to ensure consistency in her research efforts.
She collects these ideas for questions during meetings, blogs and webinars, and she tags them based on their purpose. For example, she tags questions as exploratory, product-specific, market-specific, software-specific and company.
She organizes interviews with customers, non-customers, channel partners and the target market. And, she structures every interview to include quantitative close-ended questions and qualitative open-ended questions.
The pre-established question library gives her a variety of directions she can take the conversation while still providing a format to uncover themes and patterns efficiently. Through this work, she has discovered opportunities as well as disqualified ideas.
Market Problem Solution: Launching New Products
In addition to solving the problem of not having lease accounting software that helps users navigate new stands, these interviews inspired the company to expand its product offering in the future.
Case Study #3
The Market Problem: Applying Knowledge Gained Through Training to Real-World Situations
In May 2020, Pragmatic Institute launched the Pragmatic Alumni Community.
But the work of building this community began a year prior when the leadership realized there was a market problem: alumni were looking for resources to help them apply their new knowledge to their job after completing a course.
To begin to uncover more insights about this problem, the company hired the first director of community, Georgina Donahue.
Georgina approached her work just like any product manager would (with understanding the market problem) because she said, “Community management is product management.”
Market Problem Discovery Through Internal and External Conversations
The goal was to find where organizational objectives and alumni needs overlapped. Qualitative and quantitative research was used to discover this intersection.
The challenge was that a community that members love won’t succeed if it doesn’t also support the company’s goals. When it comes to choosing what to invest in and what to cut, it’s hard to make a business case for something that isn’t fueling progress.
Similarly, a community that is perfectly aligned with company goals but isn’t helpful to members will quickly become a ghost town.
So, the research was designed to understand what features of a community would make training more valuable and to understand how it’d integrate into other organizational initiatives.
Interviews were conducted with 20 internal stakeholders and 20 alumni, followed by a survey with 400 respondents.
The team continues to survey and listen to the community to improve and add features to the platform.
Market Problem Solution: No Question Left Behind
The research uncovered that both groups were interested in the practical application of theory.
Of course, Pragmatic Institute wants students to have the support they need to put their training to work in their jobs, and students were seeking use cases.
The community has a motto: “No Question Left Behind.”
The PAC grew to 20,000 members in less than two years, and the fuel of that growth is peer-to-peer conversations.
Community members can join cohorts based on areas of interest and industries, so conversations are always relevant.
But most importantly, every question in the PAC is answered by professionals and peers who share their experience, examples, templates, resources and best practices.
Are you looking to find the right solution to market problems?
We have a big course update to the course Market, which helps you gain a thorough understanding of your buyers and how they like to buy so you can build the product marketing strategies that deliver results. >> Learn more
We also launched a new course, Insight, which provides you with a grounded and actionable approach to incorporating data into product practices and decisions. >> Learn More
Both of these training opportunities can help you take your product management and product marketing skills to the next level.
If you’re new to Pragmatic Institute, we invite you to take the course, Foundations, which helps you understand your market and the problems it faces, and then use that market knowledge to build and sell products people want to buy.
This course is live online and on-demand. It’s also a prerequisite for all of our other product courses. >> Learn More