There is a problem or opportunity coming in 3, 5, maybe 10 years. You are one of the few people who sees it. And, most people don’t care yet because they are too focused on what’s in front of them right now.
It’s this insight that helps founders create businesses for the future. It’s just really, really tough.
The Fogg Behavior Model talks about this. Basically, the higher the pain is for a problem, the higher the motivation to fix it. People are more willing to try more complex and difficult solutions to these kinds of problems. Conversely, the lower the pain, the lower the motivation, and less likely someone will be willing to go through any type of inconvenience and discomfort to solve the problem.
Future thinking products and services have a huge problem that is they are building a solution to a problem that people will not buy into if there is any degree of inconvenience involved.
So how do you sell these types of products and services.
First, you have to find the market where the pain, despite being insignificant today, has the highest probability of being very severe the soonest.
Second, you have to simplify your product to the point where it is painless to try and can also instantly show an unexpected level of benefit to the customer. This is often not the product you envision for the future, so it’s difficult to compromise on your product of service.
When I first started my company, we built a beautiful software service aimed at medium sized restaurant chains. It was solved a problem that I assumed many of these customers knew they had. But, as I pitched our solution to these companies, most of them told me they didn’t have a need. The reality is that they weren’t aware they had a need yet, and there were too many steps involved with purchasing and setting up our solution. It seemed to them like more work than reward.
So, we pivoted our software towards the larger end of the spectrum who definitely knew their pain. Unfortunately. this large customer was untrusting of our product because of the startup nature of our company.
Finally, we stepped back and looked at the problem from a completely new angle. We ended up coming back the second segment with a done-for-you service model built on top of our software. It was completely simple for these companies to trust us with a segment of their business than it was for them to trust us with all of it. Plus, it allows us to go back to the smaller market and point to what their larger competitors are doing. Success!
Sure this final model is a compromise of our original vision, but it is also what is setting us up to achieve the original vision for our company. A part of me wishes I would have known and believed this lesson when I first started. The other part of me knows it wouldn’t have stuck like it is sticking now.
If you want to win in the long term, you have to make your vision as simple as possible for people to buy into right now. Their future problems are not the source of their current highest pain.