Table of Contents
- Step 1 - Finding the problem
- Focus on a niche audience
- Join communities and conversations
- What makes a good problem to solve?
- Step 2 - Brainstorm solutions + how to build
- Make a ranked list of ways you could solve the problem
- Outline your MVP and build process
- Step 3 - Build, launch and distribute
- Small-scale distribution
- Large-scale distribution
- To see more of what we are building, follow me on Twitter!
Jul 7, 2022
This week I’m profiling a tactic our Media team has been using at SafetyWing – solving problems through content. Specifically, this is how we approach most of our content marketing, although in reality it looks a bit more like building tools and resources.I’m going to use 2 examples we have successfully built and are still using today:1. Building Remotely – an online guide to remote work for companies and their teams2. Borderless – an interactive travel map featuring travel requirements and restrictions during the pandemic.
I’m going to outline the process we use to create these resources, how we distribute them and how to use them for growth.
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It’s incredibly difficult to find genuine problems for undefined groups of people. That doesn’t stop people from trying. It can actually work quite well if you are solving your own problem. This is how many startups are created. But when you have an existing product or company, you have an existing group to problem solve for.
The key is making sure you’ve defined them narrowly enough. It’s a skill I personally have to continually develop and catch myself straying from. When a solution succeeds, it’s almost always because we appropriately defined who it was for. When it fails, I typically stayed too ambiguous.
SafetyWing has 2 separate audiences:
- Digital Nomads (people who live and work outside their home country a certain % of the time)
- Remote Companies (and their team of remote employees)
Once you have defined these niche audiences, it’s significantly easier to find them. Pretty much every group of people has a host of communities online. Whether it’s literally online communities like Discord servers or Facebook groups, or even just discussion spaces like Twitter or Reddit. Find out where your niche communities are hanging out online and go there.
Be active in those communities. Partake in conversations to see what people are talking about. Take note of what questions people are asking and not getting good answers for. If you see recurring problems that have unsatisfactory solutions, that’s a great indicator it’s something you should solve.
We were already taking part in nomad and remote work communities when the pandemic hit. Both were suddenly flooded with unsolved problems. The most immediate one to us was digital nomads simply asking: “where can I travel, and how can I get there?”. Finding information on travel restrictions was incredibly difficult. You had to Google search each individual country to find information that was often changing by the day. It was a mess! We realized we could put resources into collecting this information in one spot.
Similarly with remote work, we realized that people who had traditionally worked in offices had no idea how to work remotely. People were discovering all sorts of small pains and problems.
This will depend on your goal. Our goal was traffic. That’s it. So all that really mattered was that we found a relevant problem that was causing sufficient pain for our community, and appropriately solve it. If your goal is to create revenue, then ideally the next logical step for the community after finding your solution is to use to purchase the product. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. If you are generating enough traffic and have a natural system that funnels people into your product, you’ll also have a valid revenue-generating model.
Other indicators of a good problem to solve:
- You can’t find a sufficient solution that’s accessible
- You immediately know how you could solve the problem
- People are literally asking around for a the solution
Ideally with your whole team, open a spreadsheet and start coming up with every possible solution to your problem you can. Our team likes to spend several hours doing this, and often times will continue to add ideas for a few days.
Once you feel your list is comprehensive, rank the ideas ordering on effect size. Start here. You’ll also (after the fact) want to give a ranking based on complexity, but your goal is to get the idea for the best solution, not the easiest. It’s much better to start with the idea and figure out how to narrow the scope to make it buildable than it is to start with a poor solution idea.
An example of our ranking sheet template
Like building any product, you want to start with a first version that looks something like an MVP. If that works, you’ll feel comfortable putting more resources behind the solution to make it better. Figure out what the simplest version of your solution is that could work, and then list out the steps to create it with exactly how and who will do it.
I’ll take an example from Building Remotely, where we just launched the Remote Company List resource. It’s a list of remote companies with information about each that potential new team members can look at and evaluate. Our goal is to match remote workers with their dream remote companies. It helps individuals find great opportunities, and helps companies showcase why they are a fantastic place to work!
You can take a look at the project in its first version here. You’ll notice it’s scrappy and needs a LOT of improvement. It’s currently just an Airtable embed on a blog landing page. But it works! And the response has been great, causing our biggest traffic month of the project. Now we feel confident in using resources to mature the project into something greater.
Your goal is to build and launch the MVP as quickly as possible. It will probably be scrappy and launching will feel pre-mature. This is good, you’ll need a lot of motivation to make improvements. The good news is that if you’ve outlined exactly how and what you’ll need to build it, you should always know exactly what to do next.
If you have a lot of development and design resources, the fastest way to build something might genuinely be to code and develop it from scratch. If you don’t have these resources available, consider starting with no-code tools. Often times the best way to get something developed in a polished version is to develop a scrappy version first.
If you’re not sure where to start, here is a directory of no-code tools by category.
Start by doing manual efforts that don’t scale. If you can’t get a distribution effort to work manually, it’s probably a waste of time to try automating it.
Here are some things to try:
- Post on your owned social media channels
- Launch to any email audience you have
- Find people searching for the solution on Twitter and forums
- Post in social media communities relevant to your niche audience
- Use it in our outbound efforts, like cold emailing
- See if you can start ranking for some very specific keywords
As you try these efforts, continuously ask several questions:
- Are these efforts working? If so, what exactly is working and what isn’t?
- Are people converting to use my product? Why or why not?
- What do people think of my actual product?
You don’t want to focus on large scale distribution until both your solution and customer flow are polished and working well. Otherwise, you are putting large resources into something that’s not working. To use an old marketing analogy, it’s like filling a bucket with a bunch of holes with water. Instead of increasing the amount of water going into the bucket, your time would better be spent fixing the holes.
How do you know you are ready for large scale distribution?
- You’re receiving positive feedback to your solution, and people are sharing it organically
- You’re getting consistent users to your solution through your manual distribution efforts
- Those distribution efforts are resulting in actual customer purchases
👆 If you have these 3 things, you’re ready to automate and scale!
Examples of scaling distribution channels:
- Automate your outbound emails
- Systematize your SEO and content production
- Referral programs
- PR outreach and backlink collection
- Word of mouth**
- *Word of mouth should always be your goal. Strive to create something so useful that people will share it organically