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Are you solving problems? You should be.

Are you solving problems? You should be.

December 04, 2014

Which is easier to sell, aspirin or vitamins?

Everyone knows supplements are a huge business, so people often choose vitamins.

But the answer is actually aspirin.

Here’s why.

Sales and Marketing: It’s all about solving problems

Sure, vitamins are big. Supplements are a nearly $12 billion industry, and a Gallup poll showed that half of Americans take vitamins. But supplements are typically taken to keep people healthy and to prevent health problems. Good to have, but not urgent.

Contrast that with aspirin. 

Aspirin is taken to relieve sharp, urgent pain. The person buying aspirin is suffering. She has a problem. And she wants it solved now.

Effective sales and marketing is all about selling solutions to problems.  

I recently spoke at Medtrade, the largest trade show in the country for the home medical equipment industry. I really enjoyed walking the show floor, scanning the different new items manufacturers were showcasing. Some were brilliant, innovative problem solvers; others, not so much.

One item that caught my eye was a cover made to go over casts so you can shower or bathe without getting the cast wet.  Big problem, simple solution — I see a future for this product.

The Med Sleeve is a fabric sleeve made to cover the arms of a person wearing “scrubs.” Seems unexciting, right? Well, nearly 40% of people have tattoos these days, but the other 60% don’t always look upon them favorably, especially when it’s in a medical office or hospital.  So, The Med Sleeve is being marketed as a way to cover up arm tattoos while wearing scrubs. What a great application.

“The dangers of ear cleaning” might sound ridiculous – but it turns out, there’s a real problem here.  Did you know that objects stuck in ears (mostly cotton swabs) send an average of 56,189 people to the emergency room every year?  To solve the problem, there are now ear wax removal syringes.  These come from a company who solved another problem by creating special Arthritis Gloves.  These aid millions of people with arthritis who have difficulty gripping and opening cans, jars or anything else.

But not all the items I’ve seen solve urgent problems.

One non-medical product I’ve seen is a keychain with a blade in it to open CDs. This not only doesn’t seem to solve a pressing need, but will most likely get you stopped at airport security. Then there are pizza scissors.  Are these really solving a major problem? I don’t think so.

A Pertinent (Though Somewhat Gross) Story

Recently I noticed that my eyes were hurting me, so I went to see an eye doctor. What I learned -- and this is the gross part -- is that we all have microscopic parasites living in our hair follicles.

They’re called Demodex, or eyelash mites. Yuck!

It seems like travelling as much as I do (spending too much time on planes with not-so-great air quality and on hotel bedding) may have caused the increased parasite problem.  


The doctor then showed me a seven-inch model of the parasite to demonstrate.  I was shocked by this, but I was definitely ready to do whatever treatment I needed for my eyelids.

The good news is that Demodex aren't harmful.  And when they cause eye irritation, there is a solution called Clarinex* to get rid of them.  By using it twice a day for about a month, my problem was solved. 

Moral: the makers of Clarinex created a solution (literally) to solve a specific problem that millions of people don’t even realize they have until their eyes start hurting. The effective (and gross) seven-inch parasite is a great way to dramatize the problem.   

Problem-based Marketing

Too many entrepreneurs spend a lot of time, effort, and money marketing products without actually defining a real problem that needs to be addressed. Some find problems that nobody really cares about. For example, electronics companies have made control panels for years that control the levels of all the lights in your home from one spot. They explained how much easier this was then turning a switch up or down (which is, of course, exhausting work).  Needless to say, this wasn’t a major problem solver, and sales haven’t taken off.

There are some specific steps you can take to become a problem solver in marketing your products:

(1) Look at niche problems. Dig deep to find a group (even a small group) of people with a real problem. Do your research and listen to people — make sure it’s a real issue that’s not being adequately addressed.

(2) Develop a practical, logical, affordable solution.

(3) Tell a story! Explain both the problem and the solution in your marketing.

(4) Demonstrate the concept – illustrate what you are talking about, even if it involves a 7 inch plastic parasite.

Very often, the products and services that make it big are the ones that solve big problems. The bigger the solution your product or service provides, the more likely it is to take off.

What are some pains and problems in your industry? What issues are currently unserved or underserved that need a viable solution? Look carefully -- because where you find problems could be where you'll find opportunity.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,



*Clarinex helped me with my problem.  However, I’m not a doctor so I cannot endorse its effectiveness.  See a medical professional before buying any eyecare product.