Finding Inspiration From Customer Problems

I was a pretty bright kid.  I always seemed to do well on tests in school without really trying and I could look at things once and just get it.  When things happen like this for you, especially at a young age, you don’t appreciate it and you don’t really try and figure out why, you just roll with it.

For teachers, bright kids are a blessing and a curse.

There are smart kids who just apply themselves to everything and because they are blessed with that certain intellectual spark, they are a pleasure to teach and as I’ve been told by friends who are teachers, these kids actually inspire teachers to do what they do.

Then there are the bright kids who just coast.  They get above average results with well below average effort.  Teachers will tell you that these kids annoy them the most because they see wasted potential.

I was one of those kids that coasted and I’d pay attention to something until the light bulb went off, I understood what was going on and then I’d switch off.  My brain would revert to whatever else I found more interesting.

I had one particular teacher in Grade 8 and it drove him nuts.

How do I know?

Because he told me.

In fact, he seemed to enjoy telling me things about myself all the time, often in front of the whole class.  It never bothered me because I just didn’t take him seriously – a fact which angered him even more.

He one time told me, in front of the entire class that I’d end up taking basketweaving at the local community college.  I have friends on Facebook who were in that class and they still laugh about it – it was one of those epic moments of hilarity where someone’s rage boils over and they say something they intend to be an insult, but it is so absurd that it ends up being hilariously funny.

One mistake he made was in a parent-teacher interview with my mother.

My mom is awesome, but she is a fierce woman with an acerbic tongue when angry and this guy sent her off.

He explained that my “D” in his class was not reflective of my achievement, it was reflective of my “attitude”.  He said everything “comes too easy for Sean” and said that I needed to “work harder in general” because the answers won’t always just magically appear in my brain.

My older sister was there and relayed the story to my father and I that evening.

My mother told this gentleman that her 13-year-old son had been working part-time since he was 12 years old so that he could pay for his own hockey sticks and cover some of the costs himself.  She then explained to him that her son, who according to him “needed to work harder in general”, was out mopping and sweeping floors and paying taxes so that this gentleman with his government union job and lifetime pension didn’t have to work hard for a living like normal people.

After my father and I laughed, my mom turned her venom on me and said that I needed to stop just waiting for the light bulb to go off because one day it won’t.

I remember that story every time I have a lightbulb moment because I sit there thinking, “Could I have seen this sooner if I had pushed a bit more?”

I had one of those lightbulb moments on the weekend.

One of the best things about having over 80,000 Udemy students is that I get an awful lot of questions and feedback from people.  When you add in a growing Facebook Group where people ask questions and make comments, that’s a pretty good market feedback loop.

Many of the questions are the same and after awhile, the answers become somewhat automatic.  In truth, I could probably script out about five answers and just copy and paste them to cover 80% of the questions.

I was telling my wife about this when it dawned on me that one or two of the most common questions were always the same.  More than that, I realized that I’d been totally missing a trick – a couple of these recurring questions were something that I could actually productize an answer for.

While we were eating our eggs, my brain was working overtime trying to put the course together and map out the sections.  The hook and angle wrote themselves because I’d literally been asked the question SO MANY TIMES that I understood the pain exactly.

I’m a little bit miffed that I hadn’t noticed it before.

I guess it points to one of those golden rules of business in that your customer’s problem is your opportunity.

People buy things that they aspire to and then when you listen to them, they tell you what the real pain is.  This new info product will be, at least I think, a great way to address the pain for existing customers – it will be a natural follow-on product.  I don’t think it will be a massive seller on the front-end because it speaks to a pain people realize after they’ve bought some Hopium.

The takeaway is, listen harder.

I think we all like to believe we’re listening to what our market is telling us, but I like to think that I’m pretty switched on and I missed this one for a long time.

Pay more attention to the questions that paying customers are asking AFTER they buy from you.  This will tell you where the real gaps in the market are and where they’re actual pain is.

And then you can sell pain relief.

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