• Matthew Lerner

Why I'm obsessed with spotting workarounds

I'm working on the content for my Coaching Program next week, so I've been thinking a lot about user psychology. Remember mix tapes?

I used to make mix-tapes, and record songs off the radio. Then Napster made it even easier. But I didn’t really want to make mix tapes, or steal MP3s. It’s just that I (we all?) hated paying for entire records or CDs, to hear the one good song.

Fast forward to now, and Spotify lets people easily, legally hear the music they want — and is worth $47B. Spotify took our workarounds and made a unicorn business out of them.

Workarounds are big business. Annoyance is the other another big one. One billion people got annoyed waiting for taxis. So one of them created Uber. (His name was Garrett, not Travis, btw.)

These businesses are so obvious in hindsight! But devilishly hard to dream up.

As a Founder or Marketer, how can you spot these huge unmet market needs?

First, stop looking at product specs or competitors! Instead, start by understanding your customers, where they are annoyed and struggling, and especially where they are coming up with workarounds like mix tapes or private limo drivers sneaking into airports to find riders… there your huge market opportunities can be found.

In B2B, workarounds can mean hiring people to fill gaps (look through common tasks & search terms on UpWork?) or some combination of “duct tape” type tech solutions (Google Sheets, Zapier, Airtable, Notion, etc.) cobbled together to make a process.

Prioritising Your Use Cases

For each unmet need you find, you need to figure out two things:

1. Frequency - How many people/companies could possibly have this need? How popular are the workarounds? Using a keyword research tool, is there any search volume around “struggle” search intent terms like “How do I…” and “Alternatives to…?”

2. Severity - Are the workarounds adequate? Or are people still constantly searching for better solutions?

I’m convinced that unmet market needs far eclipse existing businesses. What are the biggest unmet needs in your space, and how can you get there?

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