Advertising is the first feature customers use to solve their problems. 

On the bus to my 5th grade daughter’s field trip, I sat next to a mom who constantly checked her phone. As we chatted, she told me about a call she received from the school nurse a few weeks earlier telling her that her son, Evan, had fainted. A few days later, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. 

On the bus that day, she was watching an app on her phone that works with an insulin pump to provide a visualization of her son’s blood sugar level over time. Being able to monitor his health in that way made her life better. It helped her enjoy being on the field trip rather than being stressed out by it. 

But it started making their lives better weeks before they bought it. Their story may be helpful as you think about how and when you start creating value for your customers.

A System of Progress

I think you will find the System of Progress concept helpful for understanding (and helping others you work with understand) how your customers are trying to make their lives better. 

Realizing the Struggle

When Evan’s mom first learned about his diagnosis, she and her husband spent several days talking to doctors, reading websites and using their imaginations to to shape their understanding of how their family’s life would be impacted by it. They also began to envision how their lives might improve once they have a solution in place to deal with their challenges.

Here are a few types of struggles she mentioned to me on the bus:

Food: How would they convince Evan to change his diet? What if he hated the food? Would he resist temptation to eat certain foods while he was at school lunch or a sleepover? 

Blood Sugar: It’s a life threatening situation if his sugar gets too high or low. Also, he’s about to enter adolescence where growth spurts make it difficlt to keep blood sugar levels in the right range. How could they watch out for his safety while he was at school or friend’s house? Should they home school? Should they get a nanny? Private school?

Medication: Would he have to take insulin injections? How would that work? Would he resist using a needle? How would they manage the situation if he did resist? 

Personal Needs: The stress of caring for their son and the emotional struggle of his disease impacted their relationship and careers. Should they get counseling? School hours were a huge struggle for both of them — they would find themselves distracted wondering if there was any news and struggled to focus on work, pay attention during meetings.  

Searching for a Solution

As customers realize and make sense of their struggle, they begin looking for a solution. As they evaluate solutions, they begin using the product in their mind, imagining how it fits in to their lives. 

Though Evan’s parents eventually bought an insulin pump, their search didn’t begin there. Their time was spent finding a way to deal with their problems: Kid friendly diets, whether or not the entire famly should change their diet, medication options, home schooling options, talking to their financial planner about whether or not one of them could quit their job, pricing nannys, exploring counseling for themselves and for Evan. 

Their lives improved when they came across an ad for the insulin pump they eventually bought. The ad opened their eyes to a solution that would solve many of their problems. 

The day they saw that ad — weeks before they bought the product, attached it to Evan and monitored his blood sugar level while at the office — is when they started using and getting value from the product.