In the year 3030 everybody wants to be an MC

Philip Morgan

Imagine that a time machine has whisked you away to the year 2005; the not-so-distant past.As you'll recall, the internet, mobile phones, and computers exist in largely the same basic form as they do now with one very notable exception.The smartphone.Back in 2005, you start telling anyone who will listen to you about the smartphone future. Your iPhone doesn't work in 2005 because of time travel reasons. So all you can do is verbally describe smartphones.After a while, you notice one response over and over from the people you talk to:**Why the hell would anyone pay over $1000 for a FREAKING PHONE?!?!? We have those, and they don't cost nearly that much!**There's a concept in marketing called market awareness. The best exploration of this concept I've come across is in a book called Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz.As markets mature, they progress through various stages of awareness. Here's my simplified rendition of this progression (read it from left to right):Unaware --> Problem-Aware --> Solution-AwareAn unaware market is not aware of the existence or value of your product or service. They're not even aware they have a problem that's worth paying to solve.A problem-aware market is aware they have a problem, but they are not aware of solutions to this problem. Imaging being stuck in your car in rush hour traffic in Atlanta, the East Bay, or Los Angeles. You are aware that you have a problem. Other than somehow being able to summon a helicopter to pick you up and fly over the traffic to your destination, what solutions are you aware of? None. You're stuck with this problem until it goes away of its own accord. These are the markets that innovators often target because any improvement to their condition is a potentially a very welcome improvement. There's lots of low-hanging fruit.A solution-aware market is aware that they have a problem, and they are generally aware of what solutions exist for that problem. If you spill some oatmeal on your kitchen floor, you have a problem, and you are almost certainly aware of every possible solution to the problem. You might pick up the oatmeal with your hands until most of it is removed, then attack the remaining sticky residue with one of the following:

  • A bucket of soapy water and a mop
  • A spray-bottle of cleaning solution and either a cloth towel or some paper towels
  • A moistened paper towel

There are at least 3 good solutions to that problem, and you the sufferer of that problem didn't have to think hard to arrive at a solution. No real research was required, and you probably have one of those three solutions on hand at all times in your house because the problem of a mess on the kitchen floor is a relatively common problem.Solution-aware markets generally look like that. In software development terms, solution-aware markets seek solutions like staff augmentation or full time employees or commodity contractors.Circa 2005, the market of people who might consider buying a mobile phone had a problem that looked like the following:

  • Wanted to be able to make phone calls while away from a land line phone
  • Wanted to be (as Seth Godin has so wonderfully put it) un-lonely
  • Wanted to be in the know about stuff they cared about
  • Wanted help performing everyday tasks more quickly and easily

This market was not in the problem-aware state (stuck in traffic with no viable solution). They also were aware of viable solutions to at least some of that set of problems. They were aware you could buy a mobile phone or something like a Blackberry or Nokia featurephone. This was their awareness of the solutions to their problem(s).Apple had to spend a colossal amount of money developing and--just as importantly--advertising the iPhone for the modern smartphone to become the preferred solution to that set of problems above. (BTW, I know this is an imperfect and simplified example, but hopefully it does the trick of helping you start to understand the concept of market awareness.)When I'm working with a client to characterize a market they're thinking about moving into, we try to understand the market awareness of the buyers for their services. It matters. Having to educate a market the way Apple did with the market of potential smartphone buyers is expensive. Now for sure it delivered a great ROI for them, but having to educate your buyers is expensive in terms of time and effort. That expense needs to deliver a positive ROI for you, otherwise it might be better to find a combination of buyers and service offerings that doesn't require quite as much education in order for them to understand the value of your solution.I work with people 1-on-1 to help them gather evidence so they can more confidently make the decision about how to specialize. If you're interested in learning more, click this here trigger link to get a short email sequence with more info sent to your inbox: /inquiry/1-1-retainer/-PWant help improving your positioning or marketing? I offer a small group program to help you do exactly that: http://positioningacceleratorprogram.comI work with people 1-on-1. If you're interested in learning more, click this here trigger link to get a short email sequence with more info sent to your inbox: /11-retainer/