Great Answer, Wrong Question

I was a freshman in college when I failed my first test. Until then, throughout Jr and Sr high school I was an A student. I wasn’t used to failing tests. At all.

But in college I took a class that was for Juniors. As a freshman. And I loved it. But it was tough. I went to class. I did the reading. But that first mid-term was a surprise.

I took the test. I felt comfortable with my answers. I walked away happy. But I was in for a surprise.

When I got the test back, I was surprised to see a D on the cover. The note below it was also strange. It said, “great answer, wrong question.”

It turns out that I misunderstood the question. And because of that, I wrote a great and incorrect answer. I answered the wrong question.

Why am I reminded of this?

Today I visited a website selling a cool product. But it was selling the wrong value proposition. They were, in essence, writing a great response while answering the wrong question.

Telling a good story is only as good as the connection you make with your audience. If you answer the wrong question, it won’t matter how well you write. You’ll miss the connection.

What mistakes did they make? Just one (other than answering the wrong question). They wrote from their internal perspective rather than from mine, the customer.

I don’t care about how you made your product, or where you made it, or how long you took to make it. I care, first and foremost, about whether it solves my problems. And if you don’t start from that point, you’re answering the wrong question.