Problems are Attention Magnets

The nice thing about problems is that they are attention magnets. When we have a problem it has a way of grabbing our attention. If it’s a big problem we look for a solution.

If we can’t find the solution it becomes a nag that annoys us. We want the problem to go away and that problem sits there in the background waiting for a solution to appear.

This makes the problem the opportunity for the marketer. When a potential customer hears someone talking about a problem they care about they start to pay attention.

Is this person really talking about my problem? Does what’s being said sound like the same problem I have? Finally, someone seems to know something about my problem. Might this person have the solution?

The hope for a solution to their problem activates the customer’s latent attention and just like a magnet they want to draw you in to know more.

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The Attention Deficit Economy

Today’s world bombards us with information. Email, voice mail, phone calls, internet ads, television ads all blast away at an unrelenting pace. Even worse, email and phones go everywhere we go.

This constant bombardment forces us to pay attention to multiple streams of information simultaneously. While some of us have mastered the art of reading the paper and listening to our spouse chat away, paying attention to everything just isn’t possible. We focus on one thing, while monitoring the environment, ready to jump to the next better opportunity or fire to put out.

It’s like a worldwide case of attention deficit disorder.

Competition for attention is becoming the basis for how our economy works. If companies want to succeed they will need to successfully compete for attention.

Business leaders must focus on getting the attention of customers and employees while battling with their own case of ADD. Those that understand how to get and keep attention will be the ones that prosper in this new attention economy.

Getting and keeping the attention of the customer means that you have a chance of getting the business, failure to get the attention will mean you lose.

With the stakes for attention this high, how do we master the art of getting and keeping attention?

First, we have to recognize that shouting just won’t work anymore. The old forms of advertising that made lots of noise and used lots of impressions to break through the clutter are not working. There is already too much noise and in self defense we tune out the noise.

But this does not mean that people want to tune out everything. They want the relevant stuff, they want the stuff they care about to get through. They want more signal and less noise. Understanding this helps us to focus on ways capturing attention.

We need to turn up the signal and turn down the noise. So what’s the signal? The answer to that question is one of the big problems with getting attention from lots of people, my signal may be your noise and vice versa.

What customers want to hear, the signal they care about, is highly personal. It depends on their situation and it depends on what they need right now.

They really don’t care what you do, how you do it, why you do it or anything about you. They care about their lives, their family, their business and they care about the problems they have.

They want to hear content that is relevant to what they are thinking about.

If you can deliver compelling content focused on their specific needs, you will get their attention and they will listen.

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The 10 Ps of Problem Based Marketing

There are ten key elements to Problem Based Marketing. These elements are essential to understand, because they are the building blocks for your marketing plan. In this session, we will review the ten elements to make sure they are clear and then perform an assessment on your current status as a problem based marketer. This assessment will help you prioritize your action plan.

The first P is for Purpose. Without purpose, you are lost. Your purpose establishes your vision for what you plan to build. It embodies the values you hold most dear. It provides focus and clarity through good times and bad. Take the time to define your purpose. It will make your efforts feel much more worthwhile. Establishing your vision and values for your business will give you a set of goals to measure everything you do.

The Problem is what you solve.  It’s magnitude defines the value you can create.  It is the hinge point for all of what comes next, becoming overriding focus of all the other marketing P’s.

Positioning helps you frame the problem statement and how you fit in. Positioning is the way in which you describe who you work with and what problem you help them with. It defines your core marketing message, your uniqueness, and the benefits your solution provides

Process is next. Your Process defines how you will market. It gives you the model for moving from having an idea about making someone a customer, through the concrete steps that you will take them through in order to turn them into a customer.

Products are your solutions. Note that I say solutions, not solution. You need to break down your offering into discrete products. You need products that don’t need your involvement beyond their development, you need a 1 hour product, you need an introductory product that is not too hard to buy, and you need are range of offerings provide complete solutions.

Packaging turns your message into an attractive story that others can hear and understand. If you’ve done the first five P’s well then this is much easier. If you’re having a hard time with packing it’s likely that you haven’t got the first five P’s nailed down right.

Promotion is all about spreading the story.  If you have a good story people will want to listen, if you don’t have an interesting story then it will take much more time, money and effort to become known.

Persuasion is the new form of selling.  It is about persuading someone that they can buy your product safely.  That you product is the one that fits best.  It will be easy if you are genuine and darn near impossible if your not.

Pricing is about taking the risk out of purchase for the customer and making sure that you get paid for the value you deliver.  That may seem like a difficult thing to accomplish, but if your solution really works then it should not be a problem, just give your customer a guarantee they can’t refuse coupled with upside for performance.

Performance is where you get to prove your stuff, and provides the foundation of credibility for everything you say, write and do.  If you perform, problem based marketing will prove to be an invaluable tool.  If you fail to perform then know amount of marketing is going to solve that problem.

These are the ten Ps of problem based marketing

  • Purpose
  • Problems
  • Positioning
  • Process
  • Products
  • Packaging
  • Promotion
  • Persuasion
  • Pricing
  • Performance

Together they provide the basis of marketing that simply works.

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The Marketing Problem

Every company I know would love to attract more customers, more easily. The company would be more successful and make more money. Management would be rewarded for driving growth and opportunity would abound.

Yet attracting customers is often hard. Sales cycles can be long and mastering the cycle often makes the difference between success and failure.

If growing revenue is a struggle and you have some of the following symptoms, Problem Based Marketing may be for you. The common signs of a marketing problem

  • You have great products, but customers just don’t seem to be buying fast enough.
  • Your sales force is working hard, but generating new leads feels like a struggle and closing deals takes too long.
  • When you tell people what you do, they don’t seem to be sending you referrals.
  • You are happiest when you are busy helping a customer.
  • You often prefer to spend your time working on your customers’s issues rather than spending time marketing and selling.
  • Selling may seem unprofessional and networking may not seem terrible productive.
  • You probably get most of your clients from word of mouth passed on by satisfied customers.
  • The one thing that would make your life much easier would be to find a way to attract new customers, easily and consistently.

If these issues seem familiar to you, you have a marketing problem. Solving that problem and helping you develop an approach that will make attracting new customers much easier is what Problem Based Marketing is all about.

Problem Based Marketing is a simple framework for making your marketing a lead generating machine.

The basic concept is to focus on who you serve, what problem you solve for them and to position yourself as the go to company to solve this problem.

The full Problem Based Marketing solution encompasses what I think of as the 10 Ps of successful Problem Based Marketing.

  1. Purpose – why you do what you do
  2. Problems – who is struggling to solve what
  3. Positioning – how you say what you do
  4. Process – the marketing process of generating leads and turning them into customers
  5. Product – solving your customer’s problems
  6. Packaging – make it easy for people to understand what you say
  7. Promotion – make people aware of what you do
  8. Persuasion – get prospective customers to see the possibilities
  9. Pricing – get them to value your solutions
  10. Performance – prove your value

But before we dive into the details of the 10 Ps, we need to look at the marketing problem marketing in more depth.

Why marketing (or is it sales) is not our favorite past time

Marketing and sales are often a confused bundle of a problem because they are treated as separate functions that fail to create a successful process of attracting prospects, educating them to the point of self qualification, moving them to negotiation and finally closing.

We often under invest in marketing hoping that a good sales force can overcome the marketing problem.

Unfortunately, our most frequent sales role model is the guy who dials for dollars and is happy selling just about anything. They seem impervious to rejection and don’t even care if what the sell does what they say. This brute force approach will work to some degree, but it’s a high cost approach that leaves lots of money on the table.

Look back on why new customers asked for your services. Did they come to you because you did a great job of marketing and selling to them or did they make a decision to get help for their problem?

In my experience, most business comes from customers who decide to buy and they decide to find people who can help. They ask other people who might have had the same problem who they turned to for the solution. If you happen to be in the referral stream you get the call, if not you may never see the business.

The insight into Problem Based Marketing comes from observing companies that are hugely successful with exiting customers, but struggle to attract new customers.

Why is it that expanding customer relationships was working, yet attracting new customers was such a problem? The problem seems to be that we think of these two processes as different and as a result take a different approaches to these processes.

New Customer Marketing

  • When asked what you do, say you work for a _________ company (fill in the blank with your industry – software, consulting, systems integration, technology, etc.
  • Make lists of prospective customers
  • Network with people we know
  • Send letters to prospective customers introducing company
  • Cold calls to companies
  • When we get appointments, talk about what we do and how we do it for them
  • Ask prospective customers what issues they were worried aboutTry to find an opening
  • Try to get them to ask for a proposal

Expand Customer Relationship

  • Understand key leverage points for making the customer’s business better
  • Deep understanding of customer’s problems
  • Talk a lot about what the key problems were
  • Talk a lot about what the benefits would be if we could fix the problems
  • Used every piece of relevant data to point out how important solving the problem was
  • Provide the customer with lots of information about the problem and potential solutions
  • Present the information about the problem and solutions in lots of different ways to get buy in from finance oriented, data oriented, process oriented and people oriented camps within the client
  • Customer asks for proposal on how you can solve their problem

When people sell, they tend to come at the world from a perspective of shortage. They need to get something. They need to get a new customer. When they are in this mode, they are needy and people don’t want to be around needy people so their sales and marketing efforts fail

When you work with a customer and are no longer in need, you are able to come at the world from a perspective of abundance. There are lots of problems and you have lots ideas and insight to give. When you give your ideas and insight, it often leads to more work. When you focus on the customer, on their problems, and on giving them your ideas and insights to help them, they see you as the person who can help them make the pain go away.

Once you understand this, you can begin to understand the power of Problem Based Marketing. It’s all about talking about the customer and their problem, not about you and what you do.

Talk about the pain involved with the problem. Talk about the benefits of solving the problem and freely share insights and ideas on how the problem can be solved.

To really leverage the full power of Problem Based Marketing, you need to see your customers as you would a family member or friend who has a problem and you have a way to help them solve the problem. Instead of being a needy seller, you are now giving away ideas and insights to a person who needs your help.

Selling takes place much later in the process. Selling only kicks in when someone has made the decision to buy. It is your job to get the company in front of the buy decision by using the Problem Based Marketing approach.

Action items:

  1. Write down how you describe what you do? Would your mother be able to know who to refer you to based on your description?
  2. Write down how you sell today and how you succeed in accounts you all ready have – what’s different, what works, what doesn’t?
  3. Ask some friends if they really know what you do and what type of people they think you would want to be referred to – does it match up with what you want?

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Welcome to Problem Based Marketing

Problem Based Marketing is for organizations that want to attract more business. If your marketing needs to have more impact and you want customers to seek you out then Problem Based Marketing is for you.

Everyone has problems. Consumers, for-profit companies, not-for-profit companies, governments and every other type of organization have problems. And discussions about problems we care about attract our attention.

Problems are attention magnets and are the basis of highly effective marketing.

Problem Based Marketing is way of organizing your marketing to take advantage of the unique power of problems as attention magnets.

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