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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