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I often think that the person that wins is the person that understands and articulates the problem more so than the person that understands and articulates the solution. I know this is kind of the cold hard sort of crass sounding facts, but I really do think that nobody wants or cares about what we sell. They want their problem solved, period. If we can make that connection, if we can get them to understand that we understand their problems, they’re going to listen to our solutions. The reason I say this takes a special point of view is that it requires us to fully understand our customer’s problems and in many cases, understand problems that maybe have nothing to do with the products and services that we offer.
When I work with businesses, quite often I will try to get them to list all of their problems and challenges. When we work with clients on their websites today, the biggest thing on their homepage should be “Here’s your biggest problem. Here’s our promise to solve it.” I don’t think that anybody wants to pass go until they’ve been able to make that connection.
Figuring out your customers’ problems
A lot of times, you know what they are, you hear them every day. I think the real art is to actually find those problems that people are trying to solve very early in their journey before they’ve really led to, or even figured out if what we do is going to solve their problems. There are some great tools out there and I really recommend that you take a look at these, because I’ve been telling people for the last few years that I think keyword research or that part of SEO that people used to call keyword research, I think has actually become one of the master skills now for marketers. We have to get very good at understanding intent because all the data is there, we just have to know how to mine it.
Use online tools
One of the first tools I want to tell you about is Answer the Public. It’s a really cool site because what it essentially is, is a search engine of sorts, but if you put any search term, it will a thorough list of questions and related topics to that term. It’s different really than the traditional kind of keyword search terms that might show you terms that are related and different ways to say the same thing. This is really more of an intent engine because it structures many things in the form of questions. I do think that it’s hard to misinterpret what somebody is looking for, what their intent is, what they’re trying to solve when they actually put in a question.
That’s why I really love this. It can spark so many ideas. In fact, I would venture to say that you could actually go here and most businesses could get a year’s worth of content that they need to produce just around a couple themes in terms of answering questions that are very specific. These are things that people are actually typing into search engines. You can even break it up into all kinds of ways. They have comparisons. They have questions. They have things that start with prepositions. There’s a whole lot of ways to slice and dice Answer the Public.
Interview your customers
Getting on the phone and interviewing your clients is also invaluable. This is a great way to kind of push them to help them tell you not only what their challenges are, but, more importantly, what problem you are actually solving for them. You want to ask them, “What good service looks like to them, or tell me a story about a time when we provided good service.” That’s when you’ll start hearing things like, “You show up on time and you clean up the job site.” That doesn’t sound like something that would be a great marketing message, but clearly, it is.
Look at your reviews
I’ll tell you another place to go look. Look at your reviews. If you’re in one of those businesses that gets reviews, you’re going to find that quite often people will be very honest and open about the exact experience they had and the value that they got from that. You might think in terms of looking at your competitors. What do their reviews say? If you find negative reviews, what are people putting in the negative reviews?
These can be actually really good clues to the problems that people are actually experiencing that nobody’s addressing. You want to look for those problems and you want to turn those problems into a way for you to connect and maybe even reposition your entire business around. Frankly, when I started Duct Tape Marketing, I really created this systematic approach to marketing to solve my problem, to solve my frustration.
Here’s a great example from a client of ours. Note the highlights in each review state about the same thing. They are solving a problem clearly.
Solve the problem
I really determined that the best way for me to run a profitable business was to basically walk into somebody and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s what you’re going to do. Here’s the results we hope we can get. By the way, here’s what it costs.” Pretty quickly I found out that in an attempt to solve my greatest frustration, I had actually landed upon one of the greatest frustrations of most small businesses. It’s actually very difficult to buy marketing services, so the idea that somebody was going to talk about marketing in this comprehensive way, strategy-first, and install a marketing system, that became a way to address what is today still, a very core problem that small business owners try to tackle.
If you can tap into solving a problem and using that as your total positioning, I quite frankly find that to be even more important than this idea of niching your business down to a certain market.
I have a friend that owns an SEO firm and he basically says, “All you need to know about SEO is that we make the phone ring.” SEO’s sort of complicated for a lot of people. A lot of people like to make it complicated. What he’s done is taken a positioning that really is about their problem. They want the phone to ring, so that’s all you need to know about SEO. There are so many opportunities and I think you have to understand how those objectives, and questions, and problems that people are trying to solve evolve as they move through the various stages of the customer journey. The funny thing about problem-solving is that really every innovation, every time a problem gets solved, it simply creates another opportunity to solve another problem. Every innovation creates another problem. A goofy example is the person that invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.
Social media has now taken over a lot of people’s lives and it’s made it so much easier to connect, and share, and promote ourselves, and it’s also created this era of depression, and fear of missing out that people experience. All of a sudden social media created a problem all by itself and now people are creating opportunities.
Stuart Triers, a friend of mine, has a really fun business where he goes after certain industry niches. One niche that he was after was Auto Locksmith. He wanted to do marketing for them and instead of just trying to bang on their doors and say, “We can do websites, and email marketing, and advertising for you,” he discovered that one of the biggest problems they face is that many of the calls that they get, happen in the middle of the night. People lose their keys when they’re out at a bar, so they would get these calls. He’d have to wake up. They’d have to answer the calls.
Half the time the people didn’t want to pay the $500 or whatever it was. Triers created a database that became a WordPress plugin that could go on their sites, so when somebody would come and go to a landing page to try to find this locksmith, they’d actually put in, “Here’s my make and model” and it would say, “Yes, we have that key. We can bring it right out to you. Here’s what it costs,” and they wouldn’t pick up the phone and call unless they wanted the key. It gave them a great tool to solve a problem. All of a sudden locksmiths were more than willing to listen to him and his pitch on doing their marketing. Find a way to change the context, to make the competition irrelevant, and to provide a utility that makes you a welcomed guest.
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