Focus on the Problem, not the Solution

“Focus on the solution, not the problem” said Jim Rohn. 

Sorry Jim, I’m going to have to disagree with you there. When you’ve got your marketing hat on for your small business, first and foremost, focus on the problem. Focus on the problems of your ideal client, understand them, and only then focus on your solution to those problems. 

In a recent blog, The Right Marketing at The Right Time, I explored the first vital steps that are needed when developing a successful marketing strategy. The first was ‘who’, so understanding who you help, understanding the problems you solve. The second was ‘why’, so why should they listen to you over everyone else, why are you best placed to help solve their problem. 

When we skip the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ and delve straight into the ‘what’, so what you’re selling, your solution, without fully understanding the problem it solves, marketing it can become an uphill struggle. Yet it’s a struggle that I discovered many SME’s found themselves in…

When carrying out some market research to determine the direction that I should take my business in, I came across a statistic that, well, frustrated me if I’m honest. It was that “45% of small businesses said that competition in the market is a major obstacle to the success of their business.” It was right up there with red tape and regulations!! 

The default stance may be “well I can’t control the competition”….and of course you can’t control what your competitors do, but there is something you do have control over. 

· You have control over your response to the competition.  

· You have control to differentiate yourself from the competition. 

· You have control to put yourself in a place where there is no competition. 

But that takes a strategic approach, one that defines the ‘who’ and the ‘why’ before the ‘what’, an approach that goes beyond short-term tactics and tools. 

As I continued my research on social media platforms, monitoring networking groups, the concern that competition was an obstacle to business owners’ success was reinforced. Business owners and freelancers asking for advice on how to solve the ‘I’m struggling to attract new clients’ problem, and the ‘there’s too much competition in the market’ problem, were typically met with solutions that involved doing more. More short-term tactical stuff….

· Be on more social media platforms

· Spend more money on Facebook Ads

· Spend more money on Google Ads

· Spend more on your website 

· Spend more on SEO 

As small business owners and freelancers with limited resources, doing more doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Yet it can be the solution that many are convinced they need because so many people are telling them that. We’re led to believe that digital marketing tools and tactics are the answer to our problems. 

All of this is what led me to my decision to focus on back to basics, strategic marketing. Those principles of marketing that have not been made obsolete by the introduction of digital marketing, but seem to have got lost in all of the hype. The principles of marketing that can actually result in you doing less, but gaining more, by taking a more targeted approach to marketing. 

If I had purely focused on the solutions that people were looking for or thought they needed, or the solutions that were already been offered in abundance, then I probably would have taken my business down the digital marketing route….most likely with no success! By just focusing on the problem first, we can uncover those things that our ideal client is either unaware of, or those things that they underestimate the importance of. 

I must confess to doubting whether the solution I had devised was the right way to go, but then in October 2018 I read an article in Marketing Week, where a survey uncovered that 75% of marketers agreed that short-term tactical needs often took the priority over long-term objectives. That’s marketers themselves admitting to this! The same article stated that this impacts marketing effectiveness, and not in a good way. 

So, if marketers themselves fall into the trap of focusing on short-term tactical needs then I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much as a small business owner if you’ve found yourself in the same position! 

This sealed it for me and I’ll continue to bang my back to basics, strategic marketing drum. I’ll continue to focus on back to basics marketing that helps move your business forward. And to come back to Jim, yes, it is important to focus on the solution, but only when you fully understand the problem.

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