HOW TO HELP A CUSTOMER SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEM. Is there anything more satisfying than removing pain from a customer, and seeing a smile on their face as they realise you have “sorted it” for them? A business owner/director, recently said to me, “aahh, that’s it Peter, I knew you’d be able to solve our marketing problem.” This was after I helped on a LinkedIn issue. I did a marketing plan for him a few months before, for a confused marketing manager he was mentoring – that was fun too. Another story…a marketing director spotted me in the reception, of the offices she works in and said, “Peter, can you spare me a moment, I have a problem I need your help with..?” Now, it’s always exciting but equally it fills me with a little trepidation, the trust people have in me: as if I have a magic wand! But I am delighted to help and flattered. In this case what appeared to be a challenge with Google Analytics but was actually about prioritising marketing objectives and also knowing the right person to do some e-design. Incidentally we sorted both at the subsequent meeting. So, it got me thinking. How to solve marketing problems, is there a typical pattern? And the 5 marketing eureka questions: the moment when customers solve their problem.
What’s Happening Out There?
This is the first question i.e. “what’s happening out there” or review, the market and background. Never just jump into solving a problem. Don’t be impetuous. There are some great tools out there dependent upon your specific challenge. I started in sales, before moving into marketing and I think that still probably the top model for advanced selling is Huthwaite’s SPIN selling with SITUATION and PROBLEM the first two letters in the acronym (IMPLICATION and NEEDS-payoff being the last two). The point being that to do a good selling job and indeed good marketing job, we all need to understand the situation and problem. SPIN is about helping to ask appropriate questions, so it directs you to ask questions to find out what is the situation and problem? Another first-class tool is BOSCAM, an acronymn used in Project Management to help you through the process of running effective projects. It can be used for all kinds of stuff you do at work including marketing. I use it here for BACKGROUND and later on will return to it – OBJECTIVE, SCOPE, CONSTRAINTS, ASSUMPTIONS AND METHODS – as it provides useful headings to guide you through all kinds of work. So, the question again here is, what is the background to the marketing challenge i.e. don’t rush into the product, promotion, pricing or distribution (or whatever) challenge – check what is going on. A full marketing plan would look at PESTEL i.e. Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal issues. Whilst closer to home you need to check the market, competition, suppliers and so on which is where Porter’s Five Forces is always helpful here.
What’re Your Key Issues – SWOT or TOWS organises this
Anyone worth their salt, knows a SWOT or TOWS analysis is not done in isolation. You do this after other audits, research and reviews including the PESTEL and Porter Five Forces analysis. This enables you to take that information and insert it, into the appropriate areas of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. However, you will probably come up with some additional ideas. Here is a SWOT template from the CIM and a video explanation. The key lesson is to 1. get the data to inform the SWOT upfront and then 2. create ideas and solutions and action plans from the analysis.
Cunning Plans – Strategies
Have you ever read about Napoleon? An amazing man. The best book I read on him was by Andrew Roberts, Napoleon The Great which recounts how he was self-made from a modest background to become France if not Europe’s greatest strategist. Like other brilliant strategists, such as his nemesis Wellington or later on Churchill or earlier Julius Caesar, he could strategise. What does this mean? It means he was brilliant at and able to:
- assess options – with effective and decisive decision making so that he could:
- in battle, and matters of state and politics direct troops and his people to winning positions most of the time
- create clear plans so knew where he wanted to get to – strategy is about getting to an objective with a plan
- produce innovative ideas and strategies
- create a huge empire across Europe early in the 19th Century
The lesson from him and similar strategists, apart from the obvious, I believe is to review the situation, and assess your options in any given situation. Then based upon where you want to get to, for example if you company has a profit target for the year, decide on an appropriate strategy. Napoleon actually whilst innovative with his introduction of novel forms of legislature and education, also with his corps formations in the battlefield, was not flexible enough at Waterloo and relied too much on his usual tried and tested formulas so lost the day (plus suffered a little bit of bad luck with the Prussians arriving in the nick of time!) Henry Mintzberg stresses the importance of changing your plans and strategy as needs be, more on our storify page here. Strategy is perhaps the most important of the 5 marketing eureka questions.
Put a Number to It – KPIs
Hard bitten entrepreneurs always say, you have to put a number to it, for it to mean anything. Peter Drucker, the father of modern management first coined the phrase “Management by Objectives” in his book, “The Practice of Management” in 1954. There’s a very useful site for management templates 12 Manage which has more on this and other templates. The key to KPIs being the need for a KPI to be:
A point worth noting is, the difference between a strategy and an objective. The former being how you are going to do it with a plan, the latter the measurement.
In the Mix – It’s not Just Promo
If you think of a market stall, and something you might buy there, for example an apple. First of all I choose this because marketing and the market place derives from thinking in terms of a market. So what goes into your decision? First the apple itself, a nice big red, fresh one suits me! So the product. But if it is priced at £5 that is not good but equally at 1 pence I would be suspicious, so pricing is important too. The stall owner may catch my attention shouting out, “5 apples for a pound” or there may be a special offer, that’s the promotion. And the market itself is an experience and way of getting a variety of products i.e. a distribution method. I like dealing with jolly stall owners and i.e. the people as long as the parking is ok – ie the process. It all goes in the mix. The key point being, marketing is not just about promo or even product: it is about the whole mix, in order to help answer one of the 5 marketing eureka questions.
For more on problem solving using analytical and creative tools contact us:
Peter Eales BA Hons Chartered Marketer FCIM FIDM
Founder Director Dorset Business Angels
MD o i solutions limited