Most salespeople understand that we need to understand our customers’ pain points. Marketing does too, but not enough. Marketing likes to be the bearer of good news. This makes Marketing nice, comfortable, happy, but unproductive.
Your ability to meet a need and solve a problem will be tested, and testimonials and case studies will play a key role. But that’s very late in the buyer’s journey, and is largely in the hands of your salespeople. Marketing’s job should be to find the right kind of buyers, work out which of them are sufficiently troubled to act, and help your salespeople get in front of those buyers.
But some problems for buyers are better solved by your competitors than by you. So we need Marketing and Sales to identify, debate and agree the one problem that will reward your business the most richly.
In this video blog, Hugh identifies why you need only one, how to choose the best problem.

Unless you’re the 300-pound gorilla of your market, you can’t offer to solve all the market’s problems. If you do then more nimble chimps will eat your lunch. Your ability to meet a need and solve a problem for the market will be tested and so case studies, references and testimonials will play a valid role, but that’s very late in the journey and it’s largely in the hands of sales people.

Marketing’s job should be to find the right buyers, work out which of them is sufficiently troubled about the problem and to earn the right for sales people to get in front of those same buyers. But not all problems will serve you well, some problems will actually be better solved by your competitors than by you.

So marketing and sales together need to agree what problem to focus on. The first thing we have to acknowledge is that it’s a team game; if sales and marketing have a different concept of what the problem that we want to focus on in the market should be, that’s not a good thing. We really need marketing, sales, research and development and delivery ┬áto agree what problem we’re going to focus on.

Out of all of the options that we might consider we need to think about strength and attractiveness differently. Let me frame it up for you this way; imagine for the moment you are equally amazing at solving all the problems that you’re right now considering to focus on, you’re equally good. Which one of them would be more attractive and separately then we need to imagine that each of them is equally attractive but which of them are we best at solving. These are very different things. Which would be most attractive? Which are we strongest at solving?

In a perfect world we’re going to choose a problem that’s adequately attractive and we’re adequately strong at. But why only one problem? Your sales people when they get face to face with a prospective customer they’ll honour the uniqueness of that customer’s problems, but which kinds of customers faced with which kinds of problems would you ideally want those sales people in front of in the first place? As each problem has a different:

  • set of buyers most likely to be troubled by it
  • solution that would fully solve it
  • a different channel best able to uncover and discuss that problem
  • a different set of competitors

In other words each problem has a different strategy. If you’re a big company then you can probably afford to have multiple strategies at play at any one point in time. Whether you’re a large company with many strategies, each with their own plan or you’re a smaller company where you can afford only one strategy executed really well at a plan level, you still need to have a plan to execute one strategy. One strategy means one problem. Marketing, sales, R&D, operations they all need to agree on the one problem that you’re going to focus on.

Start by considering all the factors that make each of the problems attractive, in the three-day funnel camp we have a bit of time to wrestle this and so we look at five factors we look at for each problem that we’re considering we look at how big is that problem for the overall market? Are there lots of businesses? Is it a deep pain that they would pay a lot of money for? We look at growth, we look at concentration of competition, profitability and at barriers to entry to determine whether that problem is going to be a protected one, where it’s really hard to learn how to solve that problem.

Either way we’re looking at for each of the problems we’re considering focusing on how attractive would they be if we chose to focus on them. Secondly we want to look at how good we are at solving each of those problems today, I know that in time you can become great at everything but how good are you at each of those problems right now.

We look at five factors to help determine which problem to solve:

  • How often you’ve solved the problem before and how much share of the troubled market have you already earned,
  • The unique selling proposition
  • Whether the market recognizes that unique strength.
  • Cost advantages; do we have a cost advantage at solving one problem over another and
  • Strength factors.

Either why we’re trying to determine how good are we today at solving each of those problems based then on the attractiveness and our strength we now want to make a decision between those options and to choose the one that would reward us most richly if we chose to focus on it. Avoid the temptation to look for an aggregated problem yeah lots of commas and lots of ands does not a good problem make.

We want a single problem that’s:

  • tight
  • clear
  • definable
  • troubling
  • memorable

that we can own in the market. A broad encompassing problem’s very hard to own. Get your team together, debate each of those factors, however granularly you’re going to have that debate, make a decision and then commit. Choosing the third best option but absolutely committing to it its far better than choosing the best option and not committing fully, that’s why you need everybody together. Assess each of those strength and attractive factors then choose and commit.

By the way, don’t let the numbers make the decision for you, the numbers or the assessments are there to inform your judgment. If we are going to rely on the science to make our decisions for us, the science had better be perfect. It’s not. It’s really good science but it’s not perfect. In the end you are managers; you have to make a debate, discussion, decision, commitment.

How we do all of this in the funnel plan…

Choosing a problem to focus on is right after the objectives.The one problem that would reward you the most richly if you chose to focus on it.To input to that we get the long list of problems in the ‘list of problems section’, we assess them according to pain and strength. You can also actually rate each of those individually.

So we take multiple user’s inputs and we asked them attractiveness, strength and size questions about each problem. What Funnel Plan will do, is take the most input that you give it. If you only give it the pain and strength assessment on those little sliders that we saw before, then it’s going to use that and it’ll be happy to produce the bubble chart from that. If you’ve gone a little further and you’ve added in rating users and you’ve added in their individual scores, then it’ll take the rating user values instead. Whatever you give it, Funnel Plan is going to take the best that you give it.

In the end it’ll produce a table a little like this one that has all of the attractiveness and strength factors, however they were derived, as well as the size because in the end the size of the prize does actually matter. Then you make a decision, again the decision as I mentioned before might be one of those problems or it might be a new problem that’s perhaps derived from those earlier problems. Avoid the temptation to create an aggregate problem that is the lasso of all of those, unless you really are the gorilla and you can presume to solve all of those problems, for the whole market.

What you do with that problem, in other words, your strategy, I’ll show you on another day but for now may your funnel be full and always flowing.