Problem-Solving vs. Product-Pushing in Marketing - Who Wins?

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Getting the word out about your business has been the central function of marketing since the dawn of recorded ad space. In a world where an individual is exposed to dozens of ads before breakfast - perhaps even before they get out of bed, depending on their smartphone habits - getting tuned out isn't a potential danger, it's a reality. The eyes and the mind have evolved to be more discerning by default: can you imagine if every ad penetrated, if every product or serviced advertised was purchased? Every house on the block would be a stockpile of As-seen-on-TV products surrounding a horde of disenchanted, irritated consumers with no solutions in sight.

Capturing the Right Moment

We have learned to adapt our own internet searching habits as a part of that evolution, turning to Google when something's gone awry, or is threatening to. That's the moment that marketers have learned to pursue, because it's the moment that the guard slips down, when a customer is most perceptive to a brand's message - though the same old message won't do. Start to take a tone that could be delivered by a hollow-eyed, grinning pitchman and the door slams shut again as quickly as it opened. With a wealth of options, consumers demand authenticity in their marketing messages, a hint that the company they're considering knows what they're going through and is invested in making it better. Customerfocused marketing handles this need efficiently, stepping in to save the day as opposed to using it for its captive audience. 

They're Already Tuned In

"But wait," you might say, "how will I let them know about my product if I can only talk about end results?" The good news is that there's plenty of room for traditional product coverage within a problem-solving content approach. You'll need to incorporate it in a meaningful way, without being obtrusive, but in an age of hyperlinks, anchored text. and embedded content that's an easy fix. Once you've managed to gain meaningful attention, it isn't asking a lot of a customer to click something for more information, or, increasingly, to easily use their social media login to create an account in seconds. You will obviously need to keep the conversation going through measures like these if you'd like to close the deal, but if you're committed to putting solutions first over selling, you're on the right path. Marketing goals should not be substantially different from product development goals: deliver value, and your customer will be back for more. 

Think Like Your Customers

Learning to discern the difference between pushing your product and customer focused marketing is as simple as examining your own habits, more often than not. Assuming you aren't in the plumbing industry, think about what you'd type into Google if a pipe suddenly burst in your bathroom. Would you calmly sit down at the keyboard, typing in "Emergency plumber located in [your town]" and peruse the results? Probably not. You're far more likely to frantically type in something more like "burst water pipe fix" and scan for a quick-and-dirty solution to the unexpected water feature that's slowly seeping into the upstairs drywall.

Once you've handled the immediate issue of water pouring out - say, from that convenient photo-studded article from Bob's [your town] Plumbers that directed you to shut off your water valve, and told you how to find it - you're more likely to be grateful to Bob's. From there, you'll also be more likely to contact them about a more permanent solution because they were there when you needed them, content-wise. That's the difference between pushing a service, which you would skip right over in your water-induced panic-searching, and inserting yourself into a solution narrative in a meaningful way. 

At the end of the day, problem solving is just another vehicle for authenticity and consumer connections, but it's a lasting one. Ad clutter isn't going to diminish as a problem for businesses at large, so focusing on cutting through it will help you in the future, as well. Learn the problems your customers are facing and communicate solutions that directly or tangentially hold up your product as a key, and you'll be part of the conversation, rather than trying to shout your way into it.

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Isaac Oswalt

Owner of 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. Futurist in nature, Isaac displays a deep desire to preserve the human element in today's business. Trust being the ultimate currency, his clients appreciate that "new and stronger handshakes" is a success metric in their businesses.

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