Monday, August 30, 2010

Sell the problem

No business buys a solution for a problem they don't have.
And yet, most business to business marketers jump right into features and benefits, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem.
My friend Marcia (we've advised each other on various projects) has a very cool idea for large professional firms. As an architect, she realized the firms were wasting time and money and efficiency in the way they use their space. Roomtag is her answer. 
The challenge is this: if your big law firm or accounting firm doesn't think it has a space allocation/stuff tracking/office mapping problem, you won't be looking for a solution. You won't wake up in the morning dreaming about how to solve it, or go to bed wondering how much it's costing you to ignore it.
And so the marketing challenge is to sell the problem.
(Interesting paradox: a lot of people aren't willing to embrace that they have a problem unless they also believe that there's a solution... so part of selling a problem is hinting that there's a solution that others are using, or is right around the corner.)
Imagine, for example, getting the data and publishing a list of the top 50 firms, ranked by efficiency of space use. All of a sudden, the bottom half of the list realizes that yes, in fact, they have something that they need to work on. If you knew that your firm was paying twice as much per associate as the competition, you'd realize that there's a problem.
When a prospect comes to the table and says, "we have a problem," then you're both on the same side of the table when it comes time to solve it. On the other hand, if they're at the table because you're persistent or charming, the only problem they have is, "how do I get out of here."


If you want something done, perhaps you would ask a professional to do it. Someone who costs a lot but is worth more than they charge. Someone who shows up even when he doesn't feel like it. Someone who stands behind his work, gets better over time and is quite serious indeed about the transaction.
Or perhaps you could hire a passionate amateur. That's a forum leader doing it for love, not money. An obsessive in love with the craft. A talented person willing to trade income for the chance to do what he loves, with freedom.
Please, though, don't hire someone who just thinks it's a job. This category represents the majority of your options, and this category is what gives work a bad name.