Start with the Problem (Issue 1111)

In which we are reminded, if we want to attract peoples’ attention, to start with their problem.

A friend wrote to me with the happy news that he has started a solo consulting practice. He shared his new business email address and a link to his just-launched website. Eager to see his approach, I clicked in.

Landing page first impression: Strong positive – great use of color and white space, his new firm’s name is the dominant feature. The remaining pages focus on my friend ’s experience as a successful business leader in large U.S. companies. He’s positioning himself as a strategy consultant for companies in industries with which he is familiar. Deep expertise. Collaborative approach.

His website touts the outcomes that evolve from his services: increased revenue, higher client satisfaction, better employee alignment, stronger governance, and faster adoption of change. All highly desirable outcomes… but… not provocative, not differentiating.

The question is, “why would somebody hire him, in particular?” for that work? Said another way: “What problems is he solving?”

There are many possible strategy-related problems, among them:

  • Capacity (Management team or Board members are too busy fighting fires to do strategy work)
  • Knowledge (e.g., don’t see the broader picture of a problem or entering new ground)
  • Deadlock (e.g., management team or the Board can’t agree on priorities or plans)

So, instead of saying:

“I help clients write and implement strategies to increase revenue, client satisfaction, and profitability”

(which is worthwhile work, for sure), he might frame things around the problems he solves, maybe something like:

“When directors or executives are too busy or deadlocked about the path forward, I help them develop and reach consensus on strategy.” [The website version would be shorter!]

Potential clients KNOW that they need something – a strategy document, a new personal look, less cluttered closets, a vacation package, a financing plan. When they’re looking for a professional’s help, they’re looking for someone who “gets” the reason they’re looking and can help them solve it. So, start with the problem they’re trying to solve.

Buyer: “I need / want _______________ but the problem is_________________.” [I need a strategy on which we all agree but the problem is we’re too busy operationally to talk about it.]

Seller: “When clients are______________, I help them_____________.” [When clients are deadlocked on their path forward, I help them find common ground and develop shared strategy.]

As I was walking down a Rhode Island village main street a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a sign in front of an office. In big, bold letters, it said, “ARCHITECTS”. The subheading read “Marriage Counseling.”

Ha, ha! Exactly.

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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