August 6, 2013

Is Marketing All About Problem Solving?

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(Photo credit: Government Press Office)

Unfortunately, we all have problems. Fortunately, most of them have solutions. If your car breaks down, you take it to the garage and your mechanic solves the problem. If you have bad skin you can go to the skin doctor or the cosmetician, or you can buy a skin product at the shop.

We, as marketers know this problem-and-solution model, and we use it. We know that our potential customers have problems, so we try to solve those with our product or service. At times it seems that we live in a world full of problems and we are constantly seeking to solve them using products or services that are at our disposal.

When a company claims to provide landscaping solutions, what is the problem they are solving? The lack of a landscape? And what problem are you solving when you offer me coffee solutions? So yes, anything can be spun into the problem-and-solution model and many times it would definitely be the best way to go. However, is it always the right way to go?

In AMC’s Mad Men, season 3, Roger Sterling explains to Pete Campbell why his co-worker Ken Cosgrove is a better account executive than he is. Roger says: “Pete, you definitely make sure that the clients feel like you can solve all of their problems. Ken however, makes them feel like they don’t have any problems.”

I believe that in some cases it is better to say to the client “We know you are doing just fine, but how about you come to our hotel? We guarantee you a better vacation than if you didn’t.” Or even if they do have a genuine problem, why don’t you solve that problem without them even realizing they ever had a problem?

As I wrote, some cases require pointing out the solution and then solving it, while others require a subtle approach, pointing the spotlight to the positive experience alone. Both are good marketing strategies and it is up to us, the marketers, to decide when we are a Pete Campbell, and when we are a Ken Cosgrove.

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