This post was inspired from a conversation I had with Chris Brogan at BlogWorld Expo 2009. Chris is so damn productive, I have given him a nickname. Henceforth, he is “The Broganator,” but that is beside the point.
We were standing around in a little circle with a couple other people after a session Chris had paneled, talking about business. Any time we dig a little deeper into our blogs to make them more successful, we’re reminded they have a business end. We’re reminded which end is dog, which end is tail, and which end is supposed to be wagging the other (most people have it exactly backwards in practice).
One Very Important Thing
In order to be successful in business, and market that business successfully via blogging, you have to know one Very Important Thing. You have to know what problem you’re solving. There’s more to it than just that, but let’s leave it at that for now, as an introductory idea.
Most businesses don’t take a problem-solving approach. They take a service-provider approach. How many people you ask say, “I provide design services,” or “I provide consulting services?” Even if the word services doesn’t make an appearance, it’s often assumed.
But when our prospective clients reach a point where they need our services, what has happened in their lives? Often, they’ve suffered a problem that needs fixing. They may not even know what service to search for. All they know is they have a problem. If my stomach hurts, and I want to search online for relief, I’m not going to type “irritable bowel syndrome” into the Google search box, because I don’t know that’s what I have. What do you think I’m going to type in?
Framing the Problem
If you guessed, “stomach pain” or similar, high five yourself (or on second thought, don’t, because to other people that just looks like a weird clap and you’ll get funny looks). Now, if we’re selling a product that relieved stomach pain, our marketing objectives for blog content are clear.
But what if we sell services? Our potential clients still suffer from pain, but it’s more of a situational, logistical, or anxiety-based kind of pain. Our clients don’t necessarily want services. They didn’t wake up today wondering, “Gee, where I can I get me some good career coaching services?” They woke up saying, “Damn, not another Monday! I hate this job! How can I get out of this without putting my family’s well-being in danger?”
They want their problem to go away—preferably with as little involvement as possible on their part.
Google’s Big Mistake
Let me pick on a giant company as an illustration: Google. Google has created several services which are languishing or riddled with problems based around large-scale user annotation of the web. Google SearchWiki is not even used by people. Google Knol is a ghost town. And Google SideWiki is turning into a huge, sad joke. Why does Google fail so badly with these services?
Because they’re trying to solve a problem nobody has.
When I said that in our after-session conversation at BlogWorld, Brogan immediately lit up and he said he really liked that phrase (Chris: steal it, use it). That’s the connection between BlogWorld and this post.
Think about your own business, your own blog. Are you having difficulty attracting qualified traffic that converts? Could be you’re not solving anyone’s problem.
“But wait a minute,” I hear you say (yes, I really heard that), “I do solve a particular problem! I solve ___________.” That’s good if you know that. But if your business blog marketing still isn’t pulling like you want, there’s a likely reason for that. It’s because even though you know what problem you’re solving for your clients, your blog isn’t doing a good job of communicating that. Go back and look at your posts from the fresh perspective of a complete stranger: do you see more than one post where the problem you solve is clearly stated in headlines and post content? Yes, you have to be that blatant, that direct about it.
Your First Step
Your first step in the right direction is to forget about labeling yourself as a service provider, and begin calling yourself a problem solver. And yeah, the observant among you will notice I’m not doing that here on my own blog. I’m sharing this with you before I implement it myself (because it’s that important). I’ve been telling this to my blog consulting clients and blog coaching groupsas well, for months (they have a head start on you, and they also have my specific guidance for their individual businesses and blogs).
We’re not service-providers. We’re problem-solvers. But, more than that, we want to be sure we’re solving the problem our clients believe they have. Let’s make sure we’re not making the same mistake as Google. Don’t try to solve a problem no one has. You and I don’t have Google’s vast resources to create and then discard such costly projects.
By the way, as I hinted at above, there is something beyond problem solving. That’ll be the next post. Stay tuned.
Have you been thinking of yourself as a service provider? If you had to write down what problem you solve, what would that look like? Leave a comment below and let me know. Help each other refine your “problem statements.”