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The Three Types of Problems Every Customer Faces

In our last blog, “Customer Intelligence: Find Out How Much Your Company Has”, we talked about how vital it is to filter everything you do through your customer’s story. The company’s really lagging behind in the modern marketplace are the companies that spend all their energy talking about themselves. To leave the office, and walk miles in your customer’s shoes, that is the beginning of customer intelligence. 

In this blog, we’re going to take that walk. We’ll talk about the three types of problems that separate your ideal buyer persona from your product. 

There’s Always a Villain

When you’re articulating the problem your customer faces (the one that your product solves), it is crucial that you personify the problem. Why? We humans make sense of the world in story. We wake up as heroes, we identify the villain, we either avoid them, tweet about them, or, at our best, face them. Something to conquer is what gets most of us up in the morning, and if it’s not at least a little difficult, it’s not worth conquering. This is why the Mucus in the Mucinex commercials is a fat green guy, and why you wouldn’t have kept watching Harry Potter if Harry, Dudley, and his Aunt and Uncle got along. Our customers take action when the problem they’re facing is personified. Without personifying the problem your product solves, your customer is much less likely to know why they should buy it or what separates it from the competition. 

Practical: Ask yourself, “How well do we articulate the problem we help our customers solve? Do we just expect them to get it? Should we?”

Then, There’s A Guide

Since the customer is already occupying the hero narrative, the business assumes the guide role. Think Yoda, or ANY movie Morgan Freeman is in. The guide knows the hero’s story oh so well, and that’s how he helps him get past whatever is between him and what he wants. 

The Guide Solves Three Problems For The Hero

A good guide knows that there are 3 layers to the problem the hero is facing. He knows how to speak to all of them. The moment a hero becomes a customer, he has three problem loops that open up. They stay open until the problem is resolved. These three problems are categorized as an internal problem, an external problem, and a philosophical one. Companies that can’t address or articulate all three miss out on so much business because they can’t fully capture their customer’s attention. It’s the classic, “I’m online looking for a company that builds pools and six of these websites are the same while one of them seems to get me. They feel like they can really help me.”

What helps us choose the company we go with is all wrapped up in how well they addressed our problem. While it would seem that customers buy solutions to external problems (not having a pool), they actually buy based on the frustration that exists because there’s no pool. That frustration is internal, and the pool company that articulates that frustration will be the same company in their backyard building a pool next spring. 

Following our pool example, here’s what the chosen pool company knew: 

Using customer intelligence, the pool company developed buyer personas for their ideal clients. One of those buyer personas was a middle-aged mom with a couple kids and a long, hot summer. The content department sat down to write a blog, and when they did, they wrote it articulating the frustration that middle-aged mom must be feeling to have her kids running wild in the house all summer. They called the piece, “The Pool Your Kids Have Been Waiting For.” Well, she read it, and somewhere between reading about what to do with your kids for the next ten summers and a free estimate, someone from the pool company is on their way to the house right now. 

What just happened? A company invested their time in their ideal customer, got to know their frustrations, and built their online language around it. They understood that customers don’t buy just based on external problems, but that those purchases are driven by internal problems. 

As the old saying goes, “Two out of three ain’t bad.” If you can articulate your customer’s internal frustrations, they’re much more likely to have a connection with you/be pulled by your brand. 

The philosophical problem you are helping your customer solve is the one that reminds your customer of the deepest yearning that gets answered when they buy your product. 

The villain was the dog days of sweat-drenched summer, and the external problem was wanting relief. The internal problem was wanting to give your kids the summer their school friends were having. The philosophical problem, at last, is that now, every summer for these kids will be one to remember. 

Last Thoughts

Can you point out the three layers of problems your customer faces when they’re looking for a product/service like yours? If you identify and articulate the full gamut of problems they’re facing on their quest to solve them, you win. No longer are you the company your customer looks over because you’re “basic” like everybody else. You know who your customer is, you know the full scope of the problem they’re trying to solve, and you articulate it to perfection. That makes you a customer-centered company, and that’s what your customer is looking for!

Blake Crawford

Blake is the Creative Director here at Greenstone Media. He helps companies tell the story their customers need to hear. When he isn't working, Blake enjoys hiking, playing guitar, and writing songs.