Set a clock for two minutes & jot down as many answers to this question as you can before time runs out:
What problems do our potential clients have?
With that done (you’re not out of breath, are you?), dive into today’s session. Bang on the play button below to listen.
3 Big Ideas
Before taking the next step to revise your answers, revisit the primary concepts in this session:
We make decisions based on a complex mix of logic & emotion.
→ We like to think we’re rational & that we walk through our days making well-reasoned arguments about whether to go left or right or whether to eat this or that. But you’ve worked with enough of these human creatures to know that’s not always the case.
Your marketing should address more than the obvious problem you’re trying to solve.
→ If we assume we don’t need to dig any deeper than the obvious problems, we’re leaving a lot of potential on the table. Many small businesses don’t go any further than this. They believe they’ve identified a problem in the market, they’ve worked hard to create a solution for that problem, & that that should be enough.
Your marketing is more targeted when it addresses the full range of problems.
→ When you are able to market & message with precision, the right people will respond. The right people, in turn, will buy into what you’re doing. They’ll see better results. They’ll bring in more of the right people.
All the Words
In the last session, we dug into the possible wants & beliefs of your potential clients. Now, let’s examine the other side of that same coin. Let's ask ourselves about the problems standing in the way of satisfying those wants.
This is a question that seems like it has an easy, straight-forward solution. To a degree it does. But I hope by the end of the session you’ll see that there’s actually quite a bit of depth to the answer. When we work to dig a little deeper, we uncover opportunity to message more clearly & market more effectively.
When I say depth, what I mean is that humans are complex creatures. We make decisions based on any number of factors — some logical, some emotional, some often contradictory. We like to think we’re rational & that we walk through our days making well-reasoned arguments about whether to go left or right or whether to eat this or that. But you’ve worked with enough of these human creatures to know that’s not always the case.
I’ll use myself as an example.
Sometime around 1995 or 1996, the basketball player Grant Hill partnered with the shoe maker Fila to come out with a sneaker. I was about 15 when the shoe came out, & Grant Hill was far & away my favorite basketball player. Being 15 & broke, I managed to convince my parents I needed a pair.
We found them at the local Foot Locker, but they didn’t have my size. Keep in mind that this was before Amazon or Zappos or next day shipping of anything. It was either the sneakers not in my size or no sneakers at all.
I went home with a size 11 even though, at best, I was a size 10. After weeks of trying to fool myself that this was an obstacle I could overcome, I pushed the shoes to the back of the closet & never worn them again.
What was the problem I was trying to solve with this purchase?
The obvious answer is that I needed new basketball kicks.
But of course that's not why I bought them.
The obvious reason, that’s what I like to think of as the Public Problem. The one we can imagine a skinny, broke 15 year old using to convince his mom to bring him to the mall.
In the world of an affiliate, the Public Problem is increased fitness & better health. It’s losing 15 pounds. It’s being more competitive. It’s regaining mobility. In other words, it’s the easy answers. The ones people are comfortable telling you the first time they walk through your doors. The ones people are comfortable saying out loud.
These are important problems to address. But if we stop there, if we assume we don’t need to dig any deeper, we’re leaving a lot of potential on the table. Many small businesses don’t go any further than this. They believe they’ve identified a problem in the market, they’ve worked hard to create a solution for that problem, & that that should be enough.
If we were all logical creatures making reasoned decisions, it might be enough. But we’re not, so it’s not.
Why did I walk home with those ugly-ass, over-sized sneakers when better looking & better fitting options surrounded me?
What did my 15-year-old self want? He wanted new basketball kicks. What did he believe? Among other things, he believed owning basketball-specific sneakers were necessary for playing basketball. None of this fully explains the decision.
Because the Pubic Problem wasn’t the only one he was trying to solve. He was also trying to satisfy two deeper levels of problems. He was trying to solve for what we’ll call the Private Problem & the Principle Problem.
Both have as much influence over our actions as the obvious ones. It’s just that we often keep them quiet. Sometimes these are the problems we can’t even articulate. Certainly these are the problems we don’t talk about to the salesmen at Foot Locker or to our mothers while trying to convince her to buy us stupid things that don’t make any sense.
If I had to put myself back into my 15-year-old mindset, I'd guess the Private Problem I was solving for was a need to feel as though I was taking basketball — & myself as a basketball player — seriously. That I wasn't the type of person who could have any old sneaker. The Private Problem had something to do with my need to show that basketball was an important part of my identity.
But why the Grant Hills from Fila? Why did I need that specific shoe?
For that, we’d have to explore the Principle Problem I was also looking to solve.
See, Grant Hill had a certain style of play. He was smart, a good leader, & not flashy. He worked hard, elevated his teammates, & seemed to be a genuinely nice dude. That was his “brand,” & it was a brand that spoke to me. It was a brand I wanted to attach myself to because I thought there should be more players like that.
So, my Public Problem was that I needed new basketball kicks. My Private Problem was that I was looking for a way to show that I took this sport seriously. My Principle Problem was that I wanted to attach my own identity to the identity of someone who played the sport in a way I thought admirable & worthy of celebration.
I wouldn’t have gone home with sneakers that didn’t fit me if all three didn’t exist deep in my 15-year-old brain. Logic didn’t win that day. At least, it couldn’t claim a full victory. Aspiration, self-identification, & a raging river of teenage hormones all aided in the decision.
Which is exactly what Fila had hoped would happen when they spent the money to create a partnership with Grant Hill.
But enough about me & my adolescent footwear decisions.
Let’s use one of our example gyms to explore how to articulate not only the Public Problems they exist to serve, but some of these harder to identify Private & Principle Problems. Let’s take a look at our competitive-focused gym this time.
For context, here is what we have on them:
Their What & How statement reads:
We are a cutting-edge CrossFit gym that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible through strength & conditioning. Our coaches & our program will help you smash your goals & elevate you amongst your peers. Our mission is to help you redefine where you thought you could go.
Their Values are: “Competitiveness,” “Specialization,” & “Education.”
Their prospective clients believe “that their sport is a big part of their identity; that they have athletic potential they want to see expressed; that they are willing to work hard in pursuit of their goals; that they deserve to be coached by the best; that they are an athlete; that they capable of winning.”
Lastly, their prospective clients want “to learn from & compete with the best; to put in the time necessary to get better; to feel that they are doing whatever it takes; to see results; to dedicate themselves to their sport.”
You can head over to this gym’s Brandwork document to see how they might answer all the questions we’ve posed so far, but this should be enough to get us moving. This should be enough for us to begin exploring the various levels of problems their marketing & messaging should aim to address.
Since this gym seems built to serve athletes, it would make sense that the Pubic Problems they were looking to tackle have to do with the competitive arena. Given that CrossFit is such an effective strength & conditioning program to prepare athletes for in-season play, we could identify a prospective member’s Public Problem as: “I know I can be more competitive than I currently am.” We can imagine somebody walking into that gym with that as their stated motivation.
But let’s dig deeper.
One thing we know about athletes at all levels & in all sports is that they’re racing the clock. We know they only have so much time in high school to catch the eye of scouts. We know they only have so much time in college to get onto the starting squad. We know the preseason is short. We know the body can only handle being competitive for so long.
So that’s where I’d begin to think about the Private Problems this gym might want to address. It’s one athletes implicitly understand, but not one explicitly talked about. Nobody wants to admit the clock is ticking, even though we all hear it. “I don’t have time to waste,” is how I would message it.
Now, the Principle Problem. What is the bigger, harder to define problem into which this gym might consider tapping? What is the philosophical challenge their prospective clients might be facing?
They might look to what CrossFit did in the early days to gather inspiration. “Forging Elite Fitness” would be appropriate for them. The same with an attitude of disruption & a chip on their shoulder. Since CrossFit is still not a widely adopted program for sports, this gym can operate with the same mentality that Coach Glassman did back in the day - as a middle finger to what everybody else was doing.
I'd message it like this: “There should be a smarter way to work harder.”
Like it did in the early 2000’s, this kind of messaging will attract those athletes looking for the kind of edge a gym like this can deliver. That means more of the right people will walk through the door, which means the gym will be in a great position to put all their energy into satisfying the full gamut of their problems.
Our Pretend Gyms
[ Full Example Gym Brandwork Docs here: Community | Corporate | Competitive ]
Answers to today’s question:
Public: I'd love to lose these 15 pounds I've been carrying around for too long.
Private: I don't want to be a burden on my family later in life.
Principle: My family should be making our collective health a higher priority.
Public: I'm not making my health a priority & it's starting to show.
Private: I need better balance in my life.
Principle: I shouldn't have to sacrifice my health for my work.
Public: I know I can be more competitive than I currently am.
Private: I don't have time to waste - the season starts soon, the scouts are watching, I'm getting older, etc..
Principle: There should be a smarter way to work harder.
Time to Do Work
Circle back to your initial list of problems & categorize them by whether they’re Public, Private, or Principle. Jump into your Brandwork doc, revise, condense, & choose the set that feels most accurate.
With your new set of Problems in front of you, stress test them by asking yourself these questions:
Can you walk through the problem set for another brand or two - perhaps ones you love? Doing so will help you get into the consumer mind & out of the entrepreneur mind for a few minutes. Here’s one for Tesla to get you started:
Public: I need a new car.
Private: I want a way to show that I’m an early adopter of new technology.
Principle: We shouldn’t be relying on gas-guzzling cars any more.
Take a look back at your answer for Question 5 from Section One, about the changes you are seeking the instigate. Are those changes reflected in the problems you’ve identified? They should be. Providing solutions to these problems is at the core of the changes you are making every single day. Make sure they are aligned.
Next up, you’ll be working on how to best articulate your expertise & authority. Here’s a quote from Donald Miller’s excellent book, "Building a Storybrand” worth holding in the bottom of a squat for a bit:
"The fatal mistake some brands make, especially young brands who believe they need to prove themselves, is they position themselves as the hero in the story instead of the guide.”