Problem, Agitate, Solve

Robin Robins IT Marketing

The above is the oldest and still one of the most effective formulas for lead generation. More specifically, identify a highly irritating problem, anxiety, worry or frustration your clients have. Next, AGITATE it. Make them FEEL even more annoyed, frustrated and worried about it – and THEN offer the solution to the problem.

As I’ve long taught, effective marketing copy is about “bringing latent dissatisfaction to a boil.” But to do that, you have to know how your prospect thinks and feels. You also must know the specific problems they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis AND be able to articulate those problems to such a degree that they feel you’ve been following them around all day, reading their mind. Only then can you be effective at writing a marketing communication that gets and holds their attention, triggering a “That’s right” response (a nod to my Chris Voss students).

After you’ve effectively stirred up the emotional beehive and whipped them into a lather, you need to move them to action – but selling the solution outright is not the right idea. What WE want to do, particularly in selling advice and services, is to generate a lead. More specifically, to get a call or scheduled appointment with the prospect. To that end, you DON’T want to reveal too much of what the end solution truly is or you’ll risk them hastily dismissing your solution, thinking they either don’t LIKE the solution or triggering a knee-jerk response of “I tried that before and it didn’t work,” or “That solution is too expensive/not a right fit for us/etc.”

On the Q&A call about a month ago, one of our members was inquiring about what campaign would be most effective to sell Oracle’s Hyperion software – an application for financial consolidation reporting. The target market is the CFO or senior VP of finance of a manufacturing firm. All marketing up until now has been word of mouth, which, while terrific, makes one lazy on how to hunt (and, for the record, I’m not suggesting THEY are “lazy,” but they are inexperienced on how to go gin up a customer from scratch). That’s the problem with any company that relies on word of mouth: you’re akin to a baby bird getting worms dropped in your mouth. Unless you get pushed out, you’ll never develop the strength or skills to leave the nest.

So what campaign would work and how should they go about this?

For starters, they must FIRST determine the emotional drivers that will get a prospect’s attention and get them to MOVE. If they cannot do that, NO marketing will work, or work to the level it could. Not e-mails, websites, direct mail, trade show booths, etc. If your MESSAGE is weak or off target, no media delivery system can make up for its shortcomings. So if we look at the five-step buying process outlined below, the question is: “What problems, frustrations and angst are going on right now in your prospect’s mind that your solution solves?” Essentially, what is the “awareness” that will trigger them to respond?

  1. Awareness of a need
  2. Picking the solution to the problem (category)
  3. Picking the source of the solution (vendor)
  4. Accepting the terms and pricing
  5. Finding a reason to buy now

For example, a senior VP of finance delivers a report to the CEO that is either incorrect or he suspects is inaccurate, not because he’s incapable of providing an accurate report, but simply because he doesn’t have the correct, up-to-date data he needs AND he’s handcuffed with inadequate tools. That makes him HIGHLY anxious and gives him feelings of embarrassment when he’s incorrect, frustration over the fact he cannot GET accurate data, and anxiety about his job. That being the case, an appropriate headline to test would be:

Attention CFOs Of Manufacturing Firms: There’s FINALLY An Easy, Surefire Way To QUICKLY Get Accurate Financial Information And Reports With Just A Few Clicks


CFOs: Are You Beyond Frustrated Using Time-Intensive, Highly Inaccurate Spreadsheets To Compile Financial Reports For Your Manufacturing Firm?

He might even realize his efforts are being undermined because he’s forced to use tools that are far too simplistic for the job. Another piece of “copy” I’d include in the lead generation ad could be “Do you know you’re simply unable to do your best work and deliver accurate reports because you’re forced to use out-of-date tools like Excel spreadsheets to do the work required by more sophisticated applications?” I might also throw in “If you want to stop pouring HOURS of work into creating financial reports that you know have a high chance of being inaccurate due to your inability to get accurate data in a timely manner, then read on…” You get the idea.

From there, I might offer a free report on “How To Break Free From The X Biggest Growth Bottlenecks Manufacturing Firms Face That Keep Them Small, Struggling And Unprofitable.” What I would NOT do is start talking about Oracle’s Hyperion software, for two reasons.

One, they may not have heard of it, and it could trigger them to call their current IT company or guy to inquire about it, rather than calling YOU. Two, it could create the “I don’t want THAT solution” knee-jerk response. I would ONLY reveal the “solution” during the consultation or in a carefully constructed “free” piece of content, like a report or webinar.

But remember, generating the initial shy response is no more than a spark – it’s not on fire yet. So your content and sales process needs to continue to move them through the process of picking the solution (why Oracle’s Hyperion is hands down the BEST solution for them), why they need to buy from YOU over other vendors doing the same thing, or using their internal IT department to take a crack at it. Then building the value to make price a non-issue, getting them “sold” on the process (particularly if it’s a painful, slow process to get it installed and working) and then building the want big enough to get them to buy NOW. Much of this can be assisted with marketing, but it truly is the job of a SALESperson.

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