Are You Solving the Right Problem?

By: Shawn M. Driscoll

As a business owner, the ability to solve the right problem is critical. Every business, no matter how successful, faces challenges that require the business owner to put their ‘thinking cap’ on and sort through what’s going on.

One of the things I learned early in my career was the value in looking beyond the symptom, beyond the obvious situation and digging to find the source. When you simply react to the situation or the symptom, you rarely solve the problem or get the results you need and want. But once you have uncovered the SOURCE of the challenge, you are able to craft a solution and a strategy that has the power to change things.

Lately, I’ve had several clients come to me with challenging business issues. And at first blush, they thought they knew what to do to solve the problem. But once we took a step outside the situation and the surface, we discovered a different way to solve the problem.

The symptom and situation: Revenue is down. Sales are down. Cashflow is tight.

I’ve had several clients facing this situation recently. Each had tried to solve the problem differently. And each situation required a different solution to really work.

Example #1: My client Sandra decided to rev up her PR skills and get tons of media interest. She figured this was a low cost way to generate buzz and traffic leading up to her upcoming workshop. And her strategy started to work. She got tons of PR and it kept her very busy answering media requests, getting interviews and being profiled.

But she wasn’t happy. All the PR buzz wasn’t translating to revenue. In fact, it was pulling her away from the revenue generating activities in her business and serving as a constant interruption and distraction. That’s because she was solving the wrong problem. Going for tons of visibility is a great strategy for addressing credibility and to position your expert status. PR can be good for a minor bump in leads, but without a specific sales conversion process those leads likely won’t turn into income.

What Sandra needed to do was shift her focus on her sales process—and to change the way she was enrolling people in her workshop. Once she made that realization and created a new enrollment system she filled her program in under a week.

Example #2: Another client I recently worked with was spending thousands on updating her marketing. In response to declining sales and low enrolment, she began redoing the marketing materials for her services. She invested in new graphics, new copy, talking to marketing consultants, adwords and the like. And yet, after thousands had been sent, her revenue didn’t budge.

She was operating under a faulty assumption—that when sales slow it’s marketing. The real source of the problem was twofold—a market-offer disconnect (something that more marketing won’t ever cure) and a broken sales process. You have to offer services that meet your target market where they are. And things change quickly. What clients wanted last year, may not be what they want this year. Trying to sell last year’s solutions won’t work, even if you give them fancy new packaging! And, if you successfully generate tons of leads with your marketing but don’t have a way to move them into buyers, more marketing won’t be a cost effective way to solve your problem and in fact it will amplify it.

Example #3: My final example is Katie. Katie had been trying to launch a new program over the last 6 months. She had gone back to the drawing board 3 times to redesign the program, the price and the offer, and still can’t fill it. She called me for advice on how she could get her program filled in the next 30 days.

When we began exploring what was going on, it became crystal clear that she didn’t have a big enough list of targeted, ideal prospects who’d be right for the program. And worse, by reworking the offer and constantly trying to offer it to the same small group of people she was actually hurting her chances of filling it. Her list of interested prospects weren’t paying attention to her anymore because she’d bombarded them with too many versions of the program. And, she was burning time and money by trying to solve the problem with the wrong solution. She needed to reach more interested prospects, and so what we worked on was a way to get in front of more of her ideal clients and increase her chances of filling a program in 90 days.

As you can see from these three examples, it’s not uncommon to be chasing the wrong solution in your business. After all, as a business owner you often have to make educated guesses about what is going on. I want to give you a simple diagnostic tool to help you uncover the source of your business challenges so you don’t waste time, money and energy applying the wrong solution. Here are questions to ask:

1. What results do I want to see?
2. What are the key activities that drive those results in my business?
3. Where are the breakdowns?
4. What are at least 3 different options for solving?
5. What is the cost of each solution, compared to the benefit of solving the problem? (You don’t want to spend $10,000 to solve a $3000 problem!)

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