Updated: May 13, 2022
"If I have an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution." Albert Einstein
In my book "Lessons Learned" I dedicate a chapter to Design Thinking and I also write there somewhat provocatively that for startup companies it is critical to find the dominant problem and not the right solution. What I mean by that: When faced with a problem, you try to find a good and working solution as quickly as possible. But what distinguishes an excellent problem solver from an ordinary problem solver is the ability to understand the problem and its meaning in a larger context.
So, understanding the problem and its meaning in a bigger picture is a more promising approach. I think that's what the quote from Albert Einstein mentioned at the beginning is trying to tell us. Albert Einstein sums up the topic very well, even if the 55 minutes or 5 minutes are not to be understood literally. It's about the message: you have to understand the problem in all its depth before you can solve it comprehensively.
Now, from a sales manager's point of view, this means that you should also integrate the sales challenge into this problem-solving phase and bring in the question with which messaging and value proposition you will sell the future product or service? At the end of the day, it's all about successful sales and the better the message resonates with the market or the more appealing the message sounds to customers, the faster the desired sales will materialize. Experience has shown that with the right messaging, everything in sales becomes easier. It will attract the right people to your product who want to be part of your journey and your brand.
You can't have product-market fit without message-market fit.
In the startup environment, there are various competent voices that even go a step further and say: Forget Product-Market Fit, get Message-Market Fit. They recommend not to make further iterations of the current product, in the sense of MVP and in the hope that product-market fit will be achieved at some point. Rather, they postulate to stop developing the current product and wait until a working messaging for the market is available before developing a new version.
This also corresponds to my experience. I had to learn in several cases that you can't have a product-market fit without first achieving a good message-market fit.
But what does this mean for companies with an already existing and established product or service offering?
Again, to be successful in sales, the product as well as the market and the message must be aligned. If a product is not selling, this can be due to two things:
product or service is not good. People don't like what it offers and therefore just don't buy it.
the message does not resonate with the target audience.
Of course, various other factors play an important role too (e.g., sales process, tools and people), but to stay on topic, let's focus on the second point: the message is not getting through.
To sell more, we must first learn how the target audience thinks. To do this, we can survey existing customers, as well as potential customers. This is not difficult to do. Aberdeen Group's 2019 report "Demystifying B2B Purchase Intent Data" shows that 73% of buyers are willing to meet if it helps companies define their problems and needs. They will gladly provide objective information and help an interviewer make better decisions.
COVID has helped us here. In fact, the pandemic has made videocalling in the working world suitable for everyday use. This means that such surveys can be conducted very efficiently and cost-effectively in this day and age, and we should therefore talk to our target group much more often and find out what their biggest problems are that they want to solve? What benefits they would like to see from a collaboration and what concrete results they would like to achieve?
The right messaging creates demand and drives sales.
So let's use these opportunities to better understand the needs and pain points of our target audiences and thereby improve the messaging and optimize the go-to-market strategies. Sales and marketing organizations will be grateful when the messaging and value proposition resonate well with the target audience.
Get to Message-Market-Fit • It‘s all about the customer, and the unknown or misunderstood problems or opportunities facing the customer. • It’s relevant, important and specific. Remember: relevance and importance are in the eyes of the beholder. • It challenges the prospect’s viewpoint or mental model and reframes the conversation. • It’s designed to initiate or deepen an investigative conversation or journey. • It connects to strength and distinct advantage of your company and your marketing campaigns & commercials.
One more thing: I'm aware that just asking people is not enough and that it takes a lot more to communicate a value proposition and get ideas across to the audience. The success of a messaging or marketing effort, whether traditional or digital, depends mainly on the strength of the message, creativity and content. For this, I recommend working with appropriate agencies or specialists.
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