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Marketing Made Simple Podcast – What Specific Problem Do You Solve For Your Customer?

All heroes in our favourite books and films have a problem they need to solve. The problem is the hook of the story, and without the hook, there is no story. It is the same in business as it is in the movies. Our customers have obstacles they need to overcome to find success.

So it is imperative that we get really clear on the problem our customers are facing if we are to win their business.

The StoryBrand framework makes it easy to articulate the problem you solve, by breaking it down into three separate elements that include the tangible external problem (the obstacle getting in the way of their success), how not having that ‘thing they want’ makes them feel (the internal problem), and why it’s just plain wrong for your customer to have this problem in the first place (the philosophical problem).

In episode 4 of the Marketing Made Simple podcast, Dr J.J. Peterson and April Sunshine Hawkins guide you through the Problem section of your StoryBrand Framework so you can:

  • Clearly uncover and identify the problem you solve for your clients
  • Breakdown the problem your customer experiences into three levels of conflict
  • Use that problem language effectively across your marketing and messaging

Dr J.J. Peterson

The story really begins when a hero in a movie encounters a problem. If there is no problem, there is no story. But it’s also true in your marketing. You need to constantly be talking about the problem your customers experience and how you solve it.

Welcome to the Marketing Made Simple podcast, where we believe it should be easy and work. As always, I am your host, DR JJ Peterson, and April sunshine Hawkins joins me.

April, I know we’re not even in the first minute of the episode when I told you I had BBQ last night…which I did… and it’s hitting me hard. Like my stomach is not so great today. What would you suggest I take to fix this problem?

April Sunshine Hawkins:

Now I think trusty old Tums, yes, would do the trick.

Dr JJ Peterson:

Now, if I said to him I am a little dehydrated, and I have a headache, what’s the one or two things would you offer me to solve that?

April Sunshine Hawkins:

Number one, how about some water and then some Tylenol?

DR JJ Peterson:

So what just happened was I told you I had a problem, and you gave me two brands to solve different products.

When I said, I have a stomach ache, you didn’t offer me Tylenol, and when I said I had a headache, you didn’t offer me tums. A lot of people think people just have brands at the ready. No, no, no, people offer brands based on the problem they solve.

This is a thing that many people miss. We see this all the time. So when people go to sell their product or service, they start by talking about the product or service and don’t position their brand as a solution to a problem.

April Sunshine Hawkins:

It’s so true you’re going through life and having so many problems. Yes, it’s not just the BBQ. It’s a lot of things. So what you have to do is you have to say, hey, here’s a problem I want you to pay attention to right now, and I’m going to make you pay attention to this problem over and over and over again so that your brand is associated with solving the problem.

DR JJ Peterson:

Yes, so we’ve been going through the StoryBrand framework, a messaging framework to help people clarify their message and engage them. With customers, it’s all based on a story, right? So in the first couple of episodes, we talked about how you need to understand who your customer is, who they long to be, who they want to transform to be and then what they want, and those two things are really key in creating clarity.

Inviting customers into a story, but the story really begins when I go to a movie and encounter a problem. If there is no problem in the movie, there is no story. Right?

So, if you if I was going “April Oh my gosh, so I went to a barbecue yesterday and I sat there yeah, and they brought it to me, okay, and I ate it, and then I got up, and I looked out the window for a bit to get to the point exactly like you.

You’re waiting for a problem, something to make the story interesting. Now, if I was to say, “Then the waitress came over and squirted barbecue sauce all over my shirt.” Now it’s like, “Wait, what?” Then we start talking about that and how I had to go to a meeting right after, and it was embarrassing, and I took my shirt off, and everybody was disgusted. All that stuff. We could go through – now, it’s an interesting story. But if there’s no problem, there is no story. That’s true in movies, and it’s true in storytelling, but it’s also true in your marketing. If you do not talk about the problem your customers are experiencing and how you can solve it, there’s no reason to pay attention. They would act like you just did where you’re like, “Get to the point.” They would move on from your marketing. One of the things that you need to understand as a marketer is you need to constantly be talking about the problem your customer is experiencing and how you solve it.


April Sunshine Hawkins:

There are three different types of problems that you want to define and say again and again. The first one is the external problem, the thing that you are experiencing. I am having a stomach ache, and I need a solution. So my stomach aches. That is the external problem that is happening to your hero. They’ve got to define that, and you’ve got to nail it because you know if you don’t, they’re not actually going to listen to you.

DR JJ Peterson:

So here’s an example. Finish this phrase for me. “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz…”

. Alka-Seltzer to the rescue. They have positioned their brand as something that solves a problem. And so that’s the external problem. You have to identify what it is that is getting in the way of what your customer wants. So let’s say you are a business consultant. Maybe you have to identify that your clients are struggling with the external problem of; they don’t have systems and processes that help them scale. So you’re just identifying the external problem they’re experiencing. But like you said, there are more layers to this. So there’s the external problem, but then there is an internal problem.

And this is key in storytelling. Screenwriters use a trick to engage an audience deeply, which is the internal problem. So Liam Neeson gets his daughter kidnapped for the eighth time again.

So most of us, I would argue, have not had our daughters kidnapped by terrorists—most of us. I’m not saying everybody, but most of us have not. And so, we don’t necessarily identify with the external problem.

So they have to use an internal problem, which is that he is maybe not sure he can do it. He doesn’t have what it takes, or maybe he feels like a bad dad. And so, by solving the external problem, he’s solving the internal problem as well. He’s a good dad. He has what it takes. And so we can identify with that problem. We are drawn into the story because of the internal problem. Well, here’s the trick when it comes to marketing. This is, I would say a little insider information. People go shopping to solve an external problem but make buying decisions to solve an internal problem.

And here’s what I mean, is that if my lawn is overgrown, that’s an external problem. But if I am not embarrassed by it or overwhelmed by it, I am not going to hire somebody to fix it. And so that’s internal. The internal problem that I’m struggling with is being overwhelmed or frustrated by it or embarrassed. That’s internal. So when you as a brand can speak both to the external problem you solve, “I can mow your lawn and make it look great.” That’s external. So you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by that. That is now solving the internal problem and it actually brings more value to your product, and service than just mowing my lawn. So you’re solving two problems. And really, the second one, the internal, is almost more important.

April Sunshine Hawkins:

It really is. And then there’s a third layer that might be even more important than that. So we’ve defined external, then you define the internal. And after that, it’s philosophical, and you’re digging really deep here and figuring out what your deserve statement is? What if we believe the statement that if you were to say in front of an audience of your customers, your heroes, they would likely stand up and cheer and say, “Yes, we believe that too!”

DR JJ Peterson:

Yes, yes, yes. It’s because, like in movies, this bigger theme is often going on. So in Star Wars, it’s like good versus evil, or in Hunger Games, it’s oppression versus freedom, so there’s this kind of big overarching theme, that’s the philosophical question that is being brought up by this movie. And so we are rooting in the movie for the side we want to win, for the side that has the same worldview that we do. So let’s go back to the lawn company. If you say something like, “You deserve to spend more time enjoying your yard than working on it.” That’s now a philosophical statement you are making about the world we believe our customers should be able to live in. So when you use words like deserve or opt or should in your marketing, you are actually making a philosophical statement, and you are saying, “I am going to overcome this for you so that you can live in a better world.”

So all three work together. There’s an external problem you have to identify; you have to talk about it. The internal problem, you have to identify, you have to talk about it. And the philosophical problem, you have to identify, you have to talk about it.

This could be one of the most powerful tools you can use in your marketing because so many companies don’t do this. They brag about their product or service, and they make the story about them. And really, the story is about your customer, and they are looking for you to solve their problem. If you stop talking about their problems, they stop listening. I wanted to talk to a StoryBrand certified marketing guide. These are marketing professionals and agencies who we have certified, who we have trained that help people create effective marketing. So I wanted to talk to Aleya Harris.

We love Aleya. I love all of them. They’re all so wonderful, but I wanted to talk to her about how she specifically used problem language to create marketing for a client that engaged customers at a higher level. She is fantastic at this.

And really helped her client identify what the problem her customer is experiencing is and then put that in their marketing. So listen to this because this is a really practical example that you can see a professional use in creating marketing that will help you create better marketing for your business.

Aleya, thank you so much for being with us today. I always love seeing your face on Zoom or in person. And as you know, April and I have been talking about the problem element of a brand script. What you need to focus on in your marketing messaging is your customer’s problem. And we often say at StoryBrand that this is one place, in particular, to really differentiate yourself from the crowd, right?

Aleya Harris

I’ve experienced it with a lot of clients. The one that pops in mind right now is actually Outside/In Living, which is an interior design and decorating company in the Seattle area. And [inaudible 00:12:10] think of like, “Well, what do you do?” “Well, you make it look pretty.” How else do you say that? If it’s ugly, I make it look pretty. You’re welcome. When I was working with this client, her name was Yvette. Yvette was really like, “Well, how do I say to them that I’m not just your typical slapped and paint up, knocked down a wall, throw in a throw pillow kind of gal?” Our job is to help your internal feelings about that place of safety and home and comfort. And when we honed in, we really had to hone it into that character want, and then we realized that there are three parts to the problem.

There are the external, internal and philosophical. There is a lot of shame and guilt when your home doesn’t feel like it matches. One of the main headers of our website is “You deserve to show off your home,” which taps into the philosophical statement. And then, right underneath that, it says, “No more hiding in the doorway when the FedEx delivery is dropped off at your front door. No more suggesting other friends’ homes for the next get-together. With Outside/In Living, you can create a home that you’re proud to share with your loved ones. Go ahead, invite them to stay a spell.

Dr JJ Peterson

I love that because the whole external problem is you’re looking for a designer, and so you’re looking for somebody to make your home look nice. That’s external. But in order to differentiate, you focused on that internal, and not only did you mention the internal of being proud of your home and not feeling shame. You deserve it, that’s philosophical, but then you took it to that next level by ramping it up a little bit by giving specific examples of what that looked like. I love that. Explain your thought behind that.

Aleya Harris

Well, when I do marketing, I always want to hit the client that’s reading the website or the lead generator in the head, the heart, or the gut. You hit them in the head when it’s clear, and they can read it and understand what the heck you’re talking about. So that’s step one. That’s what StoryBrand is all about. You hit them in the heart when they resonate when they feel like you get them and that you understand where they’re coming from. And the best way to do that is with visual language. You can’t articulate empathy. I know that’s another part of the brand script, but [inaudible 00:14:33] underlines some of that empathy. You can’t articulate that problem and get them to know that you understand what they’re going through without being hyper-specific.

When you write copy, your client’s client needs to be able to see in their brain. As soon as I said that you’re standing in the doorway using your body as a human shield so that they don’t see what’s behind, you can see that. And then when it hits them in their gut, that visual language does the same thing. Like, “Ooh, yeah, they got me.”

Yeah. That’s how a good copy is written. That’s how you bring the StoryBrand framework to life, especially in the problem section; you have a lot of opportunities to resonate with your audience using the problem.

Dr JJ Peterson

I love that. I love that so much. And obviously, you’re an amazing copywriter.

Also, adore you as a person, but you are just an amazing copywriter. And I think for our listeners, that’s so important to hear. I think the first practical tip I’m getting from you is this idea that if you want to differentiate yourself from other people in your market, maybe really lean into the internal problem that your customers are facing because you solve the external problem differently than other people by solving their internal problems. So really focus on that. And then when you’re describing that, use visual language, don’t just say you’re ashamed of your home, or you’re embarrassed about having people over. Go really deep with it and just give that visual imagery of standing in the doorway, blocking them from seeing. So use visual language, and that will allow the problem to come to life, and your customer can then resonate with how you solve their problem through your product or service.

April Sunshine

I would follow her to the end of the world. And everyone out there needs to create clear messaging that actually points your customers to the problem that you solve and not just the external but also the internal and the philosophical. If they do that, they will win. And if you need some help doing that, you could hire someone like Aleya. We have StoryBrand marketing guides all over the world. We certify the best ones in the whole world. They come, and they are trained to use the StoryBrand framework to help their clients clarify their message. And you can find them at marketingmadesimple.com. Go there right now, and find an expert that will help you create your clear marketing. And if you want to become a guide, you could go to storybrand.com/guide and start your journey as one of the best marketers in the world using this powerful, powerful tool.

DR JJ Peterson

I love it so much, and they really do amazing work for their clients. So if you have been following along with us, you’ve been filling out your brand script at mystorybrand.com. And the brand script is just your tool that acts as a roadmap through all the parts of the StoryBrand framework, and it allows you to write down each part of the framework and how it applies to your business in one place. After you do that, look in the bottom left-hand corner of the brand script, and there are three sections that you need to fill out. The external problem, the internal problem, and the philosophical problem. And here are the questions you need to answer. One, what problem is my customer experiencing that I can solve? Just write that down right now. Just say what problem are they experiencing that my product or service solves? The second question you need to answer is, how does that make them feel?

The internal problem is always a feeling. How does the external problem make them feel? And then philosophically, the question you want to answer is, why is that just plain wrong? If you can answer those three questions, what problem is my customer experiencing? How does that make them feel? And why is that just plain wrong? And put that language in those three sections of the brand script; you now have language that you can apply to your marketing. You can put it in emails; you can put it on websites. You can put it in your one-liner. You can put it in your lead generator. You want to hook your customer with the problem of the story. So let me give you a very practical example. If you are a lawn care company and the external problem is your lawn is overgrown, the internal problem is you’re overwhelmed by that, and philosophically you want to say, you deserve to spend more time enjoying your yard than working on your yard, here’s how it looks on a webpage.

You might just ask the question, “Are you feeling overwhelmed by your lawn being overgrown? You deserve to spend more time enjoying your yard than working on it.” That’s it. You literally only have to put those two sentences on your website, and now you’ve hooked your customer. So think about that for your product or service. Can you ask them a question if they’re struggling with the external and internal problems, and then make your philosophical statement to overcome those problems and say, “You deserve to live in a better world.” I love this piece of the StoryBrand framework because it positions us as problem solvers. We’re not trying to fight our customers for money. We’re not trying to get more money out of them. We are saying, “I have something that will make your world a better place.” And when you can step into that role as a problem solver, not only is your customer’s life going to be better, but you are going to succeed. Never stop solving your customer’s problems. And when you position yourself as that problem solver, you are going to win, and your customer is going to win.

April Sunshine

And so, for you listening out there, what you need to do is just do this again and again and again. Refine it, and it will become more clear every time.

Dr JJ Peterson

I love, I love giving people tips that can help their marketing and messaging, right?

Yes. And if you want to dive in deep with this information and really figure out what your brand story is and get all your messaging in one place, then you can do it in 48 hours. Just in 48 hours, you can get all of your messaging fixed by going to storybrand.com, where you can register for our live stream marketing workshop event. It’s July 19th and 20th. And to make sure you’re doing it right, we actually have virtual coaches that are StoryBrand experts and StoryBrand guides that will coach you through the process to make sure you’re doing it right. To register for our upcoming live stream event on July 19th and 20th at storybrand.com today.

Well, that’s all for this week’s episode of Marketing Made Simple. Thank you so much for listening and believing, like us, that your marketing should be easy and should work. Subscribe to Marketing Made Simple wherever you listen to podcasts, and don’t forget to rate and review the show, letting us know how these parts of the StoryBrand framework are clarifying your message and transforming your business. Can’t wait to see you next week.

So here’s an example, just when you’re specifically talking about the stomach problem and how somebody did this really well, finish this phrase for me, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz…”

April Sunshine

“Alka-Seltzer is the best.”