The main problem with marketing is it’s too much marketing and not enough problem—your customer’s problem. Too often, we focus on our product instead of what our customer needs. Instead of trumpeting how great our products are, the Internet rewards companies that let their customers come to them.
And just how do you let your customers come to you? Search marketing is a good place to start. Some of the most successful search marketers know how to focus on the customer’s problem to allow customers to come to them.
Consider an example. You’ve just been named the product manager for a new line of organic lawn care products, to be branded “Green Can Be Green.” Beneficent Chemicals is branching out from its current brand image and its research scientists have given you an exciting new product as the first foray into the new line—Chinch Away. It’s totally organic, but it rids your lawn of those nasty chinch bugs that eat it to death. And your product does it in half the time as the old methods.
But it’s not that easy. Beneficent wants to start out selling totally online so that the new brand doesn’t get mixed in with its older brand image. You’ll get a Green Can Be Green Web site and you’ll ship all your products direct to consumers. Your job: Get them to find you and buy from you.
Immediately, you know that search marketing will be a critical part of your marketing mix. So, you start thinking about the keywords you’ll want to optimize for. “Chinch bugs,” of course. Maybe even “chinch” by itself. “Organic lawn care” and “organic insecticide”? Maybe. You start to look through all of your product materials and find some more words and phrases. Then you design a nice web site, filled with information about your product. About how fast Chinch Away works, how easy to apply, and, most of all, how green it is.
And it works. You’re attracting customers, you’re selling online, and you even start buying paid search ads for a few of the keywords. But you’ve missed a big chunk of potential buyers. You’ve missed the ones that don’t know they need you.
Think about the problem from your customer’s point of view. A homeowner’s lawn suddenly develops circular patches of yellow, wilted grass. That’s a problem. And the bigger problem is that the homeowner doesn’t know why. He turns to his favorite search engine, starting with “problem words,” such as “circles yellow grass.” If he knew what would solve his problem, he’d search for that, but he doesn’t. If that doesn’t work, he might try “yellow wilted grass” or just “yellow grass.” He’ll keep looking for information about the symptoms until he finds some ideas about what to do.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that anyone would diagnose chinch bugs from what they find. They’re finding random questions on message boards about “yellow grass” and there are myriad causes of a yellowed lawn. Chinch bugs are rarely mentioned first. When confronted with this kind of information, people typically head to the store—a store that does not carry Chinch Away (because you sell only online).
What can you do about this? Well, you can provide the information that is needed. You can set out to provide the absolute best resources for diagnosing the cause of “yellow grass” that the Web has ever seen. You can walk the customer through each step they can take to determine what the causes could be. You can use photos, videos, whatever is required to make it as easy as possible.
Write it like a magazine article—as objective as possible. But (oh yeah), when you get to the part about diagnosing chinch bugs, it’s OK to link to your Chinch Away page to persuade them that yours is the best solution. But the rest of the article should focus totally on the customer’s problem. And each possible cause should get the same attention as chinch bugs do. It helps establish the credibility of the article, and you’ll be happy later as you expand your Green Can Be Green product line to handle other problems.
Why would you go to all that trouble? Because writing articles that are truly helpful to your customers (rather than sales pitches) benefit your search marketing in big ways:
You attract people searching for different keywords. If you can attract people searching for “yellow grass” when none of your competitors do, you have the first chance to sell them. These folks may never search for “chinch bugs” if you give them what they want. Many of them want to die ignorant of the array of chinch bug products out there—they just want the problem gone as quickly as possible. What’s more, this target segment might prove to be more loyal than the others—if their problem returns in a few years, they might head straight for your product because it worked.
You attract search engines looking for different content. Google’s Universal Search (as well as similar approaches with other search engines) puts more of a premium on non-text content than ever before. Your photos, your videos, and other forms now appear in the main search results pages and give you new ways of reaching your audience.
Your article is tasty link bait. Think about what kinds of information is linked to from other sites. It’s not your sales brochures or your product spec pages—it’s information that really helps readers. Information that solves their problems.
Searchers will pass your information to others. People pass on things they think will help other people, not sales pitches. Take advantage of the social media explosion to tap into “word of mouse.” Problem-solving content is more likely to be passed on than most of what sits on your web site.
Is anyone actually doing this? Absolutely—maybe the most famous example comes from longtime marketing innovator Procter & Gamble. “Problem marketing” is a key part of P&G’s approach. Check out their Home Made Simple site. Or try searching for “remove bbq sauce stain from cotton” and see if P&G’s Tide site still comes up #1. Maybe you didn’t expect a detergent manufacturer to be found for this search, but that is what problem marketing does for you. Tide’s site contains hundreds of combinations of stains and fabrics so they can be found for exactly what their customers are struggling with.
This kind of approach won’t work for all businesses—no one is thinking about solving a problem when they drink a Coke. But lots of businesses really are solving customer problems, and using “problem marketing” techniques gives you a new way to connect with customers that few of your competitors take advantage of.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.