How To Isolate the Biggest Problem Of The Client (Without Driving Yourself Crazy)

How To Isolate the Biggest Problem Of The Client (Without Driving Yourself Crazy)

Ever tried to soothe a very young child when he’s crying?

You cuddle him, give him something to eat, something to drink. But the bawling is driving you crazy. And so you give him some of his favourite toys, some keys—and maybe in a moment of madness, a set of drums.

You’ve calmed down the crying, but you can’t control the noise

And that’s the kind of noise you get when you’re trying to understand why clients buy. You see, the reason why clients buy is because you’re solving their specific problem. And you can try to guess what that problem is, or write some boringly synthetic copy.

Or you could meet with the client over lunch…

So there you are, interviewing the client. You’re asking her about the biggest frustrations she’s battling at this point in time. And of course, once the client gets started, there’s no stopping her.

In effect, you’ve given her a drum kit

Now she’s simply thumping out all the problems she wants solved. And she’s got a wish list a mile long. She wants this, that and the other. So how on earth are you going to figure out what she really wants?

The answer lies in reduction

You ask her to choose the top five things that are important to her. Then the next three. And then ask her to choose one. At this point, a huge amount of resistance will set in. She will not want to choose just one. After all, three is like hedging your bets nicely. Why choose one when you can have three?

So you randomly remove two from the list

If your client isn’t protesting like crazy, it probably means she’s quite happy with the one you’ve left behind. If she’s shaking her head like a crazy person, you’ve just taken away one of her prized possessions. And you can be jolly well sure she’s going to fight to get it back.

Let’s take an example to understand this concept better

Let’s say your target profile is a salon owner. So yes, she wants to make a million dollars a year, yes she wants a villa in Fiji and oui, oui, she wants her business not to crumble while she’s sipping all those piña coladas. So what’s really important to her? To her, the Fiji villa may mean everything.

But then again, maybe not. She may sure like the lifestyle, but maybe the biggest problem she has is that the salon falls to pieces once she’s away. If only there was a way to make sure that salon continued to turn out great service.

The same concept of target profile applies to a mother choosing a car

When faced with an option of a new car, it’s easy to list all the benefits and features under the sun.

But if you start using that red marker and eliminating all but three, you’ll find the claustrophobia soon sets in. She wants to have all three, and yet there’s one of those three that are more important than everything else. Yes, she’d like that fancy red shade, but hey, if the car can’t seat all the kids—and the dog, it’s a non-starter.

And that’s how we know that the space factor is important, far more important than anything else.

So there you have it—a method to get down to what’s really important to the client

Step 1: Make the target profile write down the list of things that are important.

Step 2: Reduce that list to five (Yes, cancel the ones that aren’t as important).

Step 3: Reduce it further to three.

Step 4: Either get the client to choose the most important one, or randomly chop off two from the list. And then watch the reaction. She will eventually pick one problem.

Every time you create a new product or service and want to write a sales page or brochure, you’re going to have to reach out to a client to give you direction. If that direction goes awry, take away the “toys” one by one.

When you take away the one they want the most, the “bawling” will tell you all you need to know!

“I have a business and attracting new customers require a continuous effort. I am always searching for ways to take my business to the next level.”

 Story Telling Series: Psychotactics

The Story Telling Mini Series gave me the road map for my web-site.
Demet Kitis, Canada
Judge for yourself: Story Telling Mini Series

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  1. Burt says

    As a remodeling contractor I often ran into this problem. of Clients were always overwhelmed by the curse of to many choices.

    It took a while, but I became aware that people have a really hard time choosing between more than two things.

    So I used this technique, and I taught it to my clients as well.

    I’ll use countertop colors as an example. Start with any two of the colors. Keep the one you like better or the one you hate the least, discard the other one. Repeat until all the options are exhausted or until you’re satisfied with your choice.

    You’ll be suprised how effective this technique is.

  2. says

    I am a non-fiction writer. On my blog, I find common ground between two philosophies that appear to be mutually exclusive, but they’re not. My problem is I don’t have an audience, let alone know what they want. Even if I did have an audience, do I really have a list of features that I am offering?

    What is my next step?


    • Matthew says

      Hi Mark,

      I’d suggest you turn that whole thing on its head.

      Start with an audience first, then identify what need they have that gives them enough pain to want to pay for a solution.

      Or keep it as a hobby – but its the same problem you’d still need to find a hungry crowd first then feed them with your wit and wisdom!


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