The Blog Library
A comment came in on last week’s article that said, essentially:
Okay Jenika, I’ve read in several places now that you need to find your ideal client’s problem and show you’ve got the solution. (Yep, this is true.)
“However, as a baby photographer, I don’t really believe I’m solving any problems. To me, you either want professional photos of your baby, or you don’t. I don’t see me taking their photos as solving any of their problems.”
Maybe you’ve got this question, too.
If that’s the case, well alrighty then! Strap on your headlamp, let’s go exploring!
Client Problem Spelunking,* 101:
*Spelunking is an old term for exploring caves and cavernous places underground. In other words? Descending into some depths to get at the good stuff.
First rule of Client Problem Spelunking is that there is always a problem to be found. Always. And rarely is there only one.
What does a “problem” look like?
We are, of course, taking certain liberties with the word “problem.”
We’re going to define “problem” as something they need help with, plus anything that gets in their way of them getting what they want.
A “problem” might be an actual difficulty that drove them to find your service
“My yard has weeds. I need to get rid of them.”
A “problem” can also be anything that prevents them from hiring you and getting what they want. These problems might be a fear, an obstacle, or an internal objection that keeps them away:
“What if I buy this weedkiller and it doesn’t actually work, and then I’ve wasted time and money?”
“I don’t want to spray nasty chemicals in my yard.”
“This seems like it’s going to take a lot of time and effort that I don’t have.”
Wherever they have a pressing need, or something that keeps them from what they want, that’s a problem you can name and solve.
So, how do you spot these problems?
There’s a shift in perspective you have to become adept at making to see these problems. Once you do, business gets a whole lot easier, because you’ll see the problems everywhere.
It’s kinda like that Rubin Vase illusion, where you can either see a vase, or two faces:
If you shift what you’re focusing on, you can see one or the other clearly. Once you learn to make that shift, you can switch back and forth easily.
If you’re struggling with finding your client’s problems, it’s probably because you’re used looking at what you offer from your own perspective and not theirs.
From your viewpoint, it’s: “I sell baby photography services. You either want baby photos or you don’t. If you do, sweet, we’ll be BFFs, hire me.”
To see the problems, though, you have to sink into your client’s boots. That’s the switch in perspective you need to become lightning-quick at making.
Problems generally fall into one of three categories. Let’s look at each of them so you can become an expert at spotting them.
Problem Type #1: Immediate Needs
Immediate needs are the things that caused them to search for your service in the first place. The most basic need that sent them hunting and stumbling across your work.
“I need photos of my newborn….” might be the problem. But immediately, you can get more specific depending on the kind of client you want to have hire you.
Their exact problem might be, “I need photos of my newborn because….
- …I will be too exhausted to take them myself”
- …I need someone else to hold the camera because I’m always the one taking photos”
- …I see my friends with photos of their babies and I want that for my family”
- …I didn’t get photos of my first child and I regret it because s/he changed so quickly and I don’t want that to happen again”
The exact problem your target client has will depend on what kind of a person they are.
They might be a creative type themselves, a mom who prioritizes documenting family life but is sick of being absent in her family’s visual story, someone who easily adopts fashions and trends, or someone who has multiple kids and is learning as they go.
Whoever you’re targeting, you need to know who they are and what specific flavor of a problem they’re seeking to solve.
It becomes massively easier to present yourself as their perfect solution when you know what drove them to look in the first place.
Problem Type #2: Problems created BY the mere prospect of getting your service.
Okay, so you know the general problem that sent them searching.
But now that they’re looking at actual options, new problems arise.
These are the buggers that will get in the way of getting what they want. These are the things that make them not hire someone at all, or go with a cheap version to cut their losses in case it doesn’t work out, or generally not get what they truly need.
These problems might be:
- “I’m scared I will look bad after just having a baby, why would I want to pay for a permanent record”
- “I’m going to be too tired to go anywhere”
- “My husband is going to hate this – he doesn’t care as much about this as I do”
- “All I see are photographers who ____, I need one who ____”
The more closely you can name the exact words that go through your target client’s minds, the more freaked out and excited they are going to be when you can show them that not only can you fix their general problem of needing a ____, you can do it while also avoiding ____ and ____.
(One thing I go through in Irresistible Website and Irresistible Words is how to dig through evidence and interview people to understand where they are coming from, as well as some of the mechanics of applying it to your marketing.)
However you choose to do it, finding these problems is an important piece of marketing homework. Doing it makes “what should I say on my website” much, much clearer. You’ll waste far less time searching for “the thing to say” when you know exactly what will motivate someone to hire you over someone else.
Problem Type #3: Aspirational problems.
You probably already think of “aspirational problems” as, simply, “desires” –
“I feel _____ in my life, but what I want to feel is _______.”
But for our purposes, there’s another way to look at it.
Marketers use celebrities and fancy mansions and music to associate their products with certain lifestyles or emotions.
What they’re really doing is saying to customers “You want to feel or be ____, and my _____ here will solve that problem for you.”
Aspirational problems provide powerful motivation. The idea of feeling in control of your life, looking good, being the kind of person whose bananas are always fresh and whose teeth are always white – that longing can get people to shell out the dough.
I caution you against relying too heavily on presenting yourself as the solution to aspirational problems, though.
Because someone can totally agree that you’d be a solution to the aspirational problem, BUT the Type 2 Problems still get in their way. “Ohmygosh, this person is an incredible baby photographer who can make my life look and feel dreamy! BUT my husband will hate this idea.”
In other words, if you only present yourself as the solution to the aspiration – through your gorgeous work, your airy branding, your luscious matte paper welcome pack, whatever it may be – the client might still falter on those Type 2 snags and still not hire you.
It’s that “BUT” that squelches the deal. So consider and use aspirational problems, ABSOLUTELY, just don’t put all your marketing eggs in the aspirational problems basket.
Successful sales approaches generally show how you can solve all three kinds of problems for someone.
It’s not that you need to address all three in a single sentence on your home page.
But collectively, your marketing strategy will be more successful if you can cover all three.
One thing is for sure: You’re never “just” a baby photographer. (Or “just” a graphic designer, or “just” a wedding planner.”)
You’re someone who can solve their immediate, tailored need (“I need baby photos from someone who gets that I need to be present in my family’s visual story because usually I’m holding the camera”), in a way that fulfills their aspirations (“I want my life to look and feel simple, spacious, fulfilling”) while also overcoming those snags that hold them back (“but I need a way to explain this to my husband who does not share my exact priorities”).
Someone who presents themselves as a solution to this trifecta of problems is not going to have a hard time getting that targeted person to hire them.
And no, you don’t really need to worry about being “too specific.”
Most human problems are experienced by most people. Tired moms, people who want a relaxing and stylish life, spouses with differing priorities – these can be found everywhere.
Even if someone who isn’t your exact target client wanders across your site, they’ll view these things as a definite bonus at worst. But the more specifically helpful you can be, the less ambiguous of a prospect you will feel to someone deciding where to spend their money, and the more likely you are to attract the kind of person you want to work with.
So, grab these three categories and go for a search.
Do you know where your clients’ problems are in all three areas? (Sometimes the categories bleed into each other a bit, and that’s okay. We just use the categories to make sure our bases are covered.)
If not, grab a pen, write down #1, #2, and #3, and go searching!