Do You Have A Rural Marketing Problem Or A Selling Problem?
It’s so important to properly define your problem. Rural companies come to us saying they have a marketing problem when in fact, after some digging and diagnosis, we find it’s a selling problem instead.
The problem comes back to the connotations associated with sales as a concept. Sales isn’t sexy, it’s grubby. Far better to talk about marketing than run the risk of being seen affiliated with so-called “sales”.
Yet we measure sales as the end outcome for company revenue, not marketing. Marketing feeds into sales and serves to support sales. This is why we need to focus on sales more than marketing.
The problem with problems is that they are often presented as pre-framed.
Someone has already made their mind up what their particular problem, and worse are dictating to you how they need to fix it.
That’s like going to your qualified Doctor or medical specialist (who have both studied for years and have to re-sit to be certified each and every year) and telling them what you have and asking them to just write out the prescription.
Most medical professions know this can end up as malpractice so they take the time to consult and diagnosis if what you think you have is actually what you have. Only then will they prescribe the appropriate action to take.
Giving you an antihistamine for your heart murmur won’t help you reduce the risk of cardiac complications.
Here’s a great example of this from Thomas Weddellborg’s brilliant book What’s Your Problem:
“You are the owner of an office building and your tenants are complaining about how slow the lifts are. They’re old and they have to wait for a long time. Several tenants are threatening to break their leases if the lifts aren’t fixed.”
The problem has been presented based on someone else’s experience so most of us will quickly rush to fix the elevators and make them faster using a new motor or make them new.
However, if you stop to think about this problem there are other solutions you can consider:
“Your building managers suggest putting mirrors next to the lifts. This action proved effective and reduced the number of complaints about lift time as most people were pre-occupied with their favourite subject: themselves.”
The real problem was not the slowness of the lifts but the wait time being so annoying.
By reframing your problem in a different light and view means you can come up with radically different and more elegant or affordable solutions if you just took the time to stop, think and reflect on what the real problem actually was.
Rory Sutherland, ad man and TED Speaker famously spoke about the issue of the Channel Tunnel and the time it took. Similar to our elevator example, Sutherland suggested the Channel Tunnel team choose male and female supermodels to serve champagne during the trip and then people would never complain about the journey time and never won’t to get off.
The problem wasn’t time, it was customer journey, in the literal sense.
So are you solving the wrong problem? Have you taken the time to properly define and diagnose the true issue or are you relying on how you’ve already framed it?
Let’s look at a common rural problem that often comes to us here at Agrarian:
“We’re not making enough sales and our marketing needs to be much stronger.”
Here are the questions you need to ask to properly diagnose this supposed problem:
- Why are our customers not buying from us? (hint: this is one of the first fundamental questions you must always ask)
- Have we asked our customers this question or are we guessing and flying blind based on our own internal biases and belief systems?
- What are our competitors offering that we aren’t?
- Are we offering something that our customers value and see as different and beneficial?
- What is and isn’t working with our marketing at the moment?
- Are we blaming the medium we’re using or the message we’re using? (hint: be careful not to write off the medium eg. newsletters can work but only if they’re newsworthy)
- How effective are our rural sales team?
- Do we properly measure and manage them according to the right sales metrics?
- Do they have a clearly defined and documented sales process that they follow?
- When where our rural sales team last formally trained?
- What are our rural sales team like compared to their peers?
Depending on what your sales team (who should be your front line intelligence) and your customers say, you might find the problem isn’t marketing. Marketing, if they are good, will go along with this and support the need to get more insights and intel from the front line to inform their strategy.
You might end up finding that that your product is seen as differentiated and offering anything over and above what the competitors are.
No amount of marketing will fix that.
You’ll just spend a ton of money trying to fix the wrong problem which only makes the problem worse because you have robbed your rural business of resource to fight another day.
The lesson here for rural sales and marketing is to not rush to a solution straight away.
Focus on reframing and reflecting on the problem so you properly define it or you could be making some very expensive mistakes that take your rural business further behind than ahead.
And if you want help in properly defining your particular rural sales or marketing problem we can help prescribe the proper solution. You know where to find us.