“Which Problems Do You Solve for Your Customers?”

This post was written by John White on Mon, 12 Apr 2010 20:49:08 +0000
Posted Under: process of writing,technology marketing writing,white papers

Which problems do you solve for your customers?Marketing communications writers try to tell the story of the company that hires them. We should focus on customer problems instead.

Most of the time, I like David Meerman Scott of WebInkNow renown, and agree with what he has to say. I think he has come to “believe his own stuff” and go on a bit, but most of his observations about marketing and PR are cogent and valuable. I was working on the rewrite of a white paper about a telecommunications technology last month, when one of Scott’s posts came to my aid.

The original paper was a real chest-thumper, filled from cover to cover with a technical marketing manager’s concept of what the company does best, and why everybody reading the paper needs it. There was a technical dimension to the paper, which was an opportunity for an under-the-hood look at how the product works, but even that was wasted in a tangle of techno-doggerel:

  • end-to-end turnkey solution
  • scale horizontally across platforms and channels
  • robust, frictionless infrastructure driving the business model of the entire ecosystem

It was easy for me to see what we needed to throw away, but I didn’t have a clear picture of how to replace it.

Until I read the Scott post that evening, “Single most essential PR pitching tip:”

So here’s the single most essential media and blogger pitching tip for PR people

Don’t pitch your product.

Most journalists don’t care about products.

Instead…Tell us how your organization solves problems for customers.

Here’s a guy who used to work as a PR manager, and who now gets pitched six ways from Tuesday. He’s tired of uninspired pitches, but knows a good one when he sees it, because it loudly proclaims, “This is the problem, and this is how we solve it.”

I gutted the outline the marketing communications writer had begun to put together and turned it inside out to focus on the problems the reader might face, and how this technology would solve them. The managers who commissioned the paper liked the idea and told me as much.

So, I decided to push my luck.

“Let’s collect some competitive intelligence and put it into this paper,” I ventured. “Put yourself in the place of the people reading this: you’re investigating half a dozen products, including ours. Wouldn’t you like somebody to save you time by helping to assess the fit of each vendor, even if it’s not a completely unbiased perspective? As long as we’re not slinging mud, I think we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

They had misgivings about it, but I convinced them to give it a try. We’ll see how the paper turns out, and how it’s received.

I suspect that, after “Which problems do you solve for your customers?” Scott would probably ask, “What do your competitors do that you don’t?”

I would.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

Reader Comments

Hi John.

I love this post. I’m flattered that you took my ideas to heart. I’m confident that your paper will be better as a result of a focus on your buyers rather than on the egos of the people who make the products!

Many thanks for talking up my ideas.


Written By David Meerman Scott on April 13th, 2010 @ 2:44


For this white paper’s competitive intelligence section will you name the rivals or refer to them as “leading company X” etc?

I’m thinking here of your client and the time for their legal eagles to OK mention of the opposition…mud or no mud slung 😉

Written By Mark McClure on May 2nd, 2010 @ 1:16


We’re naming names, baby. The doc will be made available only on request – not to general public.


Written By John White on May 3rd, 2010 @ 19:48