Let me tell you a story about a client, let’s call her Mary and how she got started with her business. Mary started walking dogs for her neighbours two years ago. It filled time while deciding what to do after she was made redundant from her multi-national employer. Many of her neighbours were elderly and so she decided to help them out by walking their dogs and lose weight at the same time….. Thereafter, she became a ‘holiday home’ for her neighbours dogs. “Sure I’ll mind Max and Rex. You go off and enjoy yourself” was her usual response. When she was dog-minding and walking the dogs, she noticed that some of the dogs needed additional training. She bought some books online about dog training and found she quite enjoyed it. After two years, she had lost two stone, had a ‘client list’ of 20 regulars and 8 ‘holidayers’ and a huge headache because there wasn’t enough time in the day for all the walking, training and minding. She made enough money to pay the bills with a bit leftover. She was at a crossroads and wanted to bring her business to the next level. She was in the ‘dog’ business but what aspect of it? How did she decide what to do next? Mary isn’t alone. Many business-owners who start a business and work in it for a few years have difficulty with answering one important question straight-away: What problem do they really solve for their customers? Identifying the problem sounds easy, doesn’t it? Yet in numerous strategic marketing workshops that I run, it’s one of the hardest issues we discuss. It’s no good saying at a marketing event that “I do marketing” or “I do IT” – what aspects of these huge areas do you specialise in? What are the exact problems you solve and how do you solve them? Spending time on identifying all the problems that you solve for your customer can help your business in a number of ways, from focusing on lucrative sections of your business to helping your sales staff be more emphatic with prospects and customers. As humans, it’s in our nature to solve a problem. We’re tuned that way. So if your product or service is seen as solving a problem, you are halfway to the sale. Often business-owners mistake a symptom for an actual problem. You need to identify the real root problem that your customers have and what symptoms they may encounter. Looking at the problem from different perspectives, you are sure to solve all your customers problems. As for Mary…. Mary discovered that she was solving a range of problems for her customers. The biggest problem she solved was ‘How can I go on holidays as I’ve no-one to look after the pooch?’. She teamed up with a travel agent – online and offline – to help promote her service. Business doubled in the first 6 months of identifying this problem. She now has staff to help when solving her other clients problems.