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Why Go For the Right Answer to the Wrong Problem?

One of the big problems I have in dealing with people is deciding what to do when what they are saying just doesn’t make any sense.

The reasons why people take what seem to me to be illogical positions are almost always to do with the absence of thinking through the fundamental assumptions on which they have based their conclusions and taking the logic step by step. In far too many cases a fundamental plank of the argument is itself is improbable and is followed by a leap straight to a conclusion which itself may be difficult to justify.

Let me give you an example. A few years ago SEO was all the rage: now it has largely fallen into disrepute, because most firms who have based marketing campaigns on SEO have found it unsuccessful.. It certainly CAN work well, and for firms in the right markets that do it well, it IS effective.

But how many firms, when setting up such an approach asked questions like:

How big is this market?
How do people buy services in it?
How many of them search and for what?
What differentiates our proposition?
Is search the start or an intermediate step in the decision to purchase?
What are those steps?
Where is the biggest ‘drop out’ between making contact and becoming a client?
What is the relative profitability of different sorts of work and work from different sources?

...and so on.

There are about another 50 or so other good questions to ask.

It seems to me that far too much marketing I see starts with the acceptance of a given and then works backwards to justify it: especially if it is something the people in the firm enjoy doing.

Crucially, however, I also constantly meet the implicit supposition that your competitors will lie supine and do nothing. This never happens. A great example is social networking. where firms are piling in 19 to the dozen. I barely use Twitter, but in the last hour, I have received well in excess of 100 Tweets. An item remains on my screen on LinkedIn (which I do use) for an average of 7 minutes. These numbers will only get worse.

Interestingly, when I meet with professionally-trained marketers (people with degrees in marketing, Chartered Marketers and so on), they get this thinking straight away and, interestingly (to us), they 'get 'the power of our products very fast, because they are based on fundamentally sound principles of networking and targeting.

Just because something is fun, or whizz-bang, doesn’t mean it will work. Any professional marketer will tell you that...and I am beginning to see a big difference in the success of firms that invest in well-trained experts in marketing and those that don't.

Real professionals don't opt for the right answer to the wrong question. They ask the right questions to start with.

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