Win at Problem Solving and Shatter Your Competition

Image of Rubik's CubeOK, I have a confession.

I made a bonehead move.

A few weeks back I went to eat at the LongHorn Steakhouse. My order was a delicious 22oz. LongHorn porterhouse complete with mashed potatoes, vegetables and a salad.

(My mouth is watering as I type this.)

The meal was fantastic. I mean, absolutely divine. The service was impersonal but prompt. I was alone and kind of in a motivational funk so it was time well spent alone to think.

After I received the bill, signed, and took the last sip of a tall glass of Jack and Coke, I was off to my car. Ten minutes down the road it hit me.

“Um…did I forget my credit card?”

Yep. Doh!

I hate doing stuff like that because it just makes me feel like such a fool returning to the store. But hey, I’m betting you’ve done it too so I don’t feel all that bad ;)

Problem solving

This experience made me think there should be some type of safeguard against leaving behind your ID’s, wallets, and/or credit cards.

Shouldn’t there be some app that texts me or buzzes in my pocket saying, “hey idiot – don’t forget your card!”

But nah. It isn’t THAT big of a deal.

Then I started thinking about problem solving, in general, and how valuable it is.

See, in thinking about that silly “app” I was already programming myself to be a customer to someone who creates the next “reminder” system for things we leave behind.

That’s where true value lies; in creative problem solving.

Perform market research

This is where knowing your market inside-and-out pays off. Research your market and tune in to what they’re begging for from you. Read up on the biggest pains and problems your market faces on a daily or weekly basis.

Solve that problem.

Be the first. If you can’t be the first to solve it, be more creative than your competitors with how you solve it. Make your service personable and helpful. Outshine your competitors by making your buyers feel like you understand their pain, not that you just have another off-the-shelf solution.

Gather feedback

Solving problems and eliminating pain isn’t where the transaction ends. In fact, that’s where the relationship with your market begins.

You’ve already been identified as a problem solver. You saved the day. Now that you’re a superhero, use the inside track you have with your customer base to discover new demands.

Be the first to understand pains they haven’t (yet) openly expressed. Doing so promotes repeat purchases and is less expensive than new client acquisition. Plus, your attention to their needs shows your raving fans that you aren’t like “the other guy.” You don’t believe in one-and-done transactions.

Go to meet the needs of your market

Identify the pains your target market is facing. Use Google Alerts to pull in those keywords and phrases to show you any mention of those pains.

Study your market by using Twitter search to see what people are complaining about and then start a conversation with them.

As Chris Brogan would say, “grow bigger ears,” not only to listen in on what the market perception is of your brand, but to position yourself to save your client’s day.

How will you solve a problem today?

Photo: dullhunk

15 Responses to Win at Problem Solving and Shatter Your Competition
  1. Oliver Tausend
    June 25, 2011 | 9:34 am

    Hi Jon,

    you are so right: Everybody who offers practicable solutions to such everyday problems will be rewarded greatly. Forgetting the little but important things is a hassle everybody can relate to. What annoys us, will most likely annoy others as well.

    Thanks for bringing that up.

    Take care


    • Jon
      June 26, 2011 | 7:28 pm

      The things that annoy us may also inspire us to find a way to remove those annoyances for everyone. Practical solutions are where it’s at, Oliver.

  2. Dr. Bob Clarke
    June 25, 2011 | 9:46 am

    Hey Jon,

    I was laughing as I read about you leaving your credit card behind, because yesterday I visited our local Dunkin Donuts and when I got home I realized I left my entire wallet at the store on the counter.

    I know the guys at DD pretty well and they had taken my wallet off the counter and stored it for safekeeping, so no harm done. But I did feel foolish, for sure.

    To make matters worse, I bought another coffee for my wife, just to thank them for their help, and — wouldn’t you know it — as I was leaving I spilled the darn thing all over their floor.

    They were happy to see me leave that day!

    Anyway, I guess my point is, I would love that app you talked about!

    I am a huge believer in researching and understanding your niche. In fact, I just wrote a 3 part series about just that topic on my blog. The biggest thing I’ve found that many fail to do is to ASK questions and LISTEN.

    Ask and Listen – I believe these are the 2 big keys to truly understanding your friends, followers, and anyone else you care about in your life.

    Thanks for the great post, Jon…. and let me know if/when that app becomes available!

    • Jon
      June 26, 2011 | 7:31 pm

      Dr. Bob,

      Well THAT was an embarrassing day now wasn’t it? Sheesh, I’m thinking you were quite happy to put that day behind you.

      Asking and listening: two things we would do more often if we knew what was good for us. Keep researching your niche, Dr. B, I know you’ll continue to grow your business over at B&R. You’ll be the first to know if I find a cool app for reminders :)

  3. marquita herald
    June 25, 2011 | 7:29 pm

    Great article Oliver,
    It’s taking the time to think about and solve all those problems other’s gloss over that makes for truly great innovation!

    • Jon
      June 26, 2011 | 7:33 pm

      There’s a fortune made all the time in solving pains and problems. The tough part is listening closely enough to find one you have the aptitude to tackle. No worries about he confusion, it happens!

  4. marquita herald
    June 25, 2011 | 7:30 pm

    Sorry Jon :-( Got a little confused with the posting – my apologies!

  5. Robert
    June 26, 2011 | 11:25 am

    Hey Jon,

    Great post man, that’s what marketing is all about. Solving problems and building relationships with your customers that go WAY past that first sale. Making the first sale is important, but the real work comes in AFTER the first sale. It’s all about the repeat customers, just most businesses don’t really know how to keep customers!

    Great tips at the end as well man,

    Speak soon

    • Jon
      June 26, 2011 | 7:23 pm

      Robert – WAY past, right on :) It is easier and less costly to continue to deliver to your current buyers. Not that you should ever stop generating fresh leads but you know what I mean.

  6. Dev @ Social Media Marketing
    June 27, 2011 | 11:33 am


    Wow.. I would love to get that reminder app. Send me a copy of it, when that app becomes available.

    You’re so right about solving problems. I think it is all about solving problems and building relationship.

    Thanks for sharing this great post, Jon.

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:26 pm

      Hey Dev – You’re on the list for the app ;)

      Who doesn’t like a guy or gal that is the business of solving our problems? It’s a win-win relationship.

  7. Rowena Bolo
    June 30, 2011 | 11:27 am

    Hi Jon,

    Love how you started the post with that story! Everyone needs that reminders app ;-)

    Aside from directly asking your audience and target market what they really need, you gave very valuable tips about using Twitter and Google Alerts to truly understanding your niche.

    Thanks for this very helpful post, Jon. I enjoyed reading it.

    - Rowena

    • Jon
      July 2, 2011 | 2:28 pm

      Thanks, Rowena! We do need reminders no matter what our age these days. There are far too many distractions now. Best of luck to you as you endeavor to understand your market even more!

  8. Hi Jon,

    Many of the greatest products or idea’s have come out of experiences just like yours.

    I personally have always loved solving problems, I guess that is why I enjoyed math and was good at it.

    Yes you heard me, I Enjoyed Math! I know that I am in the minority here, but solving problems is one of my favorite things to do and that is what math is all about.

    I am always thinking up new ideas that would make my life easier, but I never before had the ability to put those ideas into good use.

    That has all changed thanks to the internet and technology. I am currently teaching myself to create WP plugins and hope to have my first one out by the end of the year.

    I know that my plugins won’t help in our offline life, but hopefully they will make our online lives easier and in turn give us more free time offline.

    Write down your ideas, so when the time comes to do something about them you will be ready.

    Thanks for sharing Jon and have a great day!

    • Jon
      July 5, 2011 | 9:55 pm


      You aren’t alone I enjoyed math as well! Creating WP Plugins seems like a great space if you’re creative (or know how to target problems and pains). Many of the folks I deal with day-to-day would much rather upload plugins than hard code elements to their sites.

      Keep writing down those ideas :)

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