Why So Negative? Can’t You Be Positive?

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imageThis morning I gave a presentation related to product management.  I enjoy giving this particular presentation as we explore topics like: product roadmaps; business plan; target markets, and managing scope (feature creep).

In discussing target markets, and knowing your customer, I use one slide in which I suggest they ask their customers, “What keeps you up at night?”

One of the reasons to ask this questions, is to help you (or your customer) really focus on the core issue(s).  In general, the person you’re meeting with likely has 2, 3, maybe 4 items rolling around their head in the middle of the night.

Yes, it can feel like 64,000 things tearing at you around 3:32am, but likely boils down to just a couple core items.

One of the participants asked me a question.  Paraphrasing, should put it something like this, “Everything you’re suggesting seems negative.  What are their fears? What keeps them awake?  Why can’t it be a positive?”

I had to pause for a moment.  Why, indeed?

My response was (is) basically this:  The reason there is value in your service or product offering, is that you are solving some sort of pain, inconvenience, or ‘problem,’ for the other party.  If you’re a carpet cleaner, you’re called in to clean carpet the week before Thanksgiving (US Holiday), because that big spot is annoying.  Or perhaps it’s going to be embarrassing when guests arrive.  They’ve called you to solve their problem.

If they have no problems, they have no need of you.

FUD, Fear Uncertainty & Doubt, are perhaps the biggest marketing and sales tools ever invented.  It’s hard to find an advertisement that doesn’t pull on one of those three, if not all three together.  Consider some real common advertisements we encounter every day:

  • Financial Planning – Will you exhaust your savings during retirement?
  • Computing—Is there a virus on your computer? Will you survive is your hard drive dies?
  • Traveling—Are you using the right travelers’ cheques? What will you do if your passport’s lost?
  • Insurance—Are you prepared, in case of Mayhem? (love those ads<g>)
  • Shock Absorbers—Can you stop your car in time?

Ok, so those are ads.  But the crux of the issue remains, you’re calling upon someone, because as the customer you have a problem.

So, might there be ‘positives’ you’re trying to provide a solution for?

Afterward, I spent some time on the drive back really thinking about it.  There was one possible solution that came to mind: travel/tourism.  This is a finely balanced item.  Many people go on vacation to escape work (the problem<g>).  Yet, many retirees simply travel because they can and want to.  Other than possibly boredom, they’re not necessarily looking to escape.

There are also cases where individuals want to simply further themselves.  As a motorcyclist, I seek out courses to improve my riding skills.  Perhaps I want to go around the track faster; sweep through curves more smoothly; or, just not fall off.  Are these ‘problems’ I seek out solutions for, in order to proactively avoid a negative (a crash)?

This question really can fuel some discussion.  I’m very interested in your thoughts.  Please share.  Are there non-problems for which people seek solutions?  If life is grand, problem-free, how do you sell someone something?

Thoughts?