Businesses have Business Problems. Not Social Media Problems. Questions must reflect that reality.
The right questions yield fantastic answers. Read more to know how this approach helped us…
We started PebbleStream in 2014 to address a felt need in the market for bespoke, relevant and highly quality content for small and medium businesses. Our solutions were well received and led to more business coming our way.
More business meant more meetings, more discussions with entrepreneurs and many more cups of coffee between Prithvi and I on how we will solve these problems using digital tools. We discussed how a particular social media platform would help solve ‘this problem’ and how using a chat app would help solve ‘that problem’. We discussed how we could use content, inbound marketing and various other tools to solve the problems stated by our clients.
We would go back with a few ‘prototype solutions’ and discuss them with the client. We realised we were getting close, but not really ‘cracking the problem’ at hand. We’d always have this sense of being within grasp of the solution and it would slip away – like smoke through the fingers. It was frustrating. It was confusing. It was like dealing with a chimera.
But it turned out that it was one of the best things to have happened to us.
We realised that we were looking at the wrong end of the value chain. We were asking the wrong questions. We had to look at it differently. As Steven Covey put it – We had to Begin with the End in Mind.
What real problem was the client trying to solve?
What was the end result the client really wanted?
Social media and all things digital is a means to an end. The end being a tangible difference to the bottom-line of the clients’ business either directly or indirectly. It was imperative to know just what that was and how we could use ‘digital’ to drive that result.
Was it more social media activity or more application forms for their institute? Was it better Facebook posts or more footfalls to his business? Was it just plain content or call to her dedicated mobile number?
We realised that our clients and prospects were working very hard to translate their business needs into a what they believed was a language we could understand – that of digital. They were making an effort to ‘translate’ their business goals into ‘digital outcomes’ for us. Hobbled by their own knowledge, the entire exercise could have been doomed to one blind man leading another.
Armed with this line of thinking, we went back to our clients with ideas that were adjusted to provide these end results.
We noticed 4 major changes from the Client perspective…
- Clients realized we were talking their language – that of their businesses
- Clients were more approving of the plans we laid out for them once we told them about the specific value addition for their business we could provide
- They were actually relieved that we were talking like business people rather than social media people who ‘did not understand my business problem/s’
- They became more open and forthcoming while telling us their problem.
They were now talking about their goals, dreams and aims of their business and where their business fit in with their life goals and how they see their business shaping up. We realized we had actually ‘unboxed’ the client’s mind by asking the right questions.
This helped us tweak our own approach in 5 significant areas:
- We began to not just be a vendor charged with ‘executing social media plans’, but also partnering in the growth story of our clients.
- A ‘new sky’ had just appeared above us. We were not into ‘social media’ anymore, but ‘digital consultants’ who brought to bear our expertise to micro, small and medium businesses to help them achieve their goals.
- Our approach to our day to day work shifted. We were not stuck on online alone, but also actively seeking avenues offline as well, to see what would work for our clients.
- We began setting clearer goals for our client results based on what was really needed rather than what we could do based on what the client told us
- This clarity allowed greater focus on the kind of content we could begin curating. We knew what we did not want and this helped us with gathering content that we could really use to further the aims of the organisation we were working for.
How has this approach helped our clients?
Our clients have seen an improvement in their operations because we’ve not just gone to them with ideas on ‘digital’, but worked as a consulting firm – providing insights and ideas on how we can engage more deeply and create synergies between online and offline presences.
We’ve seen improvements in the ways that our clients are able to help their clients – because that’s ultimately how businesses become successful. Institutes were able to attract and nurture the right online audiences for their next admissions process, more site visitors for another client and inbound marketing interventions designed to pique interest and then induce call-ins for another.
The biggest ‘win’ for us in to be able to understand the Client’s Brand Story through his own eyes. The Story is what makes people come back to work on Monday morning. We’ve been able to identify and encapsulate ur clients’ stories in a way that helps them reach out to their customers more effectively and help their teams understand the business and boost engagement levels across their organisations.
All this by asking the right questions.