“Let the problem dictate the right answer.”

I read this phrase in Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz.

It’s a simple rule not only in advertising but in the much larger scope of marketing overall.

Its context in the book is the failure of formulas to apply to different specific situations. Schwartz writes that, “…each and every formula is simply the written solution to a particular problem that occurred in the past. Change even one part of that problem and you need an entirely different formula.”

More plainly put, no two problems will be solved in the exact same way. It’s a brilliant way of approaching every problem our prospects or clients face.

This insight came to light in a marketing conversation I had today with my son, Luca Diadul. Luca is a marketer and writer in his own right who has keen insights. I attend his free weekly marketing open table which occurs at noon every Tuesday. Click here to learn more.

Yesterday we were discussing the concept of providing value in our marketing; our email communications, our print and advertising, our media, our sales processes, etc.

Luca recalled a great example of providing genuine value when he relayed a segment of the film A Miracle On 34th Street.

During holiday shopping at Macy’s, a little girl asks Santa for a toy that Macy’s doesn’t have. Santa sends her over to Gimbel’s – a chief competitor of Macy’s – to get the toy. What creates real hubbub at Macy’s – management disgracing Santa for his actions of referring their customers to their competitor, turns out to become a regular practice for Macy’s. The customer being so impressed with the customer service advises the toy department manager that she will be their customer for life.

Helping the customer get what she wanted, even if Macy’s couldn’t sell it to her directly, solved a real problem for a mother looking to provide the perfect holiday gift for her daughter.

This is true value in marketing. Garnering long-term loyalty from a customer rather than follow a formula of trying to persuade the customer to buy something close to what she wanted or something different even, just to make the sale.

If you follow this formula, it’s not letting the problem dictate the answer. It’s using your prescribed answer to push the wrong solution onto the customer.

It’s not a good recipe for value. And it’s certainly not building long-term loyalty with your marketing.

The real lesson in the Macy’s example, is the longevity of the relationship…which is built because of effective and genuine marketing.

Even if Macy’s managed to provide something that might bring contentment and joy, it still doesn’t likely have the same outcome. It becomes transactional vs. transformational.

In the quest to really understand the desires of the customer and satisfy the customer vs. the company, you turn a transactional relationship into a long term, valuable transformational relationship.

Business owners understand intellectually what providing value is and yet so often we start from the place of what are we offering to hook someone into it. It’s a backwards approach. And unfortunately, it doesn’t really work which is why marketing and selling can get a bad rap. The approach seems one-sided, not emerging from the place of starting with the problem to arrive at the best solution.

If you follow this one simple rule in all of your marketing, you will be off to the races. And it likely won’t take more than a few people observing that you’re doing something differently and sincerely.

With heart and brilliance,