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🎬 What’s your problem?

This year, embed more of a marketing mindset into your business planning

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This year, embed more of a marketing mindset into your business planning


You know that thing in movies when a character walks into an unexpected place, and the music literally skips as everyone turns to look at the door?

Those "record scratch moments" serve as an audio cue to the audience that something significant or unexpected is happening, often shifting the tone of the scene dramatically.

Screenwriters put "record scratch moments" in their scripts when they want to make it crystal clear that a pivotal plot point has occurred.

It’s time for a record scratch moment in business thinking.


One of the most fundamental steps in marketing is often deliberately skipped or even straight up ignored by early stage founders. 

That’s a big, fundamental mistake. 

This step is as important as it gets and, as it happens, nailing it doesn’t require any special tools, skills or expertise:

It’s putting the problem that your product or service solves into clear, succinct language.

Before you get to features, or benefits, or clever turns of phrase, or fun wordplay —or even what your brand does…

You gotta identify the problem your company is here to solve.


This isn’t a “nice to have.” 

Whether you’re already running a side hustle or a brand —and definitely if you’re asking friends and family for money so that you can get one off the ground— you need to communicate why someone should care what your company does. 

Crafting a good “problem” statement does just that. 

Here’s how to do it step by step:

1️⃣ Describe the exact issue your brand/product/service addresses. 

2️⃣ Scrub any jargon, marketing speak or industry shorthand.

3️⃣ Make sure this problem is something that enough people find tricky— and that it doesn’t already have a good/cheap/fast solution.


Here are some broad (and in some cases, historical) examples:

🚕 It’s difficult (or impossible) to hail a cab when you want one in San Francisco.

💵 It’s hard, slow, and expensive to wire money to friends in America

🖌️ Excellent/reliable house painters are hard to find in London.

And here are some specific examples:

😵‍💫 CRM software is confusing (complex to navigate, stuffed with too many features)

💄Men that are curious about trying makeup for the first time don’t know where to start.

😱 Many people are intimidated by the thought of cooking for others/their family.

Notice something about these problems? 

All of them are all simple, understandable, human, and relatable.


All these problems are also all pretty “surface.”

That’s a good thing.

You deliberately do NOT want to get into any deep technical, or human/emotional, issues that these problems may cause. 


Because one important mark of a good problem statement is that it is not necessary for you to describe its impact. 

Why your problem matters to people should be self-evident.

And you probably want to nail this before doing pretty much anything else.


As my friend Christine Yimin Qiu recently posted on LinkedIn, the real takeaway here is more than just the importance of putting your problem statement together (though that is important).

No, the brainwave here is that you should probably shift your view of marketing, specifically with regard to the role it has to play in your business thinking. 

Contrary to popular belief, marketing is not just a series of strategies and tactics designed to bring your product or service to consumers with less friction, and at a higher margin.

I mean, it is that, but it’s also an absolutely integral mindset for anyone in business. 

Stay with me. 

Christine reminds us all that questions about your business problem, solution, competitive advantage, and differentiation are not just quote-unquote “marketing questions.” They are fundamental business queries.

Unfortunately, many exec suites and boardrooms have a skewed view of marketing. 

Marketing is seen as either a tactical (ie., CRM, SEM, or lead generation) or conceptual (ie., your brand’s “why.”) cost center. 

Christine and I think both of those definitions are wrong. 

Marketing is much broader. It’s a mindset, not a set of methodologies.


What we’re advocating is a deeper integration of a marketing mindset into your business thinking. 

Enthusiastically thinking on common fundamental marketing questions will inherently help your business address customer needs at the root level.

Embedding a marketing mindset into your business planning will give your firm a leg up when it comes to doing what every company needs to survive and thrive: gain customers.


This year, embrace even more of a marketing mindset into your every day. Actively seek out and complete exercises like articulating the problem your company solves, or taking the time to think through and spell out your firm’s competitive advantage.

These are not fun whiteboard tasks for the marketing department’s brainstorm days. 

They’re mission critical practices that founders should add to their list.

Doing these exercises regularly will transform their businesses more than they think.

Written by Jon Kallus. Thanks for reading. This issue has been sponsored by Thumbstop.

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