Skip to main content

Do you ever find yourself asking, “what is my client’s problem?”

How can you avoid seeing red by learning how spot a brand that’s already worked out the answer?

And how can you overcome ‘funnel vision’ to get better marketing results and improve client relations at the same time?

This is Xtra-Ordinary Marketing; – a series which explores how innovative brands are shaking up their industries with the most credible, creative and compelling comms around and in this episode I’ll be exploring how you can get better results for your clients – and keep them sweeter in the process – simply by reframing their marketing problem.

<iframe width=”1362″ height=”766″ src=”″ title=”What’s Your Client’s Problem? How Spotify and Red Bull Can Help You Reframe your Marketing Goals” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture; web-share” allowfullscreen></iframe>

You see, in the marketing industry, we’re often guilty of asking the same, unoriginal question when we start working with a client, which is “what do you want to achieve from your marketing?”

And, lo-and-behold, we hear the same, unoriginal answer. “We want more sales, more revenue, better ROI.”

And what flows from that? The same, unoriginal marketing. All focussed around features and benefits of a product or service, all geared towards people who are ‘in market’ because ‘in market’ people provide the cheapest leads.

But they don’t necessarily make the most loyal customers. Nor do they necessarily lead to repeat sales. Nor are they necessarily that efficient at driving sales in the first place.

No, believe it or not, for most brands selling is not their primary issue because their customers are not ‘in market’ for their product most of the time.

As Daniel Priestley – author of Oversubscribed – recently wrote on his LinkedIn page: “For every person who is explicitly looking for a product or service, there are hundreds of people who might be interested but aren’t actively looking.

“If you went to a football match and asked the whole stadium “who here is currently searching for a new car?”, very few people would respond. If, however, you asked “who here is not 100% happy with the car you currently have?” almost everyone would respond.”

He finishes by saying, “The smartest entrepreneurs and marketing professionals sell to people with dormant needs and wants. They go looking for underlying psychological tension that hasn’t yet fully formed and then they warm people up.”

And so, we can see that speaking to customers that are in different parts of their journey can actually be far more powerful than always reaching for the sale.

But how, exactly do we do that? In the next section I’ll look at two brands whose results have taken flight since they wrapped their heads around this concept.


How do I look? Reasonably fresh-faced (for a Dad of two young children, that is)? How am I coming across? Decent amounts of energy (again, for a Dad of two young children!)

Red Bull don’t need to sell to me right now. I’m not tired. Also, I’m not about to throw myself down a mountain on a snowboard. More than that, I’m not in (or really anywhere near) a shop at the time of recording so if I were to see a salesy ad for Red Bull right now, it wouldn’t really have the desired effect.

Does that mean there’s no point in them marketing to me?

While I was preparing this episode, I was listening to the new Kendrick Lamar album. And very good it is too. Thank goodness for my Spotify account.

I haven’t bought from Spotify for 10 years (even though I’ve paid them money every single month).

So does that mean there is no point in them marketing to me?

If Red Bull and Spotify’s CMOs were like most CMOs, when asked the question, “what do you want to achieve from your marketing?” they would answer “increased sales, increased revenue”.

And if their marketing teams acted that way, constantly putting out ‘features and benefits’ messaging that is so well adapted for selling in the moment, their businesses would spend a lot of money in all the wrong ways, pursuing the wrong goals.

Both Red Bull and Spotify are the hugely successful brands because they focussed on different parts of the customer journey.

For Spotify, the value of their company is in making sure that, once I’m in, I never leave. This is why their most famous piece of marketing is their Spotify Wrapped campaign that they run every year.

By setting their algorithms to create an automatic playlist for every single customer and then presenting the data back to them in the form of social-ready, sharable graphics, they not only reward those who are already paying, but also empower them to share with their friends.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, going above and beyond to look after current customers is what drives Spotify subscriptions amongst their friends.

And the personalised and proactive approach is far more effective (and no doubt snappier) than simply trying to build on Apple’s “1,000 songs in your pocket” message.

Red Bull need to keep themselves top of mind. As anyone who has ever done a long drive late at night will attest, when you need an instant caffeine boost, you NEED an instant caffeine boost.

Because of that, their job is to ensure that when you’re in that scenario, theirs is the brand you think of first, the one they look for, the one they instantly recognise and trust. This is why when I say, “Red Bull…” you automatically think “…gives you wings.”

If they had muddied their marketing message with more traditional ‘features and benefits’ claims about their product’s nutritious, good-for-you selling points that would have made them less memorable. Not to mention, being somewhat disingenuous!

Instead, they hammer that simple, singular message home time and time again because they want it to have salience for those occasions where you are ‘in market’.

But how do we identify where our customers are in their purchase journey and how do we adjust our activity and messaging accordingly? In the next section I’ll explain how.


The reason most companies fascinate on ‘the sale’ is because we – as marketers – have been guilty of fascinating on the old-fashioned ‘funnel’ model which is all geared around ‘the sale’ for far too long.

In short, we’ve all become funnel-visioned.

You know the model – it talks about the three marketing stages of awareness, consideration and sale, using the funnel metaphor to explain that, the further along the process you go, the more people drop out.

It’s a way of monitoring conversion rates. But it is not a way to structure your marketing.

For a start, there are four stages to the customer journey – not three. Salience, authority, sale and advocacy.

Where your client’s customers are in that journey will depend on some specifics around their product, how established their company is, what their competitors are doing and a range of other factors.

Asking your client ‘what is your problem’, rather than ‘what do you want’ is far more likely to lead you to understanding where you need to focus your attention.

And to be clear, we’re not addressing the age-old issue of understanding and articulating product-market fit, here. In asking ‘what is your problem, we are trying to understand how to adapt your client’s communications so that when they reach their audience, they are speaking to them in a way that is relevant to where the customer is in their purchase journey.

Are they likely to buy right now? If not, how do you make the most of being in front of them at this moment in time? If they’ve already purchased from you, what messages can you give to them that will keep them coming back?

For Red Bull, they knew their problem was that their product is an impulse purchase. More than that, it’s a purchase their customer makes relatively infrequently, often when they’re tired and often a long time after seeing a marketing message. Their solution was to focus on being more salient.

For Spotify, their problem was how to keep their customers coming back and how to motivate them to keep them spreading the message on the company’s behalf. Their solution was to focus on creating advocates.

Other problems your clients may be facing might include: their target customer doesn’t even know their brand exists – a familiar issue for start-ups and scale ups.

Maybe they don’t even know the PRODUCT exists. As Henry Ford said, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse”.

Maybe people resist becoming either a customer or a custodian because it involves a high financial or emotional investment up front.

Maybe there are limitations on how much they can sell because the products are hand-made, of particularly high quality, are in short supply or cater to a particularly niche interest.

Maybe they’ve got something for everyone. In which case, helping customers narrow down on what they want – avoiding the paralysis that comes with the paradox of choice – will be the key.

Whatever the problem, identifying where the majority of your customers are in their purchase journey at any given point and coming up with messages that work for that place in the cycle will provide the best chances of success.

So next time your client is shouting at you for not getting great results and you find yourself asking, “what is their problem?” perhaps you need to start asking better questions. And maybe that better question is closer than you think.

For more on how to track your results at every stage of the customer journey, I recommend checking out my episode on the 11 Marketing Metrics You Need for Success.

Leave a Reply