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“The normal way we conduct our lives is we reason by analogy… we do it the same way other people are doing it. Instead, boil things down to their most fundamental truths… and then reason up from there.” – Elon Musk

I recently put together a campaign to book new clients that run marketing firms or design firms. The offer was white label services for our website design, custom software, or SEO. These have proven to be some of the best clients we’ve worked with, as they bring us their clients. We are able to partner with these design companies or marketing firms, and offer their customers better access to high-end software, analytical SEO, and web design.

One of my business goals is to develop the perfect systems for solving complicated problems. I’ve used a step-by-step method to help streamline this problem-solving. I’ll use the example I highlighted above. The problem was “how do I get clients that run marketing and design firms to use my company as a white-label service provider.” Here is how I tackled that problem:

Step 1: Identify and stick with what the problem is. Ensure this is in the smallest steps.

I often get a new idea in my head and a “brainstorming session” quickly produces years worth of work. I think of all the crazy things I can do and daydream about what a solved problem will look like. I’ve found that if I try to do too much at once, I often wind up shooting myself in the foot. I always try and focus on the baby steps, the incremental steps towards a specific goal.

I want to work on the smallest version of the problem at once, get that done effectively, and then move onto the next problem.

Using my problem of building a campaign to go after marketing firms and designers, I do the following:

I realize the first step is developing an advertising campaign and landing page to sell an important concept: partnering with people like X and Y.  X and Y represent the two demographics I am going to target (design firms and marketing firms). Both X and Y are younger business owners. They own either a marketing or a design firm and do low six figures in business annually.

I realize there are also clients like Z (WordPress only design firms) and even SEO firms that need custom software, but this campaign isn’t meant to focus on them. It’s only meant to focus on X and Y. I also realize that I could do a direct mail campaign, which may reach customers better than the clutter of the internet. However, I want to focus on one thing: a landing page and an online campaign to drive people in the X and Y demographics to hire me.

Step 2: Break Down What is Required to Achieve this Goal

To recap: I’ve identified I want to target people like X and Y, younger business owners that own either a marketing or design firm and do low six figures in business. I’ve identified that I want to do this online.  Now I need to create a step by step of how to get there.

  1. I need to develop proto-personas for both X and Y
  2. I need to take these and find out where X and Y go to hire/partner with companies like mine
  3. I need to build a section of our website (a landing page) to act as a “summary” of our services offered
  4. I need to determine how we will reach out to these people, and where we will find them (what keywords for Google Ads, and what niche advertising might work better)?
  5. I need to determine who will reach out to these people (Am I going to do all of this? Will some of our staff handle the AdWords?)
  6. I need to set up an advertising campaign for 30 days to drive targeted traffic
  7. I need to book at least 2 clients from this campaign in order to label it successful

I’ve broken down the goal into the steps I need to take to get there. This will vary depending on the project, but the basic concept is to write out a step-by-step on how you plan to achieve that goal. This should act as a checklist you can use to determine if you have all the pieces in place.

Step 3: Meet with the Experts

This is where we conduct the research. In this example, I can just talk to clients I already have that are similar to X and Y to find out why they hired us. I can go online and research people with similar personas, or I can read a few books about how people like this do business. I find out about websites they may go to that other people don’t, in search of hidden advertising opportunities.

After doing the research, I notate what I notice as similarities between my clients that are in demographics X and Y, with some examples of articles they shared or written recently. I look at what social networks they use, how frequently they use them, and anything else that might help.

If this task was, say, creating the actual landing page, I might read a few articles or books on the most optimized landing pages, or a new programming language that makes creating it faster. The purpose of this step is to spend time doing the necessary research before you start building whatever you are building.

Step 4: Start Building It

Businesses and marketing professionals love to scheme, creating these perfect little plans that all fall apart when they make it to market.

I’m talking about taking four weeks to schedule a 15-minute meeting to see if a software will work because they’re worried whether an employee will feel left out of the planning phases.

Businesses succeed in building things and releasing it to market. In this example of targeting a new market segment, if I tried to think of every question or scenario beforehand, I’d likely waste valuable time learning from the failure required to create the “perfect” product. I can’t test ad copy, I can’t test different keywords, I’m too busy stuck in the “scheming” phase.

Right now exactly 0 people in the market I’ve identified are looking at this landing page or learning how we can offer our services to help their need (because it hasn’t been built yet). I need to get out in front of them and hone in on my message, content, and advertising campaigns.

Step 5: Test It

At this stage, we have the landing page and the target market.

The next step is to test my advertising campaigns. The original idea is that an online marketing campaign and landing page will solve our problem (how we can get more clients that will hire us to build better software and SEO plans for their customers). In this scenario, I’m going to set up a Google AdWords and Facebook campaign to drive targeted traffic to our landing page. This will make sure that the target market I’ve identified actually wants my product.

This process I cap at 90 days or less. In this scenario, I’m doing a 30-day marketing campaign. “Fail early, fail often.” This allows me to make sure I’m measuring results and correctly, in incremental steps. We’re not disappearing for 9 months to try and build the perfect campaign, only to have our baby fail when it is brought to market.

Step 6: Measure the Results

How did I do? Did I solve the problem? Did I solve part of the problem?

In my example, the question is  simple: “did I book any new customers?”

This is where I measure how I did. It’s important that I always look at things as they are, not as I want them to be. If the goal of the project, if the problem, was getting more clients, then I need to have signed deals with clients as a result of this campaign. I can’t change the results, like “Oh, well we got 1,000,000 impressions, so that was great!” I need to focus on whether or not I actually achieved what I set out to do.

Step 7: See Step #1

Here, we have completed the first part of solving the problem. If the problem has been solved, great! If not, we have to take what we learned back to Step #1, and revisit the whole cycle. This method works with projects, learning new skills, or testing out new products. We are boiling everything down to incremental steps, and focus on solving problems in bite sized pieces, not trying to overzealously attack everything we can think of.

The core philosophy in all steps is always questioning if it’s a simple enough step, or if we’re trying to do too much at once.