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The 4-Step Process to Solving Any Problem in Life [Or Marketing]

The 4-Step Process to Solving Any Problem in Life [Or Marketing] Blog Feature

September 22nd, 2017 min read

Begin rant.

There is literally no problem or obstacle in life that can’t be overcome with the following series of steps.

Nearly every business I’ve come across has talked about their own version of this, in their own buzzwords, and then slap their name on it, calling it the “________ Way.”

Not that there is anything wrong with this. I love seeing the process a business lives by and I love knowing that it is a real-world pragmatic process, but my argument is everyone acts like they’ve invented it or discovered some incredible thing that nobody else knows about.

Sorry, bud. You didn't.

It reminds me of a scene from one of my all-time favorite shows “Parks and Rec.” If you’re not familiar with it, it is one of those mockumentary-style shows where the actors will occasionally talk to the camera as if they were on a documentary.

In this particular scene, Chris Traeger describes the process by which he sets up two of his friends. His process roughly goes as follows: he determines what qualities the person who needs to be set up has, finds someone with compatible qualities, and sets them up.

parks-and-rec-compatibility-strategy.gif

He describes this with such pride and excitement, clearly believing he is the only one in the world who has ever thought of this completely novel approach -- which we all know isn’t true`.

I feel like this series of steps fits in much the same category. Everyone uses it, everyone pretends they’ve discovered it, and nobody admits that their processes can be boiled down to something this simple.

What I’m about to share is the heart of this and every good process.

The Secret Steps

Ok, I hope you’re all ready. I’m about to give you the secret of life here. I hope you’re sitting down!

Every problem, from the simplest, tiniest to the largest, most complex problem can be solved by following these steps:

  1. Determine where you are now.
  2. Decide where you ultimately want to be. What should things look like when you have what you want?
  3. List the things that need to change to go from where you are now to where you want to be.
  4. Do those things.

That. Is. It.

Is this a simplification? Yes. But it is a necessary simplification. Until you can understand the core method for solving a problem, there’s no point in complicating it.

Over complication is what results in misunderstanding and waste. Tackle every problem with these 4 steps first, then start to dive down to the details.

Using the Steps

Every application of these steps will vary ever so slightly. In some cases you may realize that during step 3, you don’t know enough about the subject area and the steps you need to take to move from where you are now to where you want to be. In that case, your steps are literally just “hire someone else to do it for me.”

Sometimes during this process, you will realize your problem is actually more than one problem. Easy fix: re-use the 4 steps on the smaller problems you find first, then move back up to the larger problem once you’re done.

One of the best and worst things we do in life (and especially in business) is create overly-detailed and prescriptive processes.

On one hand: it is very useful to help make a repeatable product and educate people who have never done something before on how to do it.

On the other: it teaches people to stop using their brains.

Many begin to think “If I have a very specific process to follow, I don’t have to think. I just do what the process says. If I fail, it isn’t my fault, it is a bad process. It is the processes’ fault.”

Well I have some news for you. If I fail, it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. I still failed.

So instead of blindly following processes, I advocate everyone first use their brain.

Follow the 4 steps, think about the problem, then decide what to do. The answer may be to use a great process you’ve created, but please don’t ever just blindly follow a process without first thinking about why you are following that process.

How to Apply the Secret Steps to Marketing

Alright, I know this is a marketing blog, so let me go ahead and talk about how these 4 steps apply to marketing.

As a Strategist, I use these 4 steps for everything I do. (Uh oh, I feel like I just gave away my secret and put myself out of a job.)

Every time a client brings me a problem, or asks me a question, I work with them through these 4 questions to figure out how we will tackle it together. Every time I have a goal to hit, I work through them with my team to figure out how we will tackle it together.

To illustrate, let’s run through some examples.

Question: Should I redesign my website?

The 4 Steps:

1. Determine where you are now

Look at what your website traffic is now. Go through the structure and design. Figure out what the current user experience is.

2. Decide where you ultimately want to be. What should things look like when you have what you want?

Determine what the goals you have for your website is. If you picture a successful website, what does that look like to you? What do you need out of your website to make your business profitable?

3. List the things that need to change to go from where you are now to where you want to be.

This is where expertise comes in. I can work with a client through potential strategies I know of and have seen work in the past that can help them reach their goals. I can tell them what is reasonable to expect and what is not.

Are there other things we can do to reach your goals beside redesign your website? Let’s investigate those as well.

4. Do those things.

This is where we make a decision. First, pick the most attractive series of steps. Does the benefit of getting where you want to be ultimately outweigh cost of doing the steps outlined? If so, great, let’s do them.

Note: If you're not sure if you should redesign your website, read this

Question: How can I generate more sales from my online efforts?

The 4 Steps:

1. Determine where you are now.

Find out what your current conversion rates are all the way down the funnel. How many visitors turn into leads, how many leads end up entering the sales funnel, how many of those end up becoming customers?

2. Decide where you ultimately want to be. What should things look like when you have what you want?

Determine what goals you have for converting customers. What does it look like to you to have a digital marketing program that is generating enough sales?

3. List the things that need to change to go from where you are now to where you want to be.

Again, this is where expertise is helpful. I’ll work with clients to go through the strategies I know of to be most successful at turning website visitors into customers, combine that information with the client’s thorough knowledge of their industry and present a plan to get where they want to go.

4. Do those things.

Here comes the decision again. Does the benefit of getting where you want to be ultimately outweigh cost of doing the steps outlined? If so, great, let’s do them.

No matter how big or small the problem, it is still approached with those steps.

In the first example above, when someone comes to me asking if they should redesign their website, I do not say “I have a great process for website redesigns, let’s get started.”

I go through the 4 steps first and determine if that will actually get them where they want to go. If it will, then I can take the step of following my awesome process, but only after we’ve determined together that it is the correct route.

Conclusion

Please use your brain. It is an incredibly amazing, beautiful gift that we have each been given. That is all I ask.

Rant over.

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