Prologue: back-to-the-future!

I wrote this post 2 or 3 years ago for the GoodBarry Blog, so it was fun to re-read this post two years after it was written. It’s interesting how I’ve translated my experiences and formed my thoughts around certain concepts and explained ideas with interesting analogies. I still believe in them, but I’d probably explain them differently now.

At GoodBarry/Business Catalyst, we dealt with (and still deal with, of course) plenty of objections. We would consider every strategy below (and more) in the process of refining the message, positioning, and go-to-market for our product. Two years later, older but barely wiser, I might tell my past self to read about Product/Market fit and the problems startups need to address. I’d also paraphrase myself to say that when you encounter objections to your product (what I call broccoli problems below), then you should ask three questions:

  • Are you targeting the right customer?
  • Is your message the most effective message for that customer?
  • Do you have a product problem or a marketing problem? Marketing problems are related to the above points, product problems are deeper issues that happen after someone you believe to be the right customer engages with your product.

Anyway. I have no time machine, but I still like the concept of a Broccoli problem and very much believe in the points I’ve made below. Have a read and let me know what you think.

My Aunt has a Broccoli Problem.

My Aunt Susan, being a good mother, wants her son to eat Broccoli because it’s healthy. My cousin Ben, being a typical boy, doesn’t want to eat Broccoli because it tastes bad. This gave me an idea, which I’m going to call “The Broccoli Problem”. My aunt has very valid reasons to give her son broccoli – it’s for his health. But her son resists – also for valid reasons that are relevant to him. The son will say:

Broccoli may be good for you but it tastes terrible.

Broccoli problems are everywhere, always contain a ‘However’ or a ‘But’ and are nearly always subjective (you complete the sentences) :

  • Lower taxes may stimulate a stagnant economy, but …
  • Your girlfriend may have a wonderful personality, but …
  • George W. Bush may be a great leader, however …

I’ll remain silent on how I’d complete those sentences, but here’s where I’m going with this: The Broccoli Problem is a marketing problem that you probably need to think about. Complete this sentence:

Your product/service may be of great benefit to the market, however …

Every business has, or once had, a Broccoli Problem that they have to solve. So, how did my Aunt solve hers? Easy: she diced the broccoli up and baked it into a tasty Lasagne. To this very day, her son still doesn’t realize he’s eating a plateful of Broccoli Lasagne. This is one strategy of dealing with a Broccoli Problem – repackaging the broccoli to counteract the negative after the “however”. I can think of two more strategies and I’m sure there’s more:

  1. Repackaging to disguise the negative.
  2. Removing the negative from the product.
  3. Embracing the negative

Repackage it

This is what my Aunt did – she put the broccoli in a tasty Lasagne, which negated the broccoli’s taste while still passing on the health benefit. That’s repackaging the negative. In business, a classic case of a repackaging the negative is the age-old payment plan. Think about this Broccoli problem:

The Prius is an eco-friendly, stylish car, BUT I can’t afford it right now.

Imagine you’re on the car lot saying this to the saleswoman. She’ll shoot back “Ah, but have you heard of our payment plans?” By doing this, she’s effectively negated your ‘however’ factor by repackaging the car in an easy to digest payment plan.

When you repackage something, you’re not changing the product itself. You’re not changing the broccoli – you’re changing the way it’s presented, the nature of the deal or how the product is sold. Repackaging strategies nearly always revolve around ideas like:

  • Cost amortization (payment plans)
  • Bundling (selling X + Y + Z together)
  • Splitting (Selling X + Y separately instead of as one)

So you can see we’re not changing the product. We’re changing the way it’s sold. That’s repackaging.

Repackaging a Broccoli problem isn’t always the best solution, but sometimes it’s the only solution you can feasibly implement. That’s where the other two strategies, Removing the Negative and Embracing the Negative, come in.

Remove it

Sometimes you can entirely remove the objection after the “however”. This is impossible with Broccoli -my aunt couldn’t exactly genetically engineer a broccoli plant to taste like french fries. Generally, you should always consider removing the negativer first, before any other strategy.

Think about this problem:

ABC software will help you grow your business HOWEVER it’s difficult to use.

The best way to tackle this one is to remove the “However” factor altogether; fix your software so it’s not difficult to use. This requires effort and might be difficult and costly, but it’s the best solution. It may seem obvious – if you have a problem with your product, you should look at removing that problem. Duh.

But there is a caveat here. What about this one:

ABC software will help you grow your business but it’s too expensive.

“Ah ha!” one might say, “I can fix that!” Whoa. Slow down Tiger.

Pricing is part of a larger picture, and “expensive” is more of a factor of how much perceived value is present in your product. So yeah, maybe you should make it cheaper. Maybe not.

Anyway, pricing aside, these factors (the removable ones) are the hardest to fix and the hardest to even identify, but they also carry the most rewards.

Embracing it

So, that guy doesn’t like the taste of broccoli, no problems. Ok… go and find someone who does, find a better target market. The possibility is that you’ve just landed in the wrong market, and your product is better suited to another audience.

This one’s rather interesting, because sometimes you don’t necessarily need to embrace the problem itself, but rather you need to find people who at least don’t care. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t always work and isn’t always the right solution; my aunt couldn’t exactly go and swap her son.

But still, there are many Broccoli problems that can be solved this way. Think about Diet Cola.

Diet Cola may have less sugar but it doesn’t taste as good as regular Cola.

You can fix this Broccoli problem by simply finding people who care more about the health benefits and less about the taste. Most broccoli problems can be solved this way, although sometimes it’s not optimal to do so.

Consider every single statement mentioned throughout this post – all of them could be addressed by embracing the problem. You just need to find the niche of people who care more about the positive side and much less about the negative side. Problem solved.

P.S When I wrote this post, I hated on Broccoli. But now I’ve also come to enjoy Broccoli in certain dishes. People learn, people change, the world goes around. Cowabunga.