“If people only knew…”

I bet you’ve started a sentence that way.  Most likely it was in regard to something you had strong feelings about: the work that you do or a cause you support, for example.

“If people only knew about our business and how we can help them, we’d easily meet our sales goals.”

“If people only knew how this issue is affecting our community, we would be able to raise enough funds to solve the problem.”

The problem might not be that people don’t know about your business or organization.  The problem might be that people only know about the product or service you provide, and don’t realize how you can help them solve their problems.


“Sell the problem you solve, not the product.” – foundr magazine

“Go from being a service provider to a solutions provider.” David Griffiths, K3-Cubed, Ltd. – Management Consulting

“If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it.” – Robert Matthew Van Winkle, multi-platinum recording artist


What does it mean to be a solutions provider?  In my mind, the difference between being a service provider and a solutions provider is the difference between a product and a result.  For my business, it’s saying, “I tell your story,” instead of “I take photos.”  I solve the problem of how a business connects with its clients and investors by telling their story.  In other words, I help my clients stop saying, “If people only knew…”

The first step in becoming a solutions provider is to, “Focus on the customer’s problem and build a message around the specific need your product addresses,” writes entrepreneurship consultant Rick Spence.  We business owners tend to talk a lot about ourselves and the work that we do.  I include myself in that statement.  Instead, we first must listen to our potential clients about what they perceive their problem to be.  Only then can we really frame our product/service as a solution.

As you move down this path of thinking, know that your potential customers might not even realize they have a problem they need solved.  In his Harvard Business Review article about mental models, Mark Bonchek writes, “Mental models are how the brain makes sense of the vast amount of information to be processed every moment of every day.  They are the lens through which we see the world.”

Bonchek uses cloud computing as an example.  Not long ago, “the cloud” was a concept not widely recognized.  If the solution you were selling involved cloud-based computing, you first needed to help potential buyers understand the “mental model” of cloud computing.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein


For my business, the “if people only knew…,” is that I can provide the solution to “if people only knew…”  What solutions do you provide your clients? How would this paradigm shift change your marketing and even your target market? Tell us about the solutions your business provides in the comments below.


Bonchek, Mark. “Don’t Sell a Product, Sell a Whole New Way of Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. web. 18 July 2014.

Spence, Rick. “How to Market to People Who Don’t Know They Need You.” Financial Post. web. 17 Dec. 2014.