Canadian Consulting Engineer

The ‘Problem A’ way to create marketing content that sells

April 16, 2020
By Carl Friesen

Use brief, helpful content to showcase your capabilities.

Carl Friesen

Carl Friesen. LinkedIn photo.

In today’s environment, one of the most pressing issues facing engineering firms is continuing the flow of work from new clients, repeat work from existing clients and/or expanding the ‘share of wallet’ with existing clients.

Your firm doesn’t get a chance to do that work unless you can convince existing and potential clients you can help them meet more of their needs. That’s what you need to focus on in your business development efforts, emails, blog posts, social media and published articles.

Many firms take the wrong approach to their message. They focus too much on themselves, their work and the services they want to sell. Thought-leadership content can be a valuable way to show a firm is resourceful and willing to try new ideas, but taking this approach may not serve their clients best.

That’s because each client likely has a burning issue in the front of their mind, for which they need solutions. It could be around keeping their organization solvent, retaining customers, keeping costs down or keeping morale up. Whichever problem is screaming at them the loudest, that’s their ‘Problem A.’ And these days, most of their biggest issues are associated with COVID-19.

If your firm’s business development messages don’t address the most serious problems your ideal clients are facing, you’re wasting your time.

Your firm’s message shouldn’t focus on what you want to say about your latest cool project, but rather on what your ideal client needs to know. Show them you understand their world, know what problems they’re facing and have a solution for those problems.

Content that doesn’t overtly sell your firm’s services is most likely to bring in more billable work, simply because it’s more likely to get read, watched or listened to.


Finding your client’s problem

Start by getting a really clear picture of your ideal client. Who do you most want to serve? Think of their industry, profession, occupation, title or any other factors that might give you insights into what motivates them. In content marketing terms, this is the ‘avatar’ or ‘persona.’

Think of three big problems your avatar is facing. On first reflection, those high-priority problems may seem to have nothing to do with your firm’s services; but if those really are the top issues for your avatar, you need to find a way to make your firm’s services fit into what they need. Otherwise, it’s like trying to sell lawn mowing services to high-rise dwellers.

Think of some advice you can offer. Again, your purpose is not to sell your services.


Showing how you can help

‘Tangent topic’ content can showcase your ability to help your ideal client. The content you prepare should:

  • address their ‘Problem A.’
  • help them help themselves at minimal expense.
  • provide a clear-cut benefit (e.g. reduced costs, higher revenue or reduced risk).
  • demonstrate your knowledge and credibility.


For example, if you are an HVAC engineer, then you have credibility when advising clients on how to cut costs for operating their buildings when their staff is not working there. If you design landscapes, then you can advise them about how to keep grounds crews safer using social distancing. An environmental science specialist can discuss protocols when someone must perform a remote site inspection alone.

A tangent topic is one that relates to what you do for a living, so you have credibility, but comes across as caring and helpful, not a sales pitch.


Preferred form for content

For many engineers, text is the preferred form of communication—and the longer and more professional sounding, the better—but it’s not about you, it’s about the persona or avatar.

Given the stress they’re going through with their business today, they’re not likely to read a 3,000-word academic paper or even a long blog post, but they may have time for a quick video or infographic that addresses their Problem A. So, keep your content bright, easy to digest and focused on solutions.

During the pandemic, people working at home are becoming more accustomed to learning from webinars and online courses, watching videos and participating in meetings over Zoom or Skype. And with a standard home office setup with a laptop and headset, your own team can produce acceptable-quality video just by recording themselves, either as a talking head or speaking through a short slide show. Have them keep the content brief and practical and don’t strangle creative energy with an endless approvals process.

Giving them the support they need to edit and produce videos can all be done remotely, especially by a specialist who understands your firm’s goals. And someone with social media expertise can make sure content includes the right keywords, search terms and hashtags. LinkedIn is increasingly the go-to site for professionals, so make sure to post there.

Brief, helpful content that shows your capabilities for solving a client’s Problem A is a great way to gain the trust of the people you most want to serve.


Carl Friesen is founder of Thought Leadership Resources, which provides professional services marketing. For more information, visit


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