Conduct targeted research to market and organization

Save this page to PDF

1.2 Problem Scan

Reading time: 3 Minutes
Problem Scan          Tunnel Vision          Symptoms          Problems          Type of Marketing
The problem scan is essential to conduct targeted research to market and organization. There where you have widely oriented yourself during the quick scan to create a neutral overview of market and organization, it is within the problem scan to zoom in on the symptoms and in doing so identifying the marketing problem.

Doctors and marketers

Did you know? The work of physicians and marketers is somewhat similar in the case of the study of symptoms, the tracing of underlying relationships and diagnosing of problems. Both a physician as a successful marketer base a diagnosis on diverse and widely-oriented information before they issue a conclusion. In addition, they consider the linkages and connections between this information.

Tunnel Vision

Imagine; you are visiting a doctor because you have some heart complication. Wouldn’t you find it strange if the doctor limited his research exclusively on your heart? He doesn’t look at your blood values, your habits or previous medical examinations. The doctor blindly assumes that it has to do with your heart muscle. Wouldn’t you worry about the proficiency of this doctor? I know I would. Things aren’t much different for marketing research. It is important to scan on a neutral and broad level, to “scan” any symptoms for the (possible) mis-fit between market and organization. This is the scan we do through a quick scan. This quick scan is the input for the problem definition that we will reveal in this problem scan.

Quantitative and qualitative symptoms

Symptoms indicate a possible marketing problem. For the problem scan to work, it is important to recognise these symptoms. There are two distinct types of symptoms; qualitative and quantitative symptoms. Qualitative symptoms are hard to measure in a number. Think for example about customer responses such as complaints and word-to-mouth. But also developments in the market including emerging trends, new competitors and the changing of power relations. If no action is taken, qualitative symptoms will develop into quantitative symptoms. Examples of quantitative symptoms; weakening of profits or sales, but also decline in market share. If these quantitative performance criteria deteriorate we speak of an urgent problem. It is important to keep an eye out for quantitative symptoms by working on a structural and consistent marketing strategy.

Marketing Problem

We speak of a “problem” in terms of a marketing tasks. Compare it with the language of math, the way it solves a mathematical equation. You sometimes hear that people want to use a positive approach towards these problems and therefore speak of it in the words of a “marketing challenge”. In my view it is appropriate to speak of a marketing problem since this is a part of the problem definition. It explains the word “problem” linked to the negative consequences of a (possible) mis-fit between market and organization. Even though there is initially nothing going on and you try to keep the negative effects at bay, you are still speaking of a marketing problem. In this context, future growth can be formulated as a marketing problem.

Potential Problems

These potential marketing issues are not recognizable or urgent. But if the direction of the organization and it’s marketing strategy is not adjusted and / or focused on this type of marketing, these problems will then eventually be recognized and become urgent. Potential problems are often linked to the daily business because they usually develop slowly. Think for example about the power shift between the five forces described by Michael Porter. Usually, such a power shift is gradual.

Manifest problems with limited urgency

A problem is called manifest (recognizable), when speaking of internal structural faults. As long as the situation does not strengthen the internal problem, the urgency is limited. It remains an internal error. Structurally high costs within the organization in a market with increasing competitive pressure is an example of a manifest problem with limited urgency. We speak of manifest because it is a structural error, but the environment (for example: customers) isn’t bothered by this yet. Thus, the error is not yet amplified by environmental factors.

Manifest and urgent problems

When the structural high costs from the previous example becomes apparent to the environment, the problem has become urgent. The marketing problem of the high cost level is reinforced in this case by the external environment. We can now speak of a mismatch between market and organization. The high internal cost level is increased by the external competitive pressure. The supplied value for the client has been put under pressure; your supply is compared to the competition and has become too expensive. A unmistakable and urgent problem.

Your marketing challenge

Are you already wondering how we will make a clearer picture of your marketing problem? If so, then read on.

Type of marketing

We distinguish several main reasons for screening and / or development of a proper marketing strategy;

  • review and evaluation (reviewing the current marketing strategy, for example on a periodic basis)
  • a need for expansion on the basis of ambition (when there are no current distinguishable fundamental problems there will be room for the growth of the business)
  • revision of strategy (the of case unmistakable strategic problems without the talk about a great “turnaround” operation)
  • full strategic review of the change in direction (mismatches between organization and market environment in regards to the alienation between a company and its market)

Preliminary marketing problem

We will work through the process of iteration with a preliminary marketing problem. Through iteration we will come across and identify all the different kinds of marketing problems. First, we describe a provisional marketing problem that will give us the direction of the market and organizational analysis. Without this direction we cannot know exactly what it is we have to investigate. After we have learned more about the marketing materials and are halfway through this process, we will repeat the same problem definition and will arrive at the final marketing problem. This is what we will do in the confrontation phase.

Problem Definition

The MB method contains a provisional marketing problem in step 1 and a central marketing problem in step 4.

  1. You describe the alleged marketing problem through the quick scan and problem scan
  2. You take marketing research in response to the provisional marketing problem
  3. You redefine the marketing problem in the confrontation stage
  4. You provide an adequate solution through marketing strategy for the final marketing problem

On the basis of this provisional marketing problem you will perform marketing research. After the confrontation of your external and internal analysis, the central marketing problem is exposed. You now probably have enough information to put the finger on the sore spot. The great advantage of working with this method is the ability to focus after you have done your extensive and broad research.

Examples of the marketing problem

A well-formulated marketing problem meets the SMART criteria; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound;

  • How does organization Y have a growth of the X% of market Z in 2020
  • How does organization Y play a roll towards the increasing demand of X
  • How does organization Y maintains its market share of X% on Market Z

In the next step you can read how you start your market analysis. How do you map the external environment to identify opportunities and threats.

Jerome Knoot

Jerome Knoot


Since 2012 I'm working on the development of the 7 step Marketing Method. " Marketing accessible to everyone" that's my goal as an entrepreneur and marketer.

Share This