B2B: the problem behind the problem

Show that you care and understand your audience and their needs

This one is especially for my B2B audience. In my B2B content series, this ‘problem behind the problem’ is indispensable. 

→ This is the starting point and overarching message in your content strategy. 

Show that you care and understand your audience and their needs. It sounds fuzzy, in reality, it’s so simple, you wish you had thought of this yourself.

Best explained by example.


You have a SAAS solution for digital wayfinding in airports, Wayfinder.

The problem for an airport is that they struggle with getting this right in the digital domain. They excel in signage and narrowcasting, yet offering a map and directions on the phone of passengers linked to their flight and their in-airport location at that time is something else.

If you stick to common B2B practice, your content is all about the technology of your SAAS solution and how your features are better or more advanced than your competitors. Preferably in a whitepaper with a gate to collect email addresses to follow up with a shitty newsletter.

You can also dig deeper and ask yourself, what’s the problem behind the problem of an airport? What’s the issue that passengers can’t find their way fast and easy using their phone?

The issue is that passengers who are late delay the flight, or they even miss their flight with all its consequences and negative connotations towards the airport.

Knowing this, you can also have your main message for your content strategy ‘no more belated passengers and happier travelers.’


It’s about fixing the problem behind your audience’s (prospects) problem and creating content for how your product is going to help them fix it and make their lives easier.


Why it matters

More often than not, the B2B content is focused on the tool, SAAS software, a platform, or any other solution. The content mostly focuses on nerdy features and details how and what the product can do.

→ Put your audience first and reason from their world, not yours.

The leading example of how to nail this customer-centric excellence is the Apple iPod with ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’, not ‘storage for 1GB of MP3s.’


1000 songs in your pocket


Yes, this iPod example is B2C, yet we’re all humans and have the same content needs and what makes us tick. It’s not that all of a sudden, this changes because you are in the B2B domain now.


How to get it

It’s easier said than done to discover your audience’s problem behind their problem. Some tips to get you started. 


Use the 5 Times ‘why’ Kanbanize methode

In short, this is five times asking ‘why’ to determine the root cause of a defect or problem. The answer to the fifth why should reveal the root cause of the problem. 

You can apply this to ‘the problem’ as well. Ask a minimum of three times, ‘what’s the problem behind the problem?’ to get to the root cause and what your audience needs to solve.


Ask your customers

Simple and quite an open door. Ask your customers who use your product for a longer time and with whom you have a trusted relationship.

How is your product helping them in their daily job, and what is their personal feedback on the usage of your product? Does it actually solve their initial problem? If yes, why? If not, why not?

This can only be done if you have a trusted relationship with this client and you can grant them anonymity so they don’t show up in your content.


Ask yourself

Sit down, grab a pen and paper, and a co-worker or two.

  1. Make a list of all the problems or your customers where your product can help 
  2. Per problem, write down the problem behind the problem. It's key to shift yourself into their shoes; what is the root cause of that problem, what’s behind it, and how does this relate to what matters to the board or MT? 
  3. Work out the complete list before diving into a specific one. The more you have, the more you can choose from. The good ones will emerge and rise to the surface once you've finished the entire list
  4. Pick one and take it from there

Small note: Do this offline in an informal setting with old school pen and paper or a whiteboard. Stay away from digital tools like Excel or Miro (ugh). This is a creative thinking process, and that’s always best in person.


And now, what’s next?

Once you have the problem behind the problem, you are going to test and verify every piece of content against that.

Back to the Wayfinder example. Every piece of content they create needs to be assessed against the overarching message ‘no more belated passengers and happier travelers.’

Does it make sense? 
Does the content it fit in the overarching message?
Does the content give information or education in relation to the problem?

→ Always zoom out before you zoom in. 

Once you have the overarching message and content in place, you can still go full-blown nerdy on the features and specs. But then it makes sense and becomes a part of the overarching story instead of being the story.



Finding the problem behind the problem is indispensable for B2B content that makes an impact. This is the starting point and overarching message in your content strategy.

Missing out on this ‘content umbrella’ is missing out on showing that you understand your audience and their needs.


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