The world of math may owe a debt of gratitude to soccer. An injury from that sport is what prevented George Pólya from entering the Hungarian army during World War I. Pólya was a sort of mathematical Muhammad Ali... if the quantity of postulates, theorems, and inequalities named for a person is any indication.

Highly esteemed for his contributions in multivariate distributions, combinatorics, and heuristics, Pólya may best be remembered by non-math geeks as the author of How to Solve It, a book on solving problems. It has sold over a million copies and is still considered a classic.

Though riddled with math formulas, the book provides four steps in the solving of problems—not just math problems... any problems.

Taking the author at his word, I'd like to consider those steps in regard to marketing.

Step 1: Understand the problem

Great processes often seem to be created by people with, as they used to say on Monty Python, a keen sense of the obvious. The first step is simply to understand the problem.

Nevertheless, how quickly we often jump into a problem and start throwing around solutions and tactics before we fully comprehend the problem.

What aspects of the problem do we know for sure, versus what aspects are completely unknown? Are the unknowns knowable? Is there data? If we're jumping into a social media campaign, what problems are we addressing?

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Ric Dragon is the author of Social Marketology: Improve Your Social Media Processes and Get Customers to Stay Forever, and the cofounder and CEO of DragonSearch, where he has led social media strategy for Steuben, the Grammy Foundation, Raritan, and other organizations. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter (@RicDragon).