Lesson 1 of any marketing programme is that we shouldn’t sell features and we should sell benefits instead.
Let put this another way.
I translate this focus on benefits to the word ‘afters’, first introduced to me by Andy Bounds. So, what will the reader/buyer/user get after they have received the product or service? What will be left?
After the accountant has done our books we will have a sense that we have paid the right amount of tax and that our accounts are accurate and in order. WE feel safe from an HMRC investigation.
After attending a course on sales I will be able to make more sales.
Let me put it another way.
People don’t buy what we do; they buy what we do does for them. I repeat: what we do… does… for them.
We get so preoccupied with our fancy features and technical gizmos that we forget to see our product and service from the customer’s point of view. We need to understand why they buy the product/service and why they buy it from us. What do they really expect to get from the purchase?
My point is simple. We need to understand what people are buying and why. As a producer we are way too much in love with our product/service and are literally blinded by our apparently bright reflection.
Let me give you a live example.
We have just launched the Check-in Strategy Journal. At its simplest, it is a book. RRP £23.99. That’s what our original support team wanted to sell. You know the thinking: “books are bought by book-buyers in bookshops and online so let’s sell the book and its contents…”
However, I would like to explain what is really going on.
To think we would make our millions from the sale of a book is to be simply naïve unless, of course, you are JK Rowling. And I am not.
At its simplest, this particular book is more like a car, a vehicle.
People use it to get from A to B. From unclear about where they are going all the way to achieving their business and personal goals in 12 months.
If we sell the car (= book) then we compete with every other car (=book). People compare the basic features (pages, diagrams, models, cover) and we have become commoditised. People compare apples with apples, especially if we encourage them to do so. If we truly believe we are selling a book, or rather, that people are buying a book, then we have missed the point.
We need to be selling the journey. (Think how BA or Ryanair pitch themselves: it is all about the journey and the destination and not much about the plane or the health and safety procedures.)
It is a two-part book where Part One is a triple espresso guiding the reader through designing and creating both their business and personal goals. Then Part Two is a journal where you map out and measure your activities and performance on a day-by-day, week-by-week and quarter-by-quarter basis.
That’s it. Pages, ink, blank spaces to write on.
What price do you value that at? It’s a bit like saying bread is just flour, water yeast and salt yet I know of bread at everything from 26p to £26 a loaf!
So, what’s the journey for the Check-in Strategy Journal? Well, for most decision-makers the journey is literally transformational. For the more experienced it will help to clarify, focus and simplify exactly what they are doing. For the HR director rolling out the book through the senior management team, the process gives the team a common language and vocabulary in order to tackle challenges in a coherent and logical manner. The value of such a thing: priceless!
We have seen the book transform how a team talks and shares their issues. It enables decision-makers to cut through all the noise to identify what is important and how to achieve objectives as quickly as possible. The journey has a start and a finish but, more importantly, there is the experience. How does the journey make you feel? What do you see and experience on the way? How will this unique journey be memorable?
The journey is about where the book takes you. It challenges how good you are in terms of your performance in various realms: finance, fitness, friends, fun, and so on. It challenges you about why you are doing what you do and how you are going to do it? I would argue that it is no ordinary book (but I would, wouldn’t I!)
In this instance, you must sell the journey. This is where the value comes alive.
Other approaches to selling might also work.
Marketing is not a battle of the product but a battle for the mind of the customer: be under no illusion that you are trying get the potential buyer to spend money with you. So, you can apply a combination of any of the following ideas:
Sell the sizzle not just the steak: focus on all the exciting peripheral things that go the book: the launch party, the results, the fans, the website, the workshops, the retreats, testimonials, the celebrity endorsements…
Sell the afters: be absolutely clear about what people will get: talk numbers and overt business benefits eg research shows that readers see profit increase by 30% in 12 months.
Sell the problem before you sell the solution: be clear about what the problem is that you are solving but maybe emphasise how other solutions do not really sort the problem. Only when buyers fully realise the seriousness of the problem and the implications will they be literally gagging to buy: you don’t have a clear simple, focused plan which means you are likely to be a busy fool, ultimately the tiredest soul in the graveyard… unless…
Use stories to make the product come alive in the mind of your prospects: stories are way more powerful than facts – they reach the imagination of the reader – “just imagine what it was like…”, let me tell you about Fred a senior manager at ABC Inc who was struggling to make sense; he was lost but now he is found…”
Use social proof: there’s nothing more compelling than seeing others recommend and use a product, especially when they are celebrities or people like you: as used by these celebrities.
Demonstrate the real reason to believe that the product/service can deliver: use video testimonials.
Use authority: people respond positively to experts and research that confirms their position: eg “Robert’s track record includes…
Use scarcity: another persuasion technique can be limited supply or limited availability: only four retreats per year.
Demonstrate a dramatic difference eg something that separates you from the competition: the first, the only, the quickest, the slowest…
For me, I believe that there is no shortage of ways to sell the book. But the biggee, the one thing that will excite our customers, is inviting them on a journey that can transform their business.