What are YOU selling?

What are YOU selling?

  • Who should buy what you sell?
  • Why should they buy what you sell?
  • How do you inspire them to buy?

This posting (What are YOU selling?) is part one of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! blog series that answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.  Future blogs will focus on each of the three subsequent questions, but for now we’ll just ask . . .

What are YOU selling?

If you’re just starting a business, it’s fairly important to know how to describe what you are offering to potential customers and clients.  Even those businesses which have been around for a while have to understand what their customers are buying from them.  And, Mr. and Ms. Business-owner, if you believe that you are selling printing, bookkeeping, medical care, meals, or whatever, you’d be wrong!

No matter what business you’re in, you actually sell something much more meaningful than the mere product or service that you promote.  In addition to that actual product or service, what you really are selling is fulfillment of your customers’ wants or needs.  What your customers may be buying could be convenience or time-savings or prestige or reliability or piece of mind, while the product or service is merely the mechanism which delivers it.

Here’s a classic example:  Laura needs to screw a few shelves to her wall, so she goes into Ace’sÒ Old Town Hardware store and purchases a drill, but what the store really is selling her is the ability to make holes for her screws – thus fulfilling Laura’s want or need to create holes, not to buy a drill.  In this instance, the drill itself essentially is irrelevant, because if there were a viably better and affordable alternative (laser beam, anyone?), Laura would likely purchase it instead.  Especially if it did a better job of fulfilling her want or need to create holes.

Another example: Nowadays, customers can buy freshly-brewed coffee just about anywhere, but millions buy it at StarbucksÒ instead – because what StarbucksÒ really is selling, the wants or needs it fulfills for its customers, include atmosphere, exclusivity, dependability, a meeting place, and so on.  Those are the things that inspire customers to spend their money on coffee, because what they are receiving is much more meaningful than coffee alone.

Now, if you’ve been exposed to a modicum of dictates from sales and marketing gurus, you have heard this entreaty before – you must sell your product’s or service’s “benefits” and not its “features.”    Or you need to discover a customer’s “pain points” and relieve them.  Or offer customers your “value proposition” (a phrase, by the way, that I dismiss as meaningless drivel).  Or provide a solution to their problem.

My position of fulfilling customers’ wants or needs means just about the same thing as the gurus’ messages, but I believe that my concept is easier to grasp and simpler to execute (well, at least it is for me).

The distinction between what constitutes a “benefit” or a “feature” can, at times, be blurry, especially as some benefits evolve into features: yesterday’s ease-of-use touch-screen found exclusively on iPhones (benefit) now is available on numerous smartphones (feature).  Thus my reliance on fulfilling wants or needs instead of attempting to distinguish between benefits and features.

And remember, if you’re interested in achieving business success, those wants or needs that you are fulfilling are NOT determined by you, but by your customers.  It is their perception of what you are providing that determines whether their wants or needs are being fulfilled.

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in designing more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will  improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.   

 

 

Who should buy what you sell?

Part two of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! Blog series, which answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.

Who Should Buy what You Sell?

If you are a typical business leader, you’d like your product or service to be purchased by scores, maybe thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people.  Whether your business is just beginning or has been operating for some time, is selling to individuals or organizations, if you are determined to excel you’ll want to maximize the number of your buyers.

After divining your answers to “What are YOU selling?” (see my June xx, 2012 blog post), what’s the best way to determine which types of customers or clients are most likely to buy what you are selling?

To find out, let’s break down this process into digestible bits.

  • Hone in on those wants or needs that (your customers perceive) you are fulfilling when they buy what you sell?
  • Identify the customer characteristics (or demographics) that best represent your buyers.
  • Determine where your customers are located so that you can craft the most effective tactics for inspiring them to buy your product or service.

Wants or Needs

Remember from my June xx blog that, in addition to your actual product or service, what you really are selling is fulfillment of your customers’ wants or needs.  The nature of your product or service determines what those wants or needs are – perhaps convenience, timesavings, or prestige.  With this understanding of your customers’ wants and needs and how you can fulfill them, you have the basis for identifying which characteristics your customers possess that inspire them to buy what you sell

Customer Characteristics

Customers who buy from you and those whom you want to buy typically are labeled as your “target market.”  Customers in this group, your target market, are those which you are, or should be, trying to acquire.

Customer types can be identified by any number of telltale characteristics, such as income level, location, lifestyle, gender, age, race, personality traits, or types of activities in which they engage, to name a few.

The attributes of your product or service foretells those customer characteristics, which ultimately reveal the types and numbers of customers who will be interested in buying what you sell.   If you sell yachts, income level, location, and personality traits are likely to be relevant customer characteristics.  On the other hand, chewing tobacco probably appeals to those having a certain lifestyle and gender.

Truth be told, this process takes time and effort if you want it to be the critical component of your marketing program that it should be.  Gather as much relevant data from as many sources as possible to complete your analysis.  Here in Alexandria, there are several rich suppliers of these data, including: our very own Small Business Development Center; the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership; SCORE; the Small Business Administration (SBA);and Reference USA.

Locating Your Customers

The most efficient and cost-effective method of acquiring customers is from referrals made by satisfied customers and third-parties (your “evangelists”).  Which means that, if they’re not proffered voluntarily, referrals have to be requested – either directly (“Do you know anyone else who might be interested in my widget?”) or indirectly (“Submit a testimonial and the names of other buyers for a chance to win a widget.”).

Additional acquisition techniques for finding customers include cold calling, advertisements or commercials (newspapers, yellow pages, radio, television, Internet, smartphones), direct mailers, brochures & pamphlets, newsletters, social media, your (Search Engine Optimized!) Website, membership directories, customer lists, public relations, holding workshops, exhibiting at trade shows, and, importantly, networking.

By developing a strategic process (I use and recommend the Prospecting Pyramid™), you can transform prospects (from your target market) into customers by converting leads into qualified prospects into hot prospects into customers.

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in the design of more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will  improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.