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.