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The Three Phases Of The Marketing Journey
The marketing process is a journey we want to guide our ideal target market through. We want to guide them from not knowing we exist right through to being a raving fan customer.
Through this journey there are three distinct phases that we guide them through. These phases are the Before,
During and After2 phases of your marketing process.
The following is a brief overview of each of these phases. Before We label people going through the before phase as a prospects.
At the beginning of the “before” phase, prospects typically don’t even know you exist. The successful completion of this phase results in the prospect knowing who you are and indicating interest. Example: Tom is a busy business owner and is frustrated that he can’t keep his contacts in sync between his laptop and smartphone.
He searches online for a solution and comes across an ad with the headline
“Five Little Known Strategies That Unlock The Power Of Your Business IT System.” Tom clicks on the ad and is taken to an online form where he must enter his email address in order to download a free report.
Tom sees value in what the report has to offer so enters his email address.
During We label people going through the during phase as a leads.
At the beginning of the “during” phase, leads have indicated some interest in your offer.
The successful completion of this phase results in the prospect buying from you for the first time. Example: Tom gets a lot of value from the report he downloaded. It has some genuinely good tips that he didn’t previously know and implementing them has saved him a lot of time. In addition, the IT company that wrote the report has been emailing him additional valuable tips and information and offers Tom a free Twenty-one-point IT audit for his business. Tom takes them up on this offer.
The audit is thorough and professional and reveals to Tom that his IT systems are vulnerable because a lot of the software on his computers is out of date. Also, the backups he thought were happening actually stopped working six months ago.
They offer Tom a heavily discounted offer where they’ll send a technician to fix all the problems identified during the audit.
Tom takes them up on this offer. After We label people in this phase as customers 3. At the beginning of the “after” phase, customers have already given you money. The after never ends and when executed correctly, results in a virtuous cycle where the customer buys from you repeatedly and is such a fan of your products or services that they consistently recommend you and introduce you to new prospects.
Example: Tom is extremely impressed with the professionalism of the technician that came in and fixed his IT problems. The technician was on time, courteous and explained everything to
Tom in plain English. Importantly, he follows through on his company’s promise of “Fixed First Time or It’s Free.”
Someone from headquarters follows up with
Tom the next day to ensure he’s satisfied with the service he received.
Tom indicates that he is very satisfied. During this follow-up call,
Tom is offered a maintenance package where a qualified technician will look after his IT systems for a fixed monthly fee.
It also includes unlimited technical support so if Tom is stuck at any time, he can call a toll free number and get immediate help. Tom takes up this offer.
The support line alone is of huge value to him as he frequently gets frustrated with his IT system and loses productive time trying to figure out a fix.
Tom even refers three of his business friends from his golf club to this company because of the great service he’s experienced.
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It has some genuinely good tips that he didn’t previously know and implementing them has saved him a lot of time. In addition, the IT company that wrote the report has been emailing him additional valuable tips and information and offers Tom a free Twenty-one-point IT audit for his business. Tom takes them up on this offer. The audit is thorough and professional and reveals to Tom that his IT systems are vulnerable because a lot of the software on his computers is out of date. Also, the backups he thought were happening actually stopped working six months ago.
They offer Tom a heavily discounted offer where they’ll send a technician to fix all the problems identified during the audit.
Tom takes them up on this offer. After We label people in this phase as customers 3. At the beginning of the “after” phase, customers have already given you money.
The after never ends and when executed correctly, results in a virtuous cycle where the customer buys from you repeatedly and is such a fan of your products or services that they consistently recommend you and introduce you to new prospects. Example: Tom is extremely impressed with the professionalism of the technician
It’s Not Everyone When I ask business owners who their target market is, many tend to respond with “everyone.” In reality this means no one. In their zeal to acquire as many customers as possible, many business owners try to serve the widest market possible. On the face of it this seems logical.
However, it’s actually a huge mistake. Many business owners worry about narrowing down their target market because they don’t want to exclude any potential customers. This is a typical newbie marketing mistake. In this chapter we’re going to examine why excluding customers is actually a good thing.
As discussed in the previous chapter, most large company advertising falls into a category called mass marketing, sometimes also referred to as “branding.” With this type of marketing, business owners are like an archer in the middle of a dense fog, shooting arrows in every direction in the hope that one or more of them will hit the intended target.
The theory behind mass marketing is that you want to “get your name out there.”
I’m not really sure exactly where “there” is or what’s supposed to happen when
your name arrives “there.”
Regardless the theory is that if you broadcast your message enough times, you’ll by chance get an audience with your prospects and some percentage of them will buy from you. If that sounds a lot like our disoriented archer, flailing about in the fog, shooting his arrows in random directions and hoping for the best, then you’d be right.
However, you might be thinking—if he just shoots enough arrows in all directions, surely he’s bound to hit his target. Right? Maybe, but for small to medium sized businesses at least, that’s the stupid way of marketing because they’ll never have enough arrows (i.e., money) to hit their target enough times to get a good return on their investment.
To be a successful small business marketer you need laser-like focus on a narrow target market, sometimes called a niche. Niching—Harnesses
The Power Of Focus Before going any further let’s define what a business niche is.
A niche is a tightly defined portion of a subcategory.
For example think of the health and beauty category. This is a very wide category.
A beauty salon can offer a wide variety of services including tanning, waxing, facials, massage, cellulite treatment and much more. If, for example, we take one of these subcategories—let’s say cellulite treatment, this could be our niche. However, we could tighten it up even further by focusing on cellulite treatment for women who’ve just had a baby.
This is a tightly defined niche. Now you may be thinking why on earth would we want to limit our market so much?
Here’s why: You have a limited amount of money. If you focus too broadly, your marketing message will become diluted and weak.
The other critical factor is relevance. The goal of your ad is for your prospects to say, “Hey that’s for me.” If you’re a woman who’s just had a baby and are concerned about cellulite, would an ad targeting this specific problem grab your interest?
Most certainly. How about if the ad was a general ad for a beauty salon which reeled off a long list of services, one of which was cellulite treatment? Likely it would get missed in the clutter.
A 100 watt light bulb, like the kind of light bulb we normally have in our homes, lights up a room. By contrast a 100 watt laser can cut through steel. Same energy, dramatically different result. The difference being how the energy is focused.
The exact same thing is true of your marketing. Take another example of a photographer. If you look at ads from most photographers you’ll often see a laundry list of services like: Portraits Weddings Family photography Commercial photography Fashion photography etc.
The technical way photography is done may not change very much from situation to situation, but let me ask you a question. Do you think someone looking for wedding photography would respond to a different ad than someone who’s after commercial photography?
Do you think a bride-to-be looking for a photographer for her special day might be looking for something radically different than a purchasing manager from a heavy machinery distributor looking to photograph a truck for a product brochure?
Of course. However, if the ad just rolls out a broad laundry list of services, then it’s not speaking to either prospect, therefore it’s not relevant, therefore it will likely be ignored by both market segments.
That’s why you need to choose a narrow target market for your marketing campaign. Being all things to all people leads to marketing failure.
This doesn’t mean you can’t offer a broad range of services, but understand that each category of service is a separate campaign.
Targeting a tight niche allows you to become a big fish in a small pond.
It allows you to dominate a category or geography in a way that is impossible by being general.
The type of niches that you want to go after are “an inch wide and a mile deep.”
An inch wide meaning it is a very highly targeted subsection of a category.
A mile deep meaning there’s a lot of people looking for a solution to that specific problem. Once you dominate one niche, you can expand your business by finding another profitable and highly targeted niche, then dominate that one also.
Now you can have all the advantages of being highly targeted without limiting the potential size of your business. Niching Makes Price Irrelevant If you had just suffered a heart attack, would you prefer to be treated by a general doctor or a heart specialist?
Of course you’d choose the specialist. Now if you had a consultation with the heart specialist, would you expect them to charge you more than a general doctor?
Of course. Your bill with the specialist would likely be much higher than with your general practitioner, yet you’re not shopping on price. How did price suddenly become irrelevant?
That is the beauty of serving a niche. Whether you do heart surgery or offer cellulite treatment, you can now charge far more for your services than by being a generalist. You’re perceived differently by your prospects and customers.
A specialist is sought after, rather than shopped on price. A specialist is much more highly respected than a jack of all trades. A specialist is paid handsomely to solve a specific problem for their target market.
So figure out the one thing your market wants a solution to, something that they’ll pay you handsomely for. Then enter the conversation they’re having in their mind, preferably something they go to bed worrying about and wake up thinking about.
Do this and your results will dramatically improve.
Trying to target everyone in reality means you’re targeting no one.
By going too broad you kill your “specialness” and become a commodity bought on price. By narrowly defining a target market that you can wow and deliver huge results for, you become a specialist.
When you narrow down your target market, you naturally decide who you’re going to exclude.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this.
Excluding potential customers scares many small business owners.
They mistakenly believe that a wider net is more likely to capture more customers. This is a huge mistake.
Dominate a niche, then once you own it, do the same with another and then another. But never do so all at once. Doing so dilutes your message and your marketing power. How To Identify Your Ideal Customer Given that you’ve now seen the power of choosing a narrow target market it’s time to select yours.
As with most businesses, you may currently serve multiple market segments.
For example back to our photographer friend, he might do: - Weddings - Corporate photography - Photojournalism - Family portraits These are vastly different market segments.
A great way of figuring out your ideal target market is to use the PVP index4 (Personal fulfillment, Value to the marketplace and Profitability) and giving each market segment you serve a rating out of 10. P - Personal fulfillment: How much do you enjoy dealing with this type of customer?
Sometimes we work with “pain in the butt” type customers just because of the money. Here you rate how much you enjoy working with this market segment. V - Value To The Marketplace:
How much does this market segment value your work?
Are they willing to pay you a lot of $$$ for your work? P - Profitability: How profitable is the work you do for this market segment? Sometimes even when you are charging high fees for your work, when you look at the numbers it may be barely profitable or even loss making.
Remember it’s not about the “turnover,” it’s all about the “left over.” For our photographer example, his PVP index may look as follows:
The ideal customer for the photographer is people wanting family portraits. They are the most fun, most profitable, highest value and best paying types of customers. There’s likely to be a standout market segment for you too.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t take on work outside your ideal target market; however, for now our marketing efforts will be directed at one ideal market segment. We want to be laser focused.
Once we dominate this market segment, we can go on and add others.
If we are too broad initially and target a laundry list of market segments, then our marketing efforts will be ineffective.
Who is your ideal target market? Be as specific as possible about all the attributes that may be relevant. What is their gender, age, geography?
Do you have a picture of them?
If so, cut out or print a picture of them when you think about and answer the following questions: What keeps them awake at night, indigestion boiling up their esophagus, eyes open, staring at the ceiling? What are they afraid of?
What are they angry about?
Who are they angry at?
What are their top daily frustrations? What trends are occurring and will occur in their businesses or lives?
What do they secretly, ardently desire most?
Is there a built-in bias to the way they make decisions?
(Example: engineers = exceptionally analytical) Do they have their own language or jargon they use? What magazines do they read? What websites do they visit? What’s this person’s day like?
What’s the main dominant emotion this market feels?
What is the ONE thing they crave above all else?
These questions are not theoretical, pie-in-the-sky questions.
They are absolutely key to your marketing success.
Unless you can get into the mind of your prospect, all your other marketing efforts will be wasted—no matter how well you execute.
Unless you belong to your target market, then a large part of your initial marketing efforts should be directed to indepth research, interviews and careful study of your target market.
Create An Avatar One of the best tools for getting into the mind of your prospect is to temporarily become them by creating an avatar.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all woo woo on you here.
An avatar is a detailed exploration and description of your target customer and their lives. Like a police sketch artist you piece together a composite which creates a vivid picture of them in your mind.
It helps tell their story so that you can visualize life from their perspective. It’s also important to create avatars for each type of decision maker or influencer you might encounter in your target market.
For example if you’re selling IT services to small companies in the financial services industry you might be dealing with both the business owner and their assistant. Here’s an example of avatars for Max Cash, the owner of a successful financial planning firm and his personal assistant Angela Assistant.
Max Cash: Max is 51 years old. He owns a successful financial planning business which has grown steadily over the past ten years.
Previously, he had a career working for KPMG and some other large corporates before he went out on his own. He has a bachelor’s degree and an MBA.
He’s married has two teenage daughters and younger son. He lives in an
upper-middle-class suburb in a five-bedroom house which he’s been in for about four years. He drives a two-year-old Mercedes S-Class.
He has eighteen staff members and operates from an office building which he owns. His office is a fifteen-minute drive from home. The business has an annual turnover of $4.5M which is predominantly service-based revenue. He has no IT support person on staff and delegates most of the IT and tech responsibilities to his PA,
Angela Assistant. He spends about four thousand dollars per month on the various pieces of software used in his industry which give him access to the most current financial data. He knows the software helps him and his clients but he also knows that there are many features that are going underutilized.
His office server and systems are a hodgepodge of various computers mostly installed by his software vendors and which have had very little maintenance since installation. The backup systems are archaic and have never actually been tested. He’s a golf nut. His office is decorated with golf memorabilia.
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There are photos of him playing golf throughout.
The desktop background on his computer is a beautiful panoramic photo of Pebble Beach Golf Links. In his spare time, unsurprisingly, he likes to play golf with his friends and business associates. He reads The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek and his local newspaper.
He uses an iPhone but it’s mostly used for phone calls and a little bit of email.
See how this can give us a valuable insight into what the life of our prospect looks like? Now let’s look at the avatar for another influencer within our target market: Angela Assistant: Angela is 29 years old.
She’s single and lives in a two-bedroom rented apartment with her cat Sprinkles.
She takes public transport to work and commutes daily for about thirty minutes. Angela is organized, always smartly dressed and very enthusiastic.
Angela has been working for Max as his PA for the last three years when the growth of the company had really started to accelerate.
She’s his right hand and he’d be totally lost without her.
She organizes Max’s calendar, sets up his laptop and phone, makes and takes calls on his behalf and much, much more.
She’s the glue that holds Max’s business together and she does a bit of everything from ordering stationery to IT to HR. Although her title says PA, she’s more than that. She’s really the office manager and probably even to some extent the general manager.
She’s the one that staff go to when something needs to be fixed, ordered or organized. She’s tech savvy but really out of her depth when it comes to the more technical and strategic aspects of IT systems. After work, she usually hits the gym for a workout and loves to watch new shows on Netflix.
On weekends she catches up with friends and loves the nightlife.
She spends a lot of time online reading beauty, fashion and celebrity gossip blogs. Angela spends most of her discretionary income on going out, entertainment and online shopping which is like an addiction for her.
Even though Angela is quite well paid, she always runs short of money, which has resulted in her having about $10,000 worth of credit card debt.
She knows she needs to be better with money but there always just seems to be too many temptations for her to resist.
She’s always glued to her phone, constantly texting and using social media apps.
To take a step further, find an actual image to visually represent your avatar and have it in front of you whenever you’re creating marketing material for them.
Hopefully by now you can see how powerful avatars are.
They are the marketing equivalent of method acting. They get you right into the mind of your prospect which is going to be absolutely crucial when it comes to crafting your message to your target market.
An Accident Waiting
To Happen I spend a lot of time looking through various forms of local and national media—not for articles but for advertisements. Having done this for several years, with very few exceptions, I’m absolutely amazed how boring, similar and useless most advertising is.
The waste going on is staggering. Wasted money and wasted opportunity.
You could summarize the structure of most ads from small businesses as follows:
Company name Company logo A laundry list of services offered Claims of best quality, best service or best prices Offer of a “free quote” Contact details It’s basically name, rank and serial number.
Then they hope and pray that on the very day their ad runs, a prospect in immediate need of their product or service stumbles across it and takes action.
This is what I call marketing by accident.
A qualified prospect happening upon the right ad at the right time sometimes results in the happy accident of a sale taking place. If these “accidents” never happened then no one would ever advertise. But as it happens the occasional random sale or lead will come from this type of advertising.
It tortures business owners to death because while the ad generally loses them money, they fear not running it because some dribs and drabs of new business have come out of it—and who knows, next week it may bring in that big sale they’ve been hoping for. It’s like these businesses are visiting a slot machine in a casino.
They put their money in, pull the handle and hope for a jackpot—but most of the
time the house just takes their money.
Occasionally they’ll get a few cents on the dollar back which raises their hopes and emboldens them to continue. It’s time to start marketing on purpose—treating advertising like a vending machine where the results and value generated are predictable, rather than like a slot machine where the results are random and the odds are stacked against you.
To start marketing on purpose we need to look at two vital elements:
What Is The Purpose Of Your Ad? What Does Your Ad Focus On?
When I ask business owners what the purpose of their ad is, I usually get a list like: Branding Getting my name out there Letting people know about my products and services Making sales Getting people to call in for a quote These are all very different and you cannot possibly do all of these with one ad. In typical small business style they’re trying to get maximum bang for their buck. But by trying to do too much, they end up achieving none of their objectives.
My rule of thumb is one ad, one objective. If something in the ad isn’t helping you achieve that objective then it’s detracting from it and you should get rid of it.
That includes sacred cows like your company name and company logo.
Advertising space is valuable and these things taking up prime real estate in your ad space often detract from your message rather than enhance it. Rather than trying to sell directly from your ad, simply invite prospects to put their hand up and indicate interest. This lowers resistance and helps you build a marketing database—one of the most valuable assets in your business.
Once your objective is clear, you need to communicate it to your reader.
What exactly do you want them to do next?
Do they call your toll free number to order?
Do they call you or visit your website to request a free sample?
Do they request a free report?
You need a very clear call to action—not something wimpy and vague like “don’t hesitate to call us.” You need to be clear on what they should do next and what they will get in return. Also, give them multiple ways to take that action. For example if the call to action is to order your product, give them the ability to do it online, over the phone or even via a mail-in coupon.
Different people have different preferences when it comes to modality of communication. Give them multiple means of response so they can choose the one they are most comfortable with. Have you ever been to a party or gathering and been seated next to someone who just spends the whole night talking about themselves?
It gets old pretty fast.
You keep giving halfhearted smiles and polite nods but your mind is elsewhere and that exit sign is calling your name. Similarly, most advertising by small businesses is inwardly focused. Instead of speaking to the needs and problems of the prospect, it is focused on self-aggrandizement.
The prominent logo and company name, the laundry list of services, the claims of being the leading provider of that product or service. All of these things are shouting, “look at me!” Unfortunately, you’re in a crowded market and with everyone shouting “look at me!” at the same time, it just becomes background noise.
By contrast, direct response marketing focuses heavily on the needs, thoughts and emotions of the target market. By doing this you enter the conversation already going on in the mind of your ideal prospect. You will resonate at a deeper level with your prospect and your ad will stand out from 99% of other ads that are just shouting and talking about themselves.
Don’t be the advertising equivalent of that guy at the party obliviously talking about himself the whole night while his uninterested audience looks for the exit. Also, don’t leave anything to chance. Know exactly what you want your ad to achieve and the exact action you want your prospect to take.
Developing A Unique Selling Proposition Many small businesses don’t have a reason to exist. Take away their name and logo from their website or other marketing material and you’d never know who they were.
They could be any of the other businesses in their category.
Their reason for existence is to survive and pay the bills of the owner who is usually only just getting by or possibly not even.
From a customer’s perspective, there is no compelling reason to buy from them and any sales they do make is just because they happen to be there.
You see a lot of these businesses in retail.
The only sales they get is through random walk-in traffic. No one is seeking them out.
No one actively desires what they have to offer and if they weren’t there no one would miss them. Harsh but true.
The problem is that these businesses are just another “me too” business.
How did they decide on price?
How did they decide on product?
How did they decide on marketing?
Usually the answer is they just had a look at what their nearest competitor was doing and did the same thing or slightly changed something.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong in modeling something that’s already working. In fact that’s a very smart thing to do. However, it’s likely the competitors they are modeling are in the same boat they are in—struggling to win business with no compelling reason why you should buy from them.
They based their most important business decisions on guesses and on what their mediocre competitors are doing. It’s the blind leading the blind. After some time of torturing themselves to death – making just enough money to survive but not enough money to do well, many of these businesses finally decide to “try marketing.” So they start marketing their “me too” business with an equally boring “me too” message.
As expected, it doesn’t work and any extra sales it does bring in often doesn’t even cover the marketing costs. Here’s the thing – the chance of you getting your marketing perfectly right – message to market and media match on the first go is impossibly small.
Even the most experienced marketer will tell you they hardly ever hit a homerun on their first go. It takes several iterations. It takes testing and measuring to finally get your message to market and media match right. Yet these guys can’t afford the time, money and effort needed to get it right.
Worse still with a “me too” style of offer they don’t have a hope.
Think of marketing as an amplifier. Here’s an example. You tell one person about what you do and they don’t get excited.
You then try telling ten people about what you do and they don’t get excited either.
If you amplify this message through marketing and tell 10,000 people, what makes you think that the result will be any different ? Marketing is an uphill battle if you haven’t clearly clarified first in your mind why your business exists and why people should buy from you rather than your nearest competitor.
You need to develop your unique selling proposition (USP).
This is where a lot of people get stuck. They say something like “I sell coffee, there’s nothing unique about that.” Really?
Then why aren’t we all just getting our $1 coffee from 7-Eleven?
Why do we queue up to spend $4 to $5 to buy our coffee from some hipster that looks like he’s in urgent need of a bath?
Think about it. You regularly pay 400%-500% more for the same commodity.
Think about water—one of the most abundant commodities on earth. When you buy this commodity, in bottled form at either a convenience store or from a vending machine, you happily pay 2000 times the price compared to getting it from your tap at home.
See how the commodity in both examples hasn’t changed, but the circumstances and things around the commodity have changed or the way they are packaged and delivered has changed?
The entire goal of your USP is to answer this question:
Why should I buy from you rather than from your nearest competitor?
Another good test is this: if I removed the company name and logo from your website, would people still know that it’s you or could it be any other company in your industry? The common place people go wrong with developing their USP is they say “quality” or “great service” is their USP.
There are two things wrong with that:
Quality and great service are expectations, they are just part of good business practice—not something unique. People only find out about your quality and great service after they’ve bought.
A good USP is designed to attract prospects before they’ve made a purchasing decision. You know you’re marketing your business as a commodity when prospects start the conversation by asking you about price. Positioning yourself as a commodity and hence being shopped on price alone is a terrible position for a small business owner to be in. It’s soul crushing and this race to the bottom is bound to end in tears. The answer is to develop a unique selling proposition (USP).
Something that positions you differently, so that prospects are forced to make an apples-to-oranges comparison when comparing you with your competitor. If they can do an apples-to-apples comparison of you and your competitors then it comes down to price and you’re toast.
There’s always someone willing to sell cheaper than you. There’s Nothing New Under The Sun Very few if any businesses or products are truly unique, so a common question is, “There’s nothing unique about my business, how do I develop a USP?” There are two questions I ask my clients when helping them develop their USP. Answering these two questions is the path towards marketing and financial success in your business.
So the two questions you must ask and answer are: Why should they buy?
Why should they buy from me?
These are questions that should have clear, concise and quantifiable answers. Not wishy-washy nonsense like “we are the best” or “we have the highest quality.” What is the unique advantage you are offering? Now the uniqueness doesn’t have to be in the product itself. In fact, it would be fair to say that there are very few truly unique products.
The uniqueness may be in the way it is packaged, delivered, supsupported or even sold. You need to position what you do in such a way that even if your competitor was operating directly opposite you, customers would cross the road to do business with you instead of your competitor.
Do it really well and they may even stand in line overnight to do business with you instead of your competitor, like they do with Apple products.
Getting Into The Mind Of Your Prospect
We want to get into the mind of our prospect. What do they really want?
It’s rarely the thing you are selling, it’s usually the result of the thing you are selling. The difference may seem subtle but it’s huge.
For example someone buying a $50 watch is buying something very different from a person buying a $50,000 watch. In the latter case they are likely buying status, luxury and exclusivity. Sure they want it to tell the time just like the buyer of the $50 watch but that’s unlikely to be their core motivation.
So to get into the mind of the prospect, we need to discover what result they are actually buying. Once you understand this, you then need to craft your unique selling proposition based on the result your prospects want to achieve.
For example, if you’re a printer, you’re in a commodity business.
You want to get out of the commodity business as quickly as possible.
I don’t mean get out of the industry but you do need to change how you position yourself.
Stop selling business cards, brochures and printing and start asking open-ended questions such as,
“Why are you coming to a printer?
What is it that you want to achieve?”
The prospect doesn’t want business cards and brochures, they want what they think business cards and brochures are going to do for their business.
So you could sit down with them and say,
“What are you trying to accomplish?
Let’s do a printing audit and evaluate all of the things you’re trying to use printing for.” By taking them through the process, you can charge them to do a printing audit.
Then if they end up hiring you to do their printing, you can apply that consulting fee towards printing. This way you’re no longer viewed as a printer anymore.
You’re now viewed as a trusted advisor that’s serving their needs. If You Confuse Them You Lose Them Understand that your prospect has essentially three options: Buy from you Buy from your competitor Do nothing You may think your competitors are your biggest problem, but in reality it’s more likely to be a fight against inertia. Therefore you need to first answer the question of why they should buy and in addition to why they should buy from YOU.
We live in a sound bite, MTV generation which has to deal with thousands of messages each day. The importance of crafting your message in an immediately understandable and impactful way has never been more important. Can you explain your product and the unique benefit it offers in a single short sentence?
You must understand a very important concept: confusion leads to lost sales.
This is especially so when you have a complex product. Many business owners erroneously think that a confused customer will seek clarification or contact you for more information. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When you confuse them, you lose them. People have too many options and too much information coming at them constantly and they’re rarely motivated enough to wade through a confused message.
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How To Be Remarkable When You Are Selling A Commodity
How do you charge high prices for your products and services while having your customers thank you for it? In short, by being remarkable. When given this answer, the first thing many business owners do is mutter under their breath something like, “easier said than done”—perhaps it’s because being remarkable evokes visions of being unattainably unique or creative. Something that others far more talented do.
The cafe owner says, “dude I just sell coffee, how am I supposed to be remarkable?” That raises a common question, how can you be remarkable when you sell a commodity?
Let’s look at a few examples. When I talk about being remarkable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product or service you sell is unique.
Far from it. In fact being unique is a dangerous, difficult and expensive place to be. However, you must be different. How can our cafe owner be different?
Check this out: How much extra did it cost the cafe to serve art with its coffee?
Pretty close to zero I would expect. Maybe some extra training for the barista and a few extra seconds of time per cup.
But how many people will each customer tell or better still bring in to show?
Could this cafe owner charge 50¢ more per cup than the cafe down the road?
For sure. That’s 50¢ of pure profit multiplied by hundreds of thousands of cups per year straight to the bottom line. Yet is the product unique? Not by a long shot—just slightly different.
Different enough to be remarkable. Here’s another example. Most e-commerce sites send the same boring confirmation email when you buy from them. Something along the lines of, “Your order has been shipped.
Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.” Instead have a look at how CD Baby creates a remarkable experience for the customer and a viral marketing opportunity for themselves instead of a normal boring confirmation email: Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th. I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.”Commodity
We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
This order confirmation email has been forwarded thousands of times and posted on countless blogs and websites.
Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby credits this remarkable order confirmation message for creating thousands of new customers. Again nothing unique about the product, but the transformation of something ordinary and boring gives the customer a smile and creates free viral marketing for the business.
One more example from another highly competitive, commodity industry—consumer electronics: When Apple first launched their legendary music player, the iPod, they could have talked about the five-gigabyte storage capacity or other technical features like all the other music players of the day did.
But instead how did they promote it?
1000 songs in your pocket” Genius! Five gigabytes doesn’t mean a thing to most consumers. Neither does a bunch of technical jargon, but “1000 songs in your pocket”—anyone can instantly understand that and the benefits it will offer.
Apple was by no means the first portable music player on the market or even the best, but they were by far the most successful because of their ability to quickly and easily convey the reasons why you should buy.
Notice in all three of the examples the actual product being sold is a commodity and what makes it remarkable is something totally peripheral to what you are buying.
Yet the seller can, and does, command premium pricing because they are selling a remarkable experience. Not only is the customer happy to pay the premium but in fact rewards the seller by spreading the message about their product or service.
- Why? Because we all want to share things and experiences that are remarkable. What can you do in your business that’s remarkable?
Your clarity around this will have a huge impact on the success of your business.
Lowest Price I’m sometimes asked,
“Can’t lowest price be my USP?”
Sure it can, but can you absolutely guarantee that everything you sell will be priced lower than all your competitors including the behemoths like
Costco and Walmart?
Unlikely. There’ll always be someone willing to go out of business faster than you.
I suggest you not play that game. So a USP that says “lowest prices on some things, some of the time” is not quite so compelling.
The fact is if you’re a small or medium business, you’re unlikely to beat the big discounters at the lowest price game. Truth be told, you probably don’t want to.
By charging higher prices, you attract a better quality client. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you get far less grief from high-end customers than you do from low-end ones. I’ve seen and experienced this in multiple businesses across multiple industries. A better option than discounting is to increase the value of your offering.
Bundling in bonuses, adding services, customizing the solution can all be of genuine value to your customer but can cost you very little to do.
This also helps you create that valuable apples-to-oranges comparison that gets you out of the commodity game. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
So as hard as it may be to resist, don’t play the commodity/price game.
Develop your USP, deliver on it and make those you deal with play your game, on your terms.
Create Your Elevator Pitch
As a business owner, being able to succinctly convey what problem you solve is a real art, especially if you’re in a business that is complex.
A great way of distilling your USP is by crafting an “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is a concise, well-rehearsed summary of your business and its value proposition which can be delivered in the time span of an elevator ride, i.e. 30-90 seconds.
Yes it’s cheesy and you may not even really use it often as an elevator pitch but it can really help you clarify your message and your USP.
This will become extremely valuable when you get to crafting your offer, which we’ll cover shortly. The thirty seconds that follows the “what do you do?”
question is one of the most commonly wasted marketing opportunities.
The response is almost always self-focused, unclear and often nonsensical.
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