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"I Want to Improve the Way We Market our
Products / Services."

Also look at "What are You Really Selling?"

by Dr. Gary Witt

It isn't enough to know what your target customers' needs, wants, fears, and desires are. As a group, these may be called "drives" or "motivations" of the consumer. You also must know the specific features or characteristics of your product which can satisfy them. For example, if you are thirsty (your "need") and I offer you a whole watermelon, you may push it away if you've never seen a watermelon before. After all, the outside of a watermelon doesn't like it could satisfy anyone's thirst. In essence, I presented my product to you, and you rejected it because I didn't emphasize the characteristics of my product which would obviously satisfy your need.

My competitor, taking a wiser approach, cuts up the melon into juicy squares to stimulate your awareness of your thirst, and presents the method of satisfying your thirst. By presenting those features of the product which will satisfy the customer's thirst, he gains a sale. Remember -- people do not buy your product because they want it, but because they think it can satisfy a need, want, fear, or desire. The watermelon was just a means to that end.

It is amazing how even smart manufacturers and business people overlook the most desirable attributes of their product -- because they often don't look at it from the consumers' viewpoint of seeking to satisfy a motivation.

For example, did you know that the inventor of the device we now call a flashlight tried to sell it as an "electric flowerpot" at the turn of the century. Only when faced with getting rid of the overstock did Conrad Hubert separate the light tube and battery case from the flowerpot and sell them for almost nothing as a "portable light." He sold so many, he founded the Eveready Flashlight Company. Until then he had overlooked the fact that he had something which could satisfy the motivation of many people to see in the dark. Sometimes success is just waiting quietly at your fingertips for you to recognize it.

To help you psycho-analyze your product and company, complete the following worksheet. It will help you to determine how your product's and company's attributes are viewed by your consumers. The results of this worksheet should be used in conjunction with the results of customer surveys in re-making your marketing plan.


1) Go somewhere private where you won't be interrupted (this is important -- you're going to be doing some heavy duty introspective thinking). Take a pad of paper and something to write with. Maybe some water. Also bring some of your sales literature. If your product is portable, take it along. If not, take a photograph of it if possible.

2) Look over your sales literature, then write down ten important features of your product or service. When you're finished, write down at least five important reasons that people should buy what you're selling. Now put that paper somewhere out of sight.

3) Get comfortable. Let your mind think about home. Visualize its various rooms. Now write down ten products you use every day (such as an electric razor, perfume, deodorant, your car, etc.). It doesn't matter how costly they are, only that you use them regularly.

4) After each product, write down why you use that type of product. and why you use that particular brand. Remember, you are trying to honestly put down why you spend money for the product. For example, why do you drive a car? Why do you drive a Cadillac?

5) Carefully review your answers. Underline the words which show some personal need, want, fear, or desire. ("I use deodorant so I won't smell and offend someone." "I drive my car to get to work so I can make money and not get fired." -- a need, want and fear, respectively).

6) This exercise was designed to get you used to looking at a product with your consumer's eyes. Not once did you write down that you bought a product because it had a shiny plastic container or contrasting blue letters or could go from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds or has rich Corinthian leather upholstery. Yet that is exactly what many company ads do when describing the attributes of their product.

Now, look at your product with the eyes of a consumer, just like you looked at those ten products above. Then answer the following questions:

7) If one of your customers had been asked to do the "ten items" exercise above, and had chosen your product as one item, what do you think he/she would write down?

8) Look at your answers to question #2 and question #7. Are the answers similar? Do they refer to similar attributes of the product? Rank their similarity by checking the blank on the scale below which best reflects the degree of similarity.

VERY SIMILAR ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ NOT SIMILAR

9) Imagine martial law has been declared. All raw materials must be rationed for the highest need. A government official comes to you and says, "You must stop production unless you can give me some good reasons why your product is in the public interest." What do you tell the official? (Don't use the old "saving jobs" argument. Focus on your product.)
If you offer a service, imagine the official says, "Only necessary services will be allowed to remain open. Why should your service be included on that list?"

10) If the price of your product and all its competitors were fixed at the same amount, what reasons would you give buyers to select your product?

11) Write down five separate, single, abstract words which best describe your product. Abstract words are the opposite of concrete words. They have no solid, real referent. For example, "shiny" and "square" are concrete words. "Beautiful" and "dependable" are abstract words. You can come up with five words. Try seeing it through the buyer's eyes.

Now circle the words which a buyer might use when telling you why he/she purchased the product (in other words, those qualities which satisfy some major needs, wants, fears, and desires -- "I like a Cadillac because it is so comfortable.") If you didn't circle many words, then you are still looking at your product from the producer's viewpoint, not the buyer's viewpoint. Try again.

12) Remember the "electric flowerpot" example above? Do any of the components of your product have some other application or use? Does your product have other applications or uses? Imagine that, just like the electric flowerpot, the bottom fell out of your market. Other than a doorstop or paperweight, could you "reinvent" your product to meet other needs / wants / fears / desires of some set of customers? What would those motivations be? How could you satisfy them?

13) Imagine that you telephone a prospective customer who says, "I'm very busy. Tell me some things about your product that should convince me to buy it. If you tell me just one that is not of interest or use to me, I'm hanging up and buying from your biggest competitor. Think carefully before answering." Write down all the answers you can think of in the order you would give them. Put a checkmark after the one where you think he would hang up. Why wasn't the next answer good enough? Think of the product from the customer's viewpoint -- are there other "hot button" motivations you forgot to include among your reasons to buy? Write them down.

This exercise should have given you two things of value: First, a good list of product attributes which will stimulate customers to buy your product. Second, a different viewpoint of your product.

You know the old saying, "The customer is always right."? I don't believe that. But I do believe this: "The buyer's viewpoint is always right." They don't care how long it took you to perfect the finish or how many changes in the design of the shape you went through. They just care about how well it will satisfy their motivations. So don't waste their time telling them about the finish or shape of your product if that isn't important to them. They're too busy to listen to unimportant ideas. And don't assume you know what the important ideas are.

When a young actor asked Jimmy Cagney what the secret of being a good actor was, Cagney said, "Know your lines, hit your mark, say your lines, then shut up." It's good advice for marketers, too: "Know your product's value, pick the right spot to sound off, tell your reasons clearly, and shut up."

In summary, as one of my grad students once put it, every buyer considering your message is always silently asking the same question, "Why should I care? What's in it for me?" Always try to answer those questions as simply and clearly as possible in every contact with potential buyers. In fact, answer them several times in several ways to be sure they get it.

  • Are your current marketing materials your Secret Enemy? Do they contain hidden problems that are losing sales for you? Click HERE to find out what to do.

>>>> These are just a few ideas for communicating effectively with your customers. Need more help to improve your marketing materials and ads? Click HERE to see how you can get several hundred tips tips and techniques for creating print ads that get results and bring in more customers. Specially written in practical language for businesses. <<<<

(c) Gary Witt, 1998

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