OK, so you love your product. You have been around this market for a while, and–quite honestly–you have never seen a product so useful, so inexpensive, so long-lived and so visually attractive. Unfortunately, you are suffering from a condition that affects many businesspeople. Its principal symptom is a blinding lack of objectivity. If left untreated, it can result in the disappearance of entire businesses…company, staff and product, which fade till they become mere ghosts in the annals of business history.
Your customers remain proudly self-centered. They don’t appreciate the glories of your product’s reputation, the immense practicality of its design or the cleverness of its name. No, they’re focused on their personal need. Maybe it’s a car that’s leaking oil. Or a child’s sweater that needs mending. Or a bookkeeping system gone haywire. Or an old coffee pot that’s died and gone to Colombia. What do they want? A solution to their problem, not a product. They want to be able to drive without dripping oil; they want something to keep their child warm; and they want an accurate financial report and a cup of java. You’ve got to present your product as the satisfaction to the need–the scratch to their itch. That, they can buy.
Features Vs. Benefits: The Key to Marketing
In the marketing “Hall of Big Ideas,” the distinction between product features and benefits sits on a raised marble pedestal in the center room under a ring of spotlights. This distinction separates marketers and everyone else in the business world just as sharply as the Berlin Wall divided Berlin into East and West. Many entrepreneurs talk about their product in terms of its features: its capacity, color, strength, durability and other technical capabilities. Marketers (that’s you) are different. They speak of the product, often as dramatically as possible, in terms of how it will benefit the customer. They describe the need the product will immediately fulfill, offering a vision of the wonderfully satisfied customer living his or her suddenly carefree life. Marketers make a living by wish fulfillment (or sometimes, so I’ve heard, by just the appearance of wish fulfillment).
- Have a specific purpose in mind.
- Narrow your topic.
- Know your target audience.
Business-to-business sales usually involves giving a prearranged presentation, whether in person or on paper, of your product or service. This differs from retail sales to the general public, which is usually spontaneous and immediate.
In business-to-business environments, the selling and buying process is often not simple. Many times you’ll never meet the person who will ultimately use your product, the person who’ll authorize the purchase of your product, or the person who signs the check. If you’re dealing directly with the buyer, consider yourself fortunate. You have to convince only one person of your product’s suitability and of its superiority over competing products. If you’ve pulled together your product benefits properly, if you’re talking to a buyer in a market that genuinely needs your product, and if you’ve positioned yourself appropriately against the competition, you should be in good shape.
However, you may be presenting a proposal to a selection committee of a large corporation. Several of the people present may have competing agendas you don’t know about, or you may discover after making your pitch that no one in the room has the authority to say yes. You may be speaking to a purchasing agent who makes the decision based on agreed-upon objective criteria. In that case, all you can do is prepare the best proposal you can, all the while focusing on making the description of your product and your company match as closely as possible the demands of the proposal request.