Marketing insights question: What do you really sell?

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What do you really sell?

Over the next few weeks, as we head towards 2012, I’m going to write a series of posts that are designed to get you thinking about your business in a new/fresh way.  I’m going to ask a single question in each post — but I’m warning you, these aren’t slam dunk questions.

I’m hopeful that as you ponder my question — it will give you some ideas for making 2012 a break out year for your organization.  If nothing else — this exercise should fine tune some of your marketing efforts.

What do you really sell? Do you understand what your customers are really buying?  Odds are, it’s much more than the “thing” you sell, whether that be a pair of glasses or accounting services.  Look beyond the tangible or what you list on an invoice.

Do you really sell peace of mind?  Or a competitive edge?  Are your customers’ buying the reassurance of your years of experience or your ability to nudge them out of their comfort zone?

Before you can effectively help someone buy – you need to actually understand what you’re selling.

If your honest answer is “I’m not sure” then it’s time to break out the trusty telephone and invite some of your best clients (the ones you’d like to replicate all day long) to lunch.  Ask them why they buy from you.  What is the ultimate value you provide to them?  Why would they tell your competitor “no thanks” even if they offered a bargain basement price?

You will be amazed at what you hear.  We’ve done this over the years at MMG and heard things like:

  • “Because I know you won’t have your hand in my pocket all of the time.”
  • “You don’t just preach social media, you guys actually do it.”
  • “I don’t think they’d care as much about our business as your team does.  You all act like you own the joint.”
  • And one of my favorites was “Because I don’t just need an agency, I need a thinking partner.”

Can you see how those answers would alter the way we market our agency?  Do you recognize some client worries/fears in those responses?

You’ll find your clients’ answers to be even more insightful because you’ll get to have the follow up conversation as well.  Listen so hard it hurts.  The learning will be huge!

And in the end, you will know exactly what you sell!


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15 comments on “Marketing insights question: What do you really sell?

  1. I was just having a conversation on facebook about how service contracts are really selling peace of mind.

    Thanks for the prompting to aim that lens at myself!

    1. Wayne,

      Peace of mind and a sense of confidence about the product. You wouldn’t offer the service contract if you thought the product was going to cost an arm and a leg to fix. Glad I could support where you were taking the conversation!


  2. It’s a good thought exercise this, so long as you don’t end up claiming that “[you] sell dreams”…

    Also, Drew? Might want to check the ol spam catcher. I’m not convinced Mr. Program is legit.

    1. Andy —

      Agreed — it’s not about blowing smoke up someone’s skirt. It’s about understanding your customer.

      And looks like Mr. Program scooted!


  3. Sherry Gloag says:

    I’m an author and I’m delighted to discover your site and hope to learn a lot. I know I have a lot to learn and this article is giving me pause for thought. Thank you.

    1. Sherry,

      Welcome to the blog. What sorts of things do you write?


  4. Dave Rodda says:

    When I read articles like this I sometimes have a hard time fitting my business into the examples you give. Which leads to me think perhaps I have “Baby Steps” to take way before taking clients to lunch. I always leave your blog with smoke rolling out of my ears.

    1. Dave,

      Well, let’s look at your business a little. You sell high end poker tables and accessories. What do you really think your customers are buying?

      Are they buying luxury? Are they buying the fantasy that someday they could play in the Poker World Series? Are they buying a bad boy image?


  5. TW,

    I will do my best! Let me know if the next post was helpful!


  6. Hey Zee,

    Well, if you flip through the archives, you’ll see that I tackle all sorts of marketing, branding and social media topics.

    My goal is to help business people and marketing professionals be a little more successful in connecting with their right customer.

    How am I doing?


  7. This valuable editorial was very useful to read, I savored it completely. I’m about now to email it to my collegues to permit them examine this too. Dream Talk Recorder

  8. The other day I was reading a book on personal finance called ‘Jago Investor’ (“Jago” means to “awaken” in hindi, an indian language – The book is in English though) and the author quoted a statement saying “Buying Term Insurance = Buying Peace of mind” and it instantly woke me up to the fact that almost “EVERYTHING that we buy = (equals) Buying Peace of mind”, in other words I dont see why I should be buying something which will not eventually give me peace. I would rather not take it(or buy it) instead of taking it with a “Dent to my Peace of mind”. Then I searched for the term “Selling Peace of Mind” in google, expecting highly of someone who already had this revelation :-)) and there you go – I found this wonderful post!! “May Peace be Upon you” :):):)

  9. Drew,
    You are a GENIUS! Five minutes after reading your post I was sending the questions to my very few customers (start-up business in a tough market). I can’t wait to see the replies…
    It’s TRULY about understanding how our customers see us and need from us.
    Without it, you can forget about having a good business…
    This is simply invaluable advice! I’ll crawl your website for more, believe me 🙂

    1. Cris,

      Glad you found the post valuable. What did you learn from your customers?


      P.S. Hang in there…starting is always the hardest part.

      1. Hehe… for starters, they see things much simpler than us… I somehow expected that, given the way we operate.
        So now, from a marketing perspective, I have a tougher job – to tell prospects how simple it can be for them whilst explaining all the services we can provide…
        This is a really tough story to come up with… 😉
        Here’s the best answer I’ve got for the “what’s the ultimate value we provide” question: “Making IT work for us with a minimum fuss”
        I think I’m gonna use it as a tag line 🙂

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