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Every living thing needs something in order to continue its existence – for humans, that’s food and shelter. Even if you are in the business of providing one of those very basic needs, a person doesn’t need your product. They need a form of what you offer. Could be yours; could be the other guys. You shouldn’t care what they need anyway. Humans aren’t driven by needs. They’re driven by wants.
A basic premise of economics begins with “assume the buyer is rational.” You can do that all day long, but it won’t improve your revenue. People are motivated to purchase out of want, or desire, for your product. You can entice them to want through positives like “good value” but ultimately, you want to present something that drives action. Here are a couple of ways to make your product or service more desirable.
Solve a Problem
This is the basic want motivator that even a practical, no-frills customer will find interest in. They have a problem; you have a solution (hopefully one that’s better than what they’ve heard). Many car buyers have started taking this approach in their marketing. For example, a customer wants a new car but doesn’t feel like giving up a Saturday to do it. The pain of giving up free time is greater than the need for a new car, until the dealership offers a one-hour guarantee, haggle-free pricing, or some other promise that tells them the car purchase will be quick and painless.
You can achieve this same success by thinking about why your customer buys from you. What pain do you solve for? Then stop talking about your product and service and start addressing that pain in your marketing.
Build an Image
This is the approach the big brands take. They create a line targeted at a certain type of person. They hope to sell their product to that person but also the person who wants to be perceived as that type. Apple did this as it evolved out of “education’s computer” and into the cool machine for designers. Their product placement team worked tirelessly. In the early days, every time someone pulled out a computer on Sex and the City or a number of other shows, it was a Mac. People didn’t buy Macs because they were cheap. A large portion bought them for what others saw when they opened one.
To do this on a national level takes deep pockets. However, you can accomplish this same sort of branding through content marketing, reviews, and referrals. You need to tie your line to a popular trend, or create one, and then target all of your content on supporting that trend. For instance, if you carried a line of maternity fitness wear and you wanted to become the name in that niche, you would focus all of your content on fitness during pregnancy, things to be aware of, best things to do, etc. Concentrate on making that person feel whatever your product or service evokes and create content around it.
Create a Story/Furnish the Dream
Storytelling is used in a variety of ways today. Businesses tell their stories. Businesses tell their customers’ stories. Customers tell their stories on behalf of the business. You get the idea. But another effective use of storytelling is creating a vision in your customers’ heads of how things will be with your product or service. It involves taking the dream they’ve already created in their minds and casting your product or service into a role. This works especially well for big tickets items like homes and luxury vacations. It’s also easier than creating the desire itself. The desire is there. They have a dream home pictured. You’re merely their dream interpreter who will suggest your product is what they’ve been envisioning all along.
You’ll see this when real estate agents use the approach of, “Haven’t you always wanted to live by the sea?” or “Can you imagine seeing the sun rise over that hill as you drink your first cup of coffee in the morning?” Adding your product or service to the customer’s internal story goes a long way to closing that sale.
Marketing has changed greatly over the past twenty years. It’s less company-driven (in the way that companies can make the decisions of what’s important and worth talking about) and more consumer-driven as customers become more adamant in sharing their likes and dislikes. To appeal to today’s savvy customer, you must uncover and market to what they want. This generally means solving a problem, helping them become something they’ve envisioned, or building on their dream.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.