What's in It for Customers?

Be clear about what your product can do

By Doug Hall

What's the key to effective marketing? Being overt, blunt, and unquestionably specific about the benefits customers will get from your goods or services can triple your chances of success. I studied 901 new products and services over a five-year period and found that those whose marketing and advertising hyped obvious benefits had a 38% survival rate, compared with a 13% survival rate for those whose benefits were less clear.

Customers are greedy. They want to know what's in it for them—that is, what they will receive, enjoy, or experience in exchange for their investment in your company, product, or service. To break through a message-cluttered market, you need to be brash, bold, and in-your-face about the benefits of your product and how it differs from other brands.

That doesn't mean making a laundry list of a product's features. Features are not benefits; they are the technologies, the specifications, and the details of your offering. Benefits are how those features will bring value to your customer's life. They are the reason a customer should choose your product instead of your competitor's. The more work a customer has to do to understand what he might get, the more you'll have to do to persuade him to buy something. If your message is obvious, you'll sell more with a smaller investment of your time, energy, and money.

Here are three ways to find and sharpen your overt benefit:

METHOD 1: Don't Sell Me

Customers don't want to feel that they are being "sold." Instead, they want their needs and desires satisfied. Putting yourself in their shoes can spark ideas for "Don't sell me" statements that reveal your product's key benefit. If, for example, your business is selling workout equipment, you'd think, "Don't sell me workout equipment, sell me a longer life through better health" or "Don't sell me workout equipment, sell me a sexy body" or "Don't sell me workout equipment, sell me a way to spend 50% less than a health-club membership would cost."

METHOD 2: Be Numerically Precise

I've found that one of the most powerful ways to help entrepreneurs articulate their product's overt benefits is to encourage them to make a numeric claim. Putting a number on something makes it real. And when your benefit is numeric, you'll have a ready defense against those whose products offer only the numeric benefit of low price. If your product is twice as fast or lasts three times as long, tell us.

METHOD 3: Think "Superman Specific"

When scriptwriter Jay Morton was looking for a way to describe Superman for the Superman radio serials in 1940, he didn't say he was fast, strong, and powerful. He said Superman was "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." The more specific you can be, the more customers will understand exactly what they are getting. Muir Glen, for example, says its organic tomatoes "taste like they're still on the vine." And an L.L. Bean serial described the company's hunting shoes as being "light as a pair of moccasins with the protection of a heavy hunting boot."

The goal of discovering, and promoting, your product's overt benefit is simple: Let a customer say no because what you offer doesn't apply to them, but never let a customer say no because they don't understand what you are offering.

Doug Hall is the author of the Jump Start Your Business Brain book series. He's also founder and CEO of the Eureka! Ranch.

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