What Do You Really Sell?

hole in the wall image

Image thanks to: gravityx9

What are you selling your clients?  Holes? or drills?

You may think this is an odd question. Hardware? This is a marketing blog, why in the world is she talking about home improvement projects? What’s gotten into Jodi today? Has she forgotten to drink her morning tea?

Nope. I had the tea (Russian Caravan).

The reason for the hole is there’s an old marketing saying which says, “sell the hole, not the drill.” In other words, the solution, not the means of getting it.

What you really sell


“Why, I’m in the design business!” Or, “I’m a writer, I sell words.”

Well, you are. But, you’re also in the solution business. A writer isn’t really selling words. Nobody buys a vowel in everyday life.  What writers are really selling is products, or magazines, or web site visits. A graphic designer is selling visual and emotional appeal (which helps sell more products).

What people really buy

Is a dentist selling teeth whitening? Not really. White teeth don’t work better than yellow teeth. But they do look better. What the dentist is actually doing is selling patients on the idea that they’ll feel better and attract more positive attention from men/women if they have nicer looking teeth. It’s not health they’re selling, it’s sex appeal.

A tour company that specializes in trips to the South Pole isn’t selling a vacation. They’re selling a rugged adventure that appeals to people who want unusual experiences.

Likewise, teachers aren’t selling education or memorizing facts and dates. If she’s a good teacher, she’s selling problem-solving, leadership, and the ability to think for yourself.

When you talk to potential clients or customers what do you tell them? What’s the problem you solve? Do you think this is important? Or, do I need another cup of tea?

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