Can a Business be Vain?

Many years ago, Bell Atlantic yellow pages ran a series of ads putting humorous twists on otherwise ordinary businesses and services. The ad for “Civil Engineers” featured burly men in striped overalls and train engineer caps sitting daintily on chintz couches, sipping tea and being elaborately polite to each other.

Another ad for “vanity cases” had a woman chattering on and on about her job, her house, her car and then saying, “enough about me, what do you think of my dress?” It’s funny and memorable, but there’s also an important marketing lesson.

Like the woman in the vanity case ad, many companies fall into the trap of talking about themselves too much. Or, they describe their businesses in ways that are so general that they’re meaningless.

To stand out, you have to well, stand out. Saying that your products are “the highest quality” or that you “offer the most creative ideas on the planet”, won’t do. Instead, say something that makes you different and special.

Frame your pitch in terms that address your customers’ problems (and your solutions). What’s their headache, and what kind of painkiller do you have?

Set aside “what” (trade show exhibits, furniture store, packing and shipping supplies) and focus on “why”. Why you?

Because your customers get 18% more leads; your furniture company guarantees delivery in 5 days; or your specially constructed packing materials are 37% lighter and save customers 15% on shipping costs.

If you build exhibits for trade shows, emphasize the special construction that allows your customers to set up or break down your exhibits in only 10 minutes.

Or, what if you were a publisher who bundled paper and electronic versions of your books together for only $3 more than the hardcover version alone. It’s a good way to get an incremental sale (only $3 extra for two books instead of one), and it adds value (the second book is practically free). Practically free books?! Where do I sign up?

How do you stand out? Share what you’re doing here.

not so good photography