What Do You Really Sell? Why Your Marketing Should Be More Like Bacon

bacon rasher from pixabay

Most  business marketing doesn’t focus on what they’re really selling.

It’s full of vegetables (with not nearly enough bacon),

Most people like bacon, in fact they like it much better than say brussels sprouts.  Or kale.

The trouble is that many businesses sell the kale, which is good for you (instead of the bacon, which is delicious).

What is  your business really selling? Kale or bacon?

Here’s what I mean.

Say your business is growing and you need a part-time bookkeeper.  You hate working with numbers, and wrestling with them is taking hours out of your day. If you’re going to think about numbers, you’d much rather figure out how to buy that new Macbook you have your eye on.

So you talk to some people and get some recommendations for bookkeepers.  The first one highlights his twenty years of experience, several certifications, and a long list of services (bookkeeping, bill paying, checkbook reconciliation, etc.).

The business that’s really selling kale

At your first meeting, he looks at your books and advises you in the strongest terms to reduce your debt.  Sound advice, but it’s not  “fun” or appealing.  Rather like being told to eat kale.  You know it’s something you should do, but you’d much rather reach for the bacon.

The business that’s really selling bacon

The second one does something a bit different.  She listens carefully and finds out how much you hate number-crunching (and all the time it takes).  She also finds out how much you really want that laptop.

Rather than going on about her credentials, she promises to get you an extra two hours a day.  Except for a monthly report, you’ll never have to look at numbers again. Just send her all the paperwork, and she’ll handle it.  She says she’ll make the entire process easy and painless, so you can focus on your work, rather than your books.

And, instead of trying to “sell” you on debt reduction (vegetables), she shows you how to get the money to pay for that laptop (bacon!).

Which one do you think you’d hire?

What you really sell

Think about this for your own business. What is it you’re really selling?

A ghostwriter isn’t selling words; she’s really selling fame.

The authors of get rich (online or off) books aren’t selling books, they’re selling hope.  So is Weight Watchers.

Disney doesn’t sell theme parks, they sell happiness.

What people really buy

What people really want isn’t the service or the product. They really want the result.  What will they get by buying from you or hiring you?  Happiness?  Hope?  Money? Glory?

Rational arguments (like the first bookkeeper’s advice to save money and cut back), aren’t nearly as powerful as emotional ones (new toys!).

Think about your own business. Go look at your web site or your other marketing materials.  Are they selling vegetables? Or bacon?

A Ridiculously Effective Marketing Technique from Two Chinese Potato Players

Russet potato

Potato image via Wikapedia

Playing a potato? I’m sure you (and I) never thought of a potato as an instrument.

Baked as a side dish, yes. Turned into french fries, absolutely. A basis for potato salad, sure. You can even make a science project that uses a potato as a power source for a lamp.

But not an instrument.

Same thing for carrots and leeks.

Music? Or soup?

Put those things together and they don’t really sound terribly musical. In fact, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t music, but soup.

It can be done though.

Nan Weidong and Nan Weiping, two brothers in China, have become known for just that. They drill holes in the vegetables, and tune them with an old electronics tuner.

The result: music.

Think different

Sure it sounds a bit odd, but it works.  In fact, they’ve  become very popular performers, and and earn up to $8,000 per show.

Being a musician, that’s ordinary. Playing the potato; that’s different.

They’ve found a way to clearly and absolutely differentiate themselves from every other musician on the planet. Who else plays the potato? Nobody.

Find your edge

Some call it an edge, others a “game-jumper”, still others a USP (unique selling proposition). Whatever you call it, it’s something that makes you stand out. and makes you different enough that people will talk about it.

If you have no musical talent (or vegetable carving skills), there are plenty of other ways to do this.

You could make something complicated really simple (like Gary Vaynerchuk did with wine – he talks about it like a layman, not like a wine snob). Or, you could do something slowly, or by hand, that most do very quickly or by machine.

Be worth talking about, and your fame will spread.  It might even spread all the way to China.

What Your Business Marketing Can Learn From The Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hope Diamond is the most famous diamond in the world.  Its large size (over 45 carats) and deep blue color make it instantly recognizable.

The purported curse doesn’t hurt either.

But what does this have to do with creating a remarkable marketing strategy for your small business?  After all, you’re likely not selling diamonds.

Why this matters for your small business

It’s an only.

It’s the only diamond like it.  And that makes it remarkable, and worth talking about.

Being an  “only” can make you much more successful.  It’s one way of eliminating your competition.

What is an “only” business?

An “only” business is a company that does something unique; a company that offers a product or a service that your competitors can’t easily copy, or copy at all.

It gives your business an edge and helps spread the word about your products and services.  The more unique (or hard to copy) it is, the better.

Only Ivory Soap is “99 3/4% pure.”

Only Zappos lets you return your shoes at any time for any reason, even if they know you’re cheating, and even if you do it repeatedly.

How to be an “only”

Let’s say your firm specializes in ghostwriting guest blog posts.  You’ve got a team of writers standing by to write posts for people who don’t have the time or the skill to do it themselves.

And,  you offer really fast turnaround — you’re the FedEx of blog post ghostwriting. You can tell your customers, and potential customers, that “only Supersonic Ghostwriting offers an overnight blog post service.  Your posts go from our keyboards to your inbox in 24 hours.”

Or, take my friend Phil.  He owns a toy store in Michigan.  Toy stores aren’t all that unusual, but Phil’s is.  For one thing, he offers a toy lending service to local schools.  Teachers can come in and choose from a selection of toys — for free.

His staff carries lists of favorite toys in their pockets, so they can help confused customers make the right selection.  They don’t push the newest toy or the most expensive, instead they recommend the toys that are most appropriate.  His customers know this, and trust him even more for it. (Sometimes, he even sends free toys to his friends; my nephew loves the Matchbox trucks Phil sent me, and guess who’s his favorite aunt).

Be the hope diamond of your industry

It’s what we marketing types call a “unique selling proposition.”  That’s just a fancy way of saying you offer something remarkable that your competition doesn’t (or can’t).

Suddenly, instead of being one of a crowd of writers or toy store owners offering interchangeable products and services, you’re unique.

Now, some homework.  Go think about what makes you unique, and how you can be an ‘only.”  If you need help, email me.

Diamonds are optional.

Get More Clients Without Selling

No Cold Calling Zone

No Cold Calling Zone (Photo credit: markhillary)

Self-promotion sends shudders down the spines of many small business owners and freelancers.

You have to do it.  However, the thought of making cold calls or yet another round of bad coffee and stale bagels at some networking event makes you just want to go back to bed and hide under the covers.

You think, maybe I’ll just go take the dog for a walk instead.  Or go get a latte.

The problem is, that without promoting yourself, in some way, you’re unlikely to get work (making it hard to feed the dog or pay for that latte).

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get more clients without selling? Or irritating people?

Cold calls are annoying

Calling people and interrupting them is irritating.  They’re busy.  They don’t want a sales pitch while they’re trying to get Bob from accounting to pay the invoice for the new company website.

You tend to freeze up, and get nervous.  You wonder what you were thinking.

Networking is not working

We’ve all been to networking events with speakers who drone on and on and tell jokes so bad you want to run screaming out of the room.

Or, everyone sits around a table.  Each person introduces themselves and gives a short “pitch.” Inevitably, these are duller than watching paint dry.  You start dreaming of that latte again.

You leave with a few business cards, almost inevitably tossed in the trash.

You wonder, “Why do I keep going to these things?” You want to give up.

 Skip the prospecting entirely

That’s right. Skip it.  There’s a better way to do this. You don’t really have to “sell” at all. The secret is something else entirely. No selling, no phone calls, no boring events.

Be helpful

Instead of trying to push something on people, be helpful. When someone has a question in a forum, track down a useful link or video that will help them. If a LinkedIn member is looking for a coder (and you know a good one), refer that person.

Both people will thank you for it. Show that you care about your clients. Go out of your way to help them build their own businesses (send them referrals, for example).

I’ve gotten several clients from an online forum where “selling” or even linking to your own site is discouraged. I took a few minutes to rewrite or comment (when asked) on marketing ideas or copy. I pitched in on a few group projects, and answered newbie questions, building up trust.  No pitch, just clients.

Build relationships

The online world gives us much greater reach than we had 20 years ago, but people are still people — and the human touch makes a difference. Being connected to 50,000 people on LinkedIn (or an “open” connector), doesn’t mean much. Neither does having 10,000 likes on Facebook. Neither one is particularly meaningful.

Find complementary businesses, and really connect with them (a real estate broker and a bank loan officer for example).

If you link to someone, follow up and offer to help them with a problem they have, regardless of whether it earns you anything right away (aside: of all the people who have linked to me on LinkedIn only one has bothered to follow up – who do you think I’ll contact if I need the service she provides).

Build your own network

Bring together those complementary businesses, and help them help each other. Hold a Google Plus hangout, bring everyone in for lunch (if practical), and have a real conversation. You can even make up a website or directory and send potential clients directly there (pretty easy to do with a wordpress blog).

None of this is selling in the traditional sense. There are no cold calls, no objections to overcome, and much less competition. You may never cold call again.

How to Flatten Your Competition

flatten your competition

Every business, big and small, has competitors, and we all want to beat them.  But what if you didn’t have to?  What if you could learn how to flatten your competition; to even make them irrelevant? That way, it wouldn’t matter what they did.

Here’s how competition usually works.  Each year, the big TV networks compete with each other to get higher ratings during “sweep” periods. They use “stunt-hosting” to pull in more viewers to their respective morning news shows.  They’re fighting over the claim to “most popular” show.

Does any of this really matter to their viewers?  Is the show more interesting? Has all that effort, and money spent really gained them anything (other than bragging rights)?

Carmakers spend millions of dollars each year on ads, trying to outsell each other.

Do the cars and trucks last longer?  Or get better mileage? Do their customers (and non-customers who are bombarded with all these ads), feel better about the companies?  It’s old-fashioned interruption marketing — lots of money spent, plenty of annoyed viewers, and not much human connection.

How to Flatten Your Competition

Instead of trying to beat the competition, why not ignore them entirely.  Do something they can’t (or won’t do). Offering something unique, or a solution that solves a tough problem can help you stand out from everyone else.  If you’re known for a speciality, clients will seek you out.

For example, circus attendance is declining, but Cirque de Soleil is thriving. Why? Because they ignored the traditional circus audience of children and went after adults and corporate clients instead.  Their shows are definitely not for children, and they charge much higher prices than traditional circuses.  Since there is no other “adult” circus, they have no competitors to worry about.

Make a You-Shaped Hole

Remember watching Bugs Bunny cartoons?  Every time Bugs went through a wall or a solid object, he left a Bugs-shaped hole.  Take a tip from Bugs (and Cirque de Soleil) and create something that’s unique to you.

Be the writer who creates annual reports that look like infographics.  They’re easier to read, more fun, and remarkable.

Or, be the photographer who travels the world solely on airline mileage points, and then teach other people how to do the same thing.

Do something unique, over the top, or simply remarkable (how about late-night fresh chocolate chip cookie delivery?), and your competition won’t matter.  They’ll simply be irrelevant.

Master One Thing

Develop expert knowledge on a particular subject that people will pay to learn or have done.  Pick something that you care about, that you could talk about all day.  Gary Vaynerchuk loves wine, and found a way to talk about it that was obvious (in retrospect) but unique.  He never mentions “nose” or “finish” or other technical wine terms, he talks about wine in ordinary language that consumers use (not the language of wine experts).

There is a woman who has a coaching practice focused solely on helping pet sitters to grow their businesses.  She helps pets sitters only, not babysitters, not plumbers, not web developers, just pet sitters.  She has mastered that one service for a particular group of people.

Become a Partner, Not a Vendor

Another way to do this is to become an essential partner with your clients, rather than just a vendor.

If you help them with their business strategy, listen carefully when they talk to you, and above all, be helpful, they will start to regard you as a key part of their business success, rather than another expense.

If you think they’re making a mistake, tell them, even if it costs you money.  For instance, I had a client who wanted to do a large mailing from a list he had accumulated over time.  I would have made money writing the sales letters, but it was a mistake.  The list was no good and the mailing would have wasted his money.

I talked him out of it. Yes, I lost that particular project, but I gained more trust from my client.  And, it was worth it to both of us.

The competition didn’t matter much after that.  I was his trusted advisor.