Are you holding your sign upside-down?

One Saturday morning, I was on my way to grab an oversized latte with a friend. I pulled up to the light just outside my neighborhood and saw some local high school students hawking boxed donuts to raise money. But even though I wasn’t interested in donuts (I was craving an espresso brownie instead), one of the students caught my eye – for all the wrong reasons.

She was holding her sign upside down.

I had to laugh – out loud. (I almost rolled down the window to tell her, but I was afraid I’d get snarled at. That happens when you get teenagers out of bed too early in the morning.)

As I drove through the intersection, though, it hit me. That’s a great metaphor for the most common small business marketing mistake out there: Wrong-Side-Up Marketing.

So, what’s Wrong-Side-Up Marketing, you ask? Simply put, it’s marketing that focuses on YOU instead of THEM.

“Of course my marketing talks about me and my company,” you protest. “I have to tell prospects about my products and services, right?”

Well, yes. That’s important information. And you need to talk about that … eventually. But to get their initial interest, you have to talk about THEM first.

This is what marketing experts call focusing on benefits instead of features. In other words, don’t offer prospects a sales pitch – offer a solved problem.

If you talk about features first and foremost, you’re making your prospects “connect the dots” between what you offer and what they need. It’s like holding your sign upside down – people have to work that much harder to get your marketing message. And if your competitor connects those dots better than you do … you’ve just lost a sale.

Think about it. If you’re a certified financial planner, you don’t really sell financial products – you sell security and peace of mind. If you’re a computer networking consultant, you don’t sell computer services – you sell efficiency and a worry-free work environment.

See the difference? Prospects aren’t looking for someone who sells “X,” they’re looking to solve a specific problem. Your marketing materials should identify your prospects’ pressing problem – specifically and vividly – and then offer a targeted solution. That’s what hits their hot buttons.

And coming up with a great “hot button” benefit doesn’t take trail-blazing originality, just a little extra thought. There are several common benefits that any business can adapt for their marketing materials.

So what are these common “hot buttons” you need to hit in your marketing? Visualize your ideal sales prospects, as
vividly as you can, then figure out which of the following big benefits they’re really looking for:

* Make money
* Save money
* Save time
* Avoid effort

Those four are the big ones. Everybody’s looking to get one of those four primary benefits, so you need to identify which one (or more) you can deliver. Once you’ve gotten one of those down, add a secondary benefit or two, if appropriate:

* Get more comfort
* Achieve greater cleanliness
* Attain fuller health
* Escape physical and emotional pain
* Gain praise
* Be popular

But don’t just stop at identifying the benefits they want – figure out exactly how you deliver them. Be specific.
How do you save them money? How much can you save them? Show them how you’ve done it for others and what you could be doing for them.

For example, do you claim to give superior customer service? Well, everybody says that. To be persuasive, you need to
quantify just what “superior customer service” means in your business and promise to deliver that result. One local plumbing service really gets this concept – they guarantee their plumbers will always show up on time and smelling good. (Nothing vague about that!) So they help customers “save time” (a primary benefit) and “achieve greater cleanliness” (a secondary benefit).

See how this works?

Remember: your prospects are not looking just to buy a product or service – they want to achieve a particular result. Be clear about what benefits you provide, and you’ll find more prospects come knocking!

Deborah Savadra

Hi, my name is Deborah Savadra, and I write marketing copy for technology companies who sell to the legal industry. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Alabama with a minor in Public & Corporate Communications, and I’m also a student in American Writers & Artists Inc.’s Accelerated Copywriting Program.

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Why marketing to prospects who need you is a bad strategy - May 27, 2013

[…] If you’ve been beating your head against the wall trying to convince people who clearly need your help to buy your products or services, stop. Take a deep breath, step back a bit, and instead of looking at your neediest prospects, look at your most enthusiastic customers. You may find some common demographics (age, income, industry, etc.) or psychographics (attitudes and behaviors) that could give you some clue as to how you should reconfigure your marketing. […]

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