Not Sure What They Are Selling

I’ve been seeing a number of different car commercials lately, but, other than the obvious, I’m not really sure what they’re selling. Some examples:

  • GM, yet again, is offering employee pricing on its vehicles. This year, they attempt to couch it in terms of an anniversary. This is something they have been doing since around 2000, and they pull the trick out whenever their sales are in the dumps, which seems to be most years. If your vehicles weren’t relevant before, resurrecting a bad sales idea isn’t going to change that. Sell your cars on their merit, not the fact that you’ve been overpricing and underdelivering.
  • VW seems to think that German engineering is best expressed through black Beetle acting as a talk show host. Saying that you have German engineering doesn’t make it good—the engineering itself does, however. Tell me what it means and what I can expect to experience from it.
  • Mitsubishi has introduced a new engine, yet doesn’t feel the need to explain to anyone what makes it unique or at least different. When you spend that kind of R&D money, market the heck out of the result.
  • Ford has introduced a new box on wheels with so-so EPA estimated mileage, touting it as something people should desire. Two things: one, average or slightly above average EPA estimated mileage isn’t enough, you have to do something revolutionary; two, most of us don’t care one lick what the EPA estimates the mileage to be in a vacuum on a treadmill with no friction, we care about the actual mileage from driving on real roads.

When you are marketing a product, no matter what it is, you have to focus on the actual features and benefits. If you don’t have any, save your money and reputation and stop selling it. Focus your energy on creating something that actually creates a point of differentiation. Be unique. Serve a market others ignore. Make a positive difference. But don’t, under any circumstances, try to treat your customers like gullible fools. That is the quickest route to irrelevance.

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30 Seconds

Businesses live and die in 30 seconds. It’s not a lot of time. True, given certain circumstances, it can seem like forever. But in reality, when you have to make a point, 30 seconds is never long enough.

And for good reason.

I’ve written about the importance of concise, targeted statements, keeping your core message to no more than five to seven words. Talk about a challenge.

But if people can’t get it in that short a period of time, then you’re message is off.

So, about those 30 seconds. That about as much time, if you’re lucky, someone will give to you to hear what you have to say. Make the 30 seconds count. Ask yourself: what is the most important thing my ideal customer has to know about my product? Get the core statement down to less than seven words. Use the rest of your time to set it up in a meaningful way (not some of the idiocy and obscurity you see in most television commercials).

Story – punchline.

If you still have their attention, go for the next most important thing. And keep it going. At the very end, tie it up in a nice little bow.

It all starts with seven words and 30 seconds.

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Creating Something for Them to Change

We are getting ready to put our house up for sale. That means touching up paint, de-cluttering, and finishing all those projects we never found the time or inclination to do (until now, of course).

Selling your house is a lot like marketing. You are going to pretty it up as much as you can, accentuating all that is good, downplaying what’s not so great and inspiring people to purchase.

But it’s not like selling a traditional good. It’s more like an open-source product. We provide the basic framework (the house) and do what we can to make it attractive while allowing for the new owners to come in and change it all to their liking.

Let me give an example. We are giving quick makeovers to two of our bathrooms. It’s something we’ve wanted to do since we moved in, but other projects, including a post-Katrina renovation, got in the way. Instead of making them to our style and taste—we’ll be moving before we get to really enjoy them—we are going as basic as we can with the colors and other changes.

We want them to look good and function properly. And we want it to be easy for the new owners to make them their own.

I think that’s why people like open-source projects so much. There is basic functionality there, but you can make your own tweaks to make it work for you. Cars have been that way for years with after-market products and add-ons.

It’s not for everybody and certainly not for every product. However, there are more opportunities than we think.

Look at your own business. What changes can you make to your basic product to allow for end-user customization? What customizations and add-ons can you create for your product? And sell?

So after all the work we’re putting in to get this house ready to sell, we get to do the same after we move into the next one. Yippee.

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