Stop Selling the Drill (Sell the Hole Instead)

woman drilling wall with electric drill
Table of Contents

    Often, people buy things in order to solve a problem. This doesn’t have to be a “problem” in the traditional sense – it could be buying plastic doubloons to decorate your pirate room at the office. Not having enough doubloons can (technically) be seen as a problem. This kind of thing isn’t purchased because it’s made of 100%-recyclable special resin plastic, etc. No one really cares about that. That’s not why you buy plastic doubloons. You buy plastic doubloons because they make you feel like a swashbuckling rogue.

    Market the Benefits!

    Therein lies the importance of benefit marketing vs. feature marketing. That is, you need to market benefits. Market benefits all day long, and forget (mostly) about features. Features are for people who already bought the product. Benefits are what get it sold in the first place. Perhaps more specifically, benefits are how those features help you as the buyer. How do those doubloons make you feel? 

    Features are, of course, a key way to measure your product against that of the competition, but features mostly belong outside the bounds of marketing. When you market your product, think about any benefits the feature will grant to the consumer. Features help you define a product, but benefits have a direct line into the customer’s brain—right into the region where they process what they need and what motivates them (not actual science, but this is basically true). 

    What You’re Actually Selling

    Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School professor, is quoted as saying, One of the most “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want to buy a quarter-inch hole!”

    And he was right. People don’t buy a drill because they want a drill. They buy it because they need the hole it can drill for them. The hole is what you need, and without that, why would you need a drill? If you don’t need the hole, or the drill didn’t give you what you need, you spend your money on something else. But extend this further: The holes help you solidly arrange your lumber into a treehouse, and in that treehouse, you can pretend you’re in a sailboat with your plastic doubloons. So what the drill is truly selling is the treehouse experience. This is why an ad for a drill might show people having fun in a treehouse or lounging on their beautiful new deck. That’s what you’re actually selling.

    Coca-Cola ads don’t show you the flavoring chemicals and carbonation involved in putting together a can of Coke—they show you beautiful young people partying on a veranda with a can of soda in their hand. Be handsome and young and feel good on a veranda! With Coke! 

    So Keep It Simple

    Generally speaking, people like simple decisions in their lives. They try to minimize complexity – complexity is hard. They have enough complexities to juggle out of necessity: childcare, work, marriage, moving, mortgages, taxes, etc.

    Rather than listing the many features of your product/service, make things simple for the buyer. Emphasize the benefits you’re offering – what problem are you solving for the customer? Illustrate a customer’s experience for them in emotional, easy-to-see terms.The benefits must not be implied. That’s not good enough. You need to spell it out for them: Here is the incredible experience you will have when you accept my offer!

    Always connect your product to whatever final experience the customer is likely to want. 

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    Raek Content Team

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