Today, I opened my email to find a message from a publication whose name rhymes with Schmusiness Schminsider. The email? A promo message informing me that they’re going to give me $100 off when I buy any research report.
Here’s part of the email I received, for your reading torture:
Staying relevant and fully informed is a business professional’s biggest hurdle as more people adopt digital technology. Schmusiness Schminsider brings you and your team business intelligence for the digital age.
We strive to deliver easily consumable in-depth analysis to help forward-thinking business professionals just like you stay ahead of the latest trends and industry research. Our team regularly delivers key insights on today’s most relevant topics in the digital landscape. Here is just a small sampling of some of our recent research:
And then the email went on to describe the various reports available for purchase.
Naturally, my eyes glazed over almost immediately.
Now, Schmusiness Schminsider is really great at gathering information, but what this email shows me is they’re not so great at getting people to buy that information.
Because there’s just one problem with what they’re trying to do:
The LAST thing the world needs is more information.
IDC’s 2014 Digital Universe study estimated that there was 4.4 zetabytes of information in the digital universe in 2013, and that the digital universe doubles in size every two years – which would mean there’s about 8.8 zetabytes of information out there today.
(For those not in the know, 1 zetabyte – or zettabyte, in some circles – is equal to 1 billion terabytes.)
The problem isn’t a lack of information – it’s not knowing what information is important or useful. That’s my issue with Schmusiness Schminsider’s positioning here. I think it would be much more effective if they were to position themselves as experts who can sift through information and deliver only the most pertinent and useful data, and then suggest ways it can help a business.
What’s the problem with selling information?
I can find a whole world of information in just a matter of minutes – for free – and I don’t need anyone’s help to do it.
The problem comes when it’s time to figure out how to actually use that information.
Some of it is completely useless, and some of it will be unintelligible. See, if you sell information, you’re selling something unreliable.
Because, you see, information is a product – and products can and do fail. But what that information helps you to DO? That’s an outcome – and an experience. And people buy outcomes and experiences.
It seems like a fairly intuitive rule of thumb, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses get it wrong.
When I walk into a coffee shop, I’m not just buying a coffee.
I’m buying the feeling of excitement and anticipation as that first scent of delicious black wonder tonic wafts toward my nose.
I’m buying the sensation of the ceramic cup against my hands. I’m buying the steam that fogs up my glasses. I’m buying the satisfying little splash that the milk makes when it falls into the coffee. I’m buying the incomparable first sip that lets me know everything’s going to be okay. I’m buying the warm feeling in my chest as the coffee slides down my throat. I’m buying the mental alertness and pleasant mood that starts coming on about 20 minutes later.
But there’s also so much more.
I’m not just buying a coffee; I’m buying nostalgia. I’m buying a reminder of first dates and laughing with friends and having successful client meetings and working on projects I care about. I’m buying a reminder of my long days and late nights as a university student, hunched over textbooks in the library, working my ass off because I was the first person in my family to go to university, and that meant I had to succeed.
I’m buying all of the coffees still to come, all of the friends I’m going to run into at the coffee shop, all of the deep conversations we’re going to have and all of the fun pre-coffee volleyball games we’re going to play and all of the concerts and art shows we’re going to see.
I’m buying the can-do attitude and carefree personality of a fully caffeinated human. I’m buying all of the potential and possibility that can be unleashed when your morning coffee starts kicking in. I’m buying the key that unlocks my own brainpower. I’m buying my future and my past.
And that’s why, if you own a coffee shop, you never sell just coffee.
You sell the experience of having coffee and the outcome it creates. You sell everything I just talked about and more.
And it doesn’t matter what you’re selling or what your industry is. It doesn’t matter whether you sell B2B products to multimillion-dollar organizations or whether you’re a freelancer who works with mom-and-pop shops or whether you own a little corner store. The rule is always the same: You don’t sell the product or service; you sell the experience and the outcome.
But what does that look like? And how can you start selling experiences and outcomes?
Well, with our Schmusiness Schminsider example, if I were writing that email, I’d position the data reports as a hard, fact-based asset that can help a business owner to fully understand a new market in just a few hours. I’d position the data report as something that can fuel new marketing campaigns, help businesses to come up with more effective products and services, and give business owners new ideas for thought leadership articles and presentations.
I’d position Schmusiness Schminsider as a vital ally in any business, almost like a personal research assistant.
And it’s dead simple to do. All it takes is some new email copy, and BAM! We’re selling the experience and the outcome.
So how can you start selling the experience and the outcome in your business?
Here are a few actionable strategies that can help:
First off, pay attention to the language people use when they first come to you for help.
The language that people use when they approach you can tell you a lot about your potential clients’ thought processes, including what kind of outcome they want and what kind of experience they expect – which then empowers you to deliver that outcome and that experience.
One common thing I hear from business owners who come to me for marketing copy is: “I know I need good marketing materials, but I don’t know how to craft them myself and I don’t have the time to learn.”
What this tells me is that these business owners are looking for someone who knows the marketing industry, someone who can provide a totally hands-free solution. They’re looking for someone who can write, design, and distribute a press release without them ever having to pull up a Word doc except for final proofing. They’re looking for someone who can craft a solid strategy for online marketing and create a list of blog topics without needing much handholding.
But most of all, they’re looking for someone who can make them look like super-geniuses, without any hassles. So that’s what I sell – hassle-free super-genius marketing. In this case, hassle-free describes the experience, while super-genius describes the outcome.
Next, pay close attention to the client’s personality cues.
I’ve had clients who were very straight-laced and businesslike, who just wanted their marketing copy and that’s it. I’ve had clients who were eager to learn about strategy, who showed intense interest in every word I said, who want to be mentored. I’ve had clients who were some real jokers, who weren’t happy to simply work through the standard process – they actually wanted some level of human connection, some kibitzing, some jokes, some stories.
And in each case, I tailored my method to suit the client’s preferences.
I didn’t do this because changing the way you work is fun. I did it because part of selling a service is selling the experience of working with the service provider.
This is what people talk about when they talk about user experience.
Top-notch real estate agents do a great job of selling the experience. When you walk through the home, they don’t just blather on about square footage and architectural style. They actually describe things like nearby parks and what it’s like to walk to the local school and how the living room is so big that you can host all of your extended relatives for Christmas.
Because when you’re a real estate agent, you’re not just selling a house. You’re selling comfort and family and joy and holidays and food and friends and fun. You’re selling newlywed bliss and midnight newborn feedings and playing cards during retirement and babysitting grandchildren and barbecues and bonfires. You’re selling a lifestyle. And perhaps most importantly, you’re selling people on themselves – their dreams and their hopes. You’re selling people on who they are and who they want to be next.
Those are the details you focus on when you sell the experience.
So what would that Schmusiness Schminsider email look like if it were focused on selling the outcome and the experience? Just for a laugh, I’ve taken a stab at re-writing the email to do just that:
Have you ever laid awake at night, wondering whether your new business strategy is going to pay off, or whether you’re just wasting your time?
Or maybe this whole business thing feels like something you stumbled into by accident. Or perhaps you’ve been running a business for years, but one day you woke up and the world of business just….changed. Suddenly a weekly ad in the local paper doesn’t bring in the customers like it once did.
It’s a brave new digital world out there, and with so many people shouting so many things about digital marketing, it’s hard to know what actually works. It’s hard to know who to trust.
With your digital marketing reports from Business Insider, you can navigate the trends thanks to thorough yet easy-to-understand analysis courtesy of expert researchers. And as business experts ourselves, we know what information is most pertinent. That means you get all the data that actually matters to your business – written in a way that you can understand and apply – and none of the noise that doesn’t.
Are you ready to make the digital landscape bow to your every whim? Check out a few of our sample reports here.
Now, I just ripped that out in about 30 seconds, so I’m not claiming the above email is perfect. I’m not even claiming that it’s polished enough to be sent out. But it’s a hell of a lot better than the one we saw earlier.
Before, we were selling research. But now, we’re selling success. Research is a product. Success is an outcome. And at the end of the day, people may need the product, but what they actually want – what they actually pay you for – is the outcome.
What are you doing to sell experiences and outcomes in your marketing? Hit up the comments and share your strategies.