Over the weekend I re-read Harry Beckwith’s Selling the Invisible. What a great book!
As someone who sells an outsourced marketing department service, with many our clients selling services online, I like to revisit great books and think about how to apply the ideas to our clients’ businesses.
The book was written in the 90’s but the principles are solid no matter when you read this. That’s the kinda book I like to read, not fads.
Anyway, here’s the list of notes I made from the book. I know you’ll enjoy them, and then I suggest you rush over to Amazon and order a copy for yourself!
Your buyers are a fearful, irrational, and cynical bunch
“You have nothing to fear but your client’s fear itself.” As a seller of marketing services, you must have a clear understanding “of that worried soul.” (XVIII)
Alleviate fear: offer free trials. Instead of asking for their business, ask for a project.
Buyers are more inclined to trust products than services
“We implicitly trust most products. We trust that our new tyres won’t blow out, our brown sugar will taste sweet, and our aspirin will soothe our headaches without bad side effects. But we are far less trusting and certain about most services. We worry that our lawyers and car mechanics will do more than necessary, and charge more than necessary. We worry that the latest weight-loss service will fail, just like the three before it. We worry that our remodelers will exceed their budget and finish weeks after they promise.” (169)
Buyers of services (as opposed to buyers of products) must take more risk—sellers of services need to understand this and address it.
You’re competing against your buyers’ fear and inertia—not other offline marketers’.
The market for Internet marketing services is not a competitive one
In other words, your customers aren’t struggling to decide on marketing company A, B or C. They’re deciding whether to buy at all!
Also, productise your services. Making them more tangible and real will help soothe your prospects’ natural worries and skepticism about buying services. (169)
Simplify your service offering and be easy to work with
“In an increasingly complex world, nothing works more powerfully than simplicity.” (XX)
Success in business is a lot like success in high school—popularity will get you far. “The competent and likeable solo consultant will attract far more business than the brilliant but socially deficient expert. … When many prospects choose a service firm, they are not buying the firm’s credentials, reputation, or industry stature. Instead, like the high schoolers we continue to be throughout our lives, these prospects buy the firm’s personality. ‘I just like them.’ ‘I had a good feel about them.’ ‘It just felt like a good fit.’ Notice carefully the prospect’s choice of verbs: ‘like,’ ‘feel,’ ‘felt.’ The words do not refer to logic and reason; they refer to feelings.” (53)
Better services = easier marketing and selling
“The core of service marketing is the service itself. … The first principle of service marketing is Guy Kawasaki’s first principle of computer marketing: ‘Get better reality.’ ’Better reality’ in your service will make marketing easier, cheaper, and more profitable.”
Ignore smart guys who tell you your ideas suck
“Highly intelligent people are the world’s foremost experts at squashing good ideas. That’s because intelligent people have one absolute favorite use for their formidable intelligence: telling other people, with total conviction and logic, why other people’s ideas will not work.” (67)
Positioning: fanatical focus
Positioning is all about having a singular focus so that your messaging is simple and memorable. Good positioning means making sacrifices—you can’t be all things to all clients.
Paradox: Narrowing your positioning broadens your appeal—because of the “halo effect”: “We tend to think, for example, that attractive people are smarter, friendlier, more honest, and more reliable than less attractive people. We associate one positive thing—attractiveness—with many other good things.” (108)
Positioning a small service: don’t hide your smallness. (You can’t hide it anyway, and trying to will only make you look worse.) Instead, leverage it. Turn it into a strength. E.g. “You’ll get very personalised services.”
“Don’t assume that logical pricing is smart pricing. Maybe your price, which makes you look like a good value, actually makes you look second rate.” (132)
“Setting your price is like setting a screw. A little resistance is a good sign.”
“Beware of the deadly middle.” (134) It sends a signal that you think you’re mediocre, middle of the road. And beware of the deadly low-end … positioning on low prices is deadly, because there will ALWAYS be someone willing to charge less.
“Value is not a position.”
“If your primary selling position is good value, you have no position [because] value is not a competitive position. Value is what every service promises, implicitly or explicitly.”
“If good value is the first thing you communicate, you won’t be effective.”
“One story beats a dozen adjectives.”