“Position what you do as a solution to a need.”
It’s a classic marketing principle – but business owners like you and me often get stuck with it. “But people don’t really need what I’m offering”, we’ll say. “This isn’t like a house, or food, or medicine. This is jewelry, a nice massage, coaching, home design, a yoga retreat.”
At face value, these aren’t “needs” in the same way as food and shelter. So, how do you communicate that people should buy what you’re selling if you don’t think they really need it?
What we really need
A yoga retreat does, of course, meet needs: to feel safe, to feel connected, to feel healthy.
Coaching does, of course, meet needs: to feel fulfilled, to feel empowered, to feel happy.
But let’s take this concept of needs a step further – into one of the most powerful mindsets you can hold as you market your product or service:
We all have the need to tell a story.
On each of our human journeys, we are the hero of our own story. We tell this story to ourselves every day, through the choices we make. We tell this story to others every day, through the choices they see us making.
And every time we buy something, we are telling a chapter of that story.
Don’t take my word for it; play with this. Next time you buy something – whether it’s a DVD, a sandwich at your local deli, or a holiday – consider: What story were you telling – to yourself and others – about who you are? About what’s important to you, what you’re committed to, what this stage of your journey is about. You might be fascinated by your findings!
Example #1: A training course
I just signed up for a month-long group exploration of Byron Katie’s The Work, facilitated by Grace Bell. As I clicked that PayPal button, here was the story I told:
I’m someone who believes in learning from experts. It’s important to me to meet new people and not do this alone. I have money to invest in my personal development. I’m committed to a radical sense of peace, on a daily basis. This stage of my journey is about dropping any stress and putting kindness, compassion and sanity above all else.
Do I need this training course? Not in order to survive, no. But for my story – about who I am and where I’m going – to survive? Yes; this’ll do the job.
And so you can see why it made sense for me to click that PayPal button. That click wasn’t about “buying”. It was about telling that story.
Example #2: A bike
This marketing mindset applies to products as well as services. Daniel, one of my beloved team, is a passionate cyclist; his record is 112 miles in one day (Cambridge to London… and back again!) His self-customised mountain bike is relatively inexpensive and isn’t the typical choice for long-distance riders who normally prefer a sleek and light racing or touring bike. His story?
He’s someone who values the human journey and the serendipity that is to be found around us. And so it is too with his bike journeys. He needs a bike that can easily ride down the bumpiest of farm tracks to take a peek at the tree-like-thingy in the distance. One that can carry a heavy pannier bag full of a free windfall of pears discovered at the roadside. And one that can perform an emergency beach trek to get up-and-close with an amphibious vehicle as it crawls out of the sea.
He’s fine that people think his choice of bike is unconventional for the long-distance rider. He’s a conscious consumer who doesn’t believe expensive equals better; he analyses, he thinks for himself, he doesn’t make the obvious choice.
This is who Daniel is and the bike allows him, on a daily basis, to live out this story of himself.
What story are you giving space to?
When you put a PayPal button on your website, or ask for a cheque or bank transfer, you’re not merely inviting a purchase; you’re giving the members of your community the chance to live out a story they’re yearning for. Take time to consider what that story might be.
Be aware that there will be other stories competing for attention in your prospective client’s mind. “It’s not the right time.” “It’s too expensive.” “I’m not far enough along.” “I’m too far along.” “I don’t have what it takes.” “I don’t really need this.” “I don’t deserve this.” “This is scary.” “This isn’t for people like me.”
Your job is to defend your prospective client’s more beautiful story – the one they want to be telling. Your job is to see the stories that might get in the way, and remind them, repeatedly, of the grander tale.
This is why it’s our job to sell. It’s why we need to put aside our own stories – that we’re going to come across as pushy or salesy or manipulative – so that we can take a strong stand.
As a coach, I was trained to become an ally to my client’s highest wishes. We learnt about the saboteurs, or gremlins, who spin limiting stories: all the excuses and reasons why the person shouldn’t move forward powerfully.
My job as a coach was to help their most beautiful story to win. And regardless of your line of work, this is your job in your marketing too.
Over to you
What was the last significant purchase you made – and what story did that allow you to tell? Any stories you’ve noticed that would divert you from living your most beautiful story? And what can you see all this meaning for you in your marketing? Leave a comment below, let us know.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes 2014