Thursday, October 27, 2011

How vague is your Selling Proposition?

My mother used to say; “I learn something new every day.” It’s an old and worn out cliché for sure. In my life, it developed into more of a challenge. It seemed both natural and necessary in order to ensure I stay relevant in business life and ahead of my competition. “Learn something new every day or go broke” is how it played out for me. Nothing could be more accurate in the global society we humans have created for ourselves.  If this sounds familiar, then you are human just like the rest of us. Having said that, what follows is a significant insight that I only recently picked up. I’ll share it here.

Below is a document that I use in the early stages of any project. It identifies all of the elements in a complete Selling Proposition (sales massage). We review it with clients to determine the elements we will include in our quest to develop their most powerful Selling Proposition. That includes revising a sales message currently in existence or creating one for a new business venture.

Over time I have become aware of how each of these elements work in distinct ways, and of the relationships that exist among many of them. This information has been gathered in a very special way that allows me to conclude they are absolutely valid.

Approximately ten years ago I invented a process of exposing element by element, the elements of the Selling Propositions of many different products and services. The projects ranged from cooking sauce to cat litter to condoms to video games and far beyond. In doing so I also tracked the results and observed how consumers reacted to them. These insights are powerful not because of their brilliance, but because of their origin. The more I dig, the more I find and the more I share them with those of you who have an appreciation for their value. Their value is that they are real and can be counted on.

What follows is a recent insight as a result of several client comments on the nature of the Benefits (highlighted in yellow), which I had recommended we consider in the development of their Selling Proposition. The comment was that they were too vague. The tendency was to want to work on them to have them be more specific. That, as it turns out, is not a good idea.

I say the function of the Benefit is to express what the consumer gets out of using the product or service. “Less Work” is a great benefit for sandpaper. Notice that less work is not about the product; it’s about the consumer/user. My client wanted me to be more specific, asking, “What does that mean?”

For a number of years now I have been creating Benefits and then driving them with Attributes (highlighted in yellow) that empower them, and watched the research scores soar. I use the sandpaper example frequently. LESS WORK when followed directly by “Cuts 3 times faster” and “Won’t clog” literally drives sales. All that is great, but here is what I did not know.

As a result of the client request, I went back through nine recent projects to review the nature of the benefits that scored well and they were all vague. I now know why.

Think of the Benefit and the Attribute as working together. The benefit comes first and acts as a bold claim. By itself, it has no credibility and is disbelieved. It’s perceived as just BS as far as the consumer is concerned. Followed directly by the supporting Attributes, the two work than as a unit and we know they literally drive purchase. Equally important, the benefit needs to be vague so it has broad appeal. As it becomes specific, it begins to eliminate consumers from consideration. It should act like a huge funnel that grabs the consumer and shoots them to the Attribute driver that closes the deal.

Also remember the proximity of these elements. If you locate them together on a package or in a commercial message, they will perform for you. If you spread them around the package or throughout the commercial, you will lose. I have had all this verified by observing research. This is very real. I work with the brightest marketing minds on the planet and even they often miss this.

Here’s a challenge. Now that you have read this, go check your sales message to see if you are conforming. My experience is that very few, less than 10%, of the sales messages I encounter daily, even contain a Benefit. Let alone use it in a powerful way.


Keith Chambers

Keynote Marketing Speaker
Creative Marketing Consultant
(310) 473-0010
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