It’s rare, as marketers, that we’re given a “slow pitch” that is easy to knock out of the park…
Maybe you know the kind I’m talking about. Where there’s an urgent problem your market faces, and wants a solution to. But there’s no viable solution on the market. Until the product you have to sell comes along. And you have the opportunity to put together the marketing to launch it.
Like I said, rare.
Most of the time, it’s the other way around. Either the problem isn’t so pressing of a problem. Or the solution is a “me too” entrant into a crowded marketplace.
Take the investing industry, for example. Most of my client work these days is selling investment newsletters. There’s an over-abundance of investing information published every single day. Nobody is waking up in the middle of the night thinking, “I need another investment newsletter!” The problem is clear: we all want more money. The challenge comes in the fact that investment information buyers have seen and tried every potential solution under the sun. And either they’re happy with what they’re doing, or nothing has worked. We’re selling against apathy or distrust.
Or consider the ultra-durable leather bag business. There’s no problem that Saddleback Leather bags solve, that you can’t solve for a fraction of the price elsewhere. Even though they argue that their bags will last 100 years (and then some), I have a backpack that’s a good 10 years old and is still capable of doing all the holding and carrying that bag needs to do. And it didn’t cost 1/10th of a what a Saddleback Leather bag will cost. Sure, there aren’t 100 solutions that compete with Saddleback when it comes to ultra-durable leather bags. But without a pressing problem to solve, there’s probably a reason.
The question: What do you do when it comes to the hard sales?
That is, when a problem has already been solved, or when there’s an entire market of solutions floating around out there that you’re up against.
I had a similar question posed to me today by Chris Wright, a former copywriting coaching client of mine, from when I offered that service. (Now I just refer people to David Garfinkel.)
And while I’m not going to go into his specific market, and his specific problem, I was able to identify some ideas that I think will be valuable to you as well.
This ties back into the “Category” discussion from yesterday, by the way…
In that book, they laid out a process for solving this challenge in a very effective way. Namely, you don’t try to offer a better solution. You offer a different solution. You come at the problem in a new way. You tackle it from a new perspective. And you carve out a new category alongside the old one (that sometimes will swallow the old category, sometimes not).
Take Airbnb for example. They didn’t try to take on Marriott, Hilton, and the rest of the hotel industry. They created a social sharing platform to allow one person with a space to crash to rent it out to someone who could use that space. They kept growing from there, and today there are more rooms booked by Airbnb than any hotel chain. Is there overlap? Yes. But they didn’t go after the obvious “alternative to a hotel” route, at least not out of the gate.
Uber is another great example. One day, in San Francisco, someone couldn’t get a cab. And they had the passing thought that someone should add a few more cabs to the local taxi fleet. The same day, the founders of Uber said, “Someone should build an iPhone app that lets you ask the internet for a ride, and anyone who is able could come pick you up, instead of waiting for taxis.” The rest, as they say, is history.
What about Saddleback Leather? They weren’t trying to be just another bag company. The need for a bag to carry things is a problem that’s long been solved. Dave, the founder, just wanted a better leather bag. One his grandkids would fight over when he was dead. He had one made, and other people liked it. So he had a few more made. And a few more. And pretty soon he’d defined a whole new category of ultra-durable leather goods.
The secret? Story…
This sure sounds self-serving. But if you’d taken my Story Selling Master Class last year, you would’ve had the secret already in your hands.
Because the true secret (and the one given as the secret of Category Kings in Play Bigger), is telling a good story.
You see, a good story takes an old problem and makes it new, it takes a seemingly undifferentiated solution and makes it unique.
Let’s look at the problem side of the ledger. And I’ll go with another example: olive oil.
Now, I just did a little bit of research, and found a BRAND NEW piece of Gary Bencivenga sales copy. At least, one that I’ve never seen before. And I’ve scoured high and low.
It’s for his retirement business, The Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club.
Wanna see it? Here’s the link!
Olive oil is a problem that’s most definitely been solved. There are rows of both low-end and high-end olive oil on most grocers’ shelves. Most people are relatively happy with their olive oil options.
But, did you know that Italian police just arrested 33 Mafia suspects charged with counterfeiting olive oil?! It’s been described as a “massive olive oil fraud” — and the olive oil bottle you have in your kitchen right now might be tainted.
In fact, this is just the beginning of why the olive oil you have sitting on your shelf our counter right now is likely tainted — even if it’s “pure.”
And in fact, if you’re using anything besides authentic olive oil, you might not be getting the health benefits you’ve been promised — and you could even be making yourself sick, eating a “health food” your doctor recommends!
Read much of the copy on that site, and you will feel ashamed you’ve been treating yourself so poorly with the olive oil you consume.
And you said you didn’t have an olive oil problem.
With his marketing, product choice, and company creation, Gary defined a new category of “fresh-pressed olive oil.” And he dominates it.
The secret: Find the problem behind the problem…
Most markets we’re familiar with solve a very superficial problem. Healthy cooking oil: buy olive oil.
But behind that, there’s other problems. Problems with the current industry. Problems with the current product quality. Problems with the standards of quality.
And that’s before you go deep.
If you look at the Dilts Logical Levels, a lot of the standard problems that are solved are on the level of environment, behavior, and capability. These are relatively superficial problems to solve.
But if you go deeper, you get into solving problems such as values and beliefs conflicts, or identity mismatches.
So, for example, if you consider yourself a foodie and you buy pretty good olive oil, but you discover that there are better options in fresh-pressed, you may upgrade to Gary B’s club just to have the best.
Or if you’re someone who cares about the bags you use and value quality that can literally last a lifetime, you’ll pay more for a Saddleback.
In these cases, the personality and story matter more than ever.
One last example. There had been other attempts at hybrid and electric cars before the Prius became the category’s first breakthrough. They didn’t work. Why? A lot of reasons — not the least of which is that Toyota made the Prius affectionately, distinctively ugly (like the VW bug before it). While all other “eco” cars tried to blend in, the Prius stood out. Which led to eco-conscious buyers paying its premium price in droves, so they could be seen for their values, beliefs, and sense of eco-identity.
This conversation could go on for days, but it’s time to hit publish!
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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