Hey Rainmaker, today’s a tight day so I’m picking a topic I can riff on quickly and deliver a ton of value…
It’s about physical products, services, and the clarity of your offer.
I’ve spent most of my time in the publishing business. A lot of that time, selling products that don’t yet exist.
At first blush, this may not sound accurate. For example, when I’m selling a newsletter or stock recommendation service that’s been active for a couple years, you might say, “But Roy, that newsletter has been around for a couple years. It exists.” But that’s not totally true. Because when someone is buying a newsletter (especially a stock-picking newsletter), they’re not buying the back issues. They’re buying the ones that are going to be written in the coming months.
Likewise with selling myself. When I sell copywriting and consulting services, the clients are paying in advance for something that doesn’t exist yet. At some point, they’re going to get words on a page, or a phone call, or something like that. But when they buy, they’re buying nothing.
So I’ve spent most of my time selling things that don’t exist when the customer buys them.
That’s actually quite tricky.
You’re “Selling the Invisible,” as Harry Beckwith so elegantly phrased it.
Why is selling something that doesn’t exist yet — a service, especially — so much more difficult than physical products?
In short, because with a physical product, the customer is getting something tangible.
They’re getting something they can feel, touch, taste, smell, hear, and experience, in person.
It’s easy to assign value to this. It’s easy to look at something like a car, and say, “That hunk of metal and plastic and fabric and rubber has value.”
Now, how much value it has may be debatable. But even a broken down jalopy of a car is perceived to have value, because it’s a pile of tangible stuff.
Being a good sales person, of course, helps with selling physical products. Whether you’re talking creating copy, or selling in person.
I don’t want to minimize the value of solid sales skills, no matter what it is you’re selling.
But ultimately, if you put a lot full of cars in front of someone, and they’re in the market for a car, you’re likely to get the sale. You can help steer the buying process, or you can screw it up, but you’re not going to have to work hard for it.
Selling services and other “invisible” stuff requires something different…
To sell a service that doesn’t exist yet, a published product that hasn’t been created, or other similar items requires a lot more sales chops.
First, you don’t have a tangible item to point to. So you have to make the service tangible. You have to develop a clear offer around the service, so it becomes something that the prospect can wrap their mind around.
The worst thing you can do with a service is leave it vague and amorphous. The best thing you can do is turn it into a “product” in as real a sense of the word as possible.
Second, you have to convince the prospect that the service actually exists, even though it doesn’t yet.
The solution to this is really the same as the first. By developing a clear offer, a structure around which your service is based, your clients feel like they’re actually buying something, not nothing.
How investment newsletters are made to feel “real…”
I use investment newsletters as an example because I’ve spent so much time in that business, but there are many other products that are treated this way — especially throughout the publishing industry.
Frequently today, investment newsletters are NOT sold as the primary product, even though they are the primary deliverable.
For most promotions that I and other top copywriters write for investment newsletters, we actually “sell” one or more special reports, and say that you get the newsletter as part of the deal.
So for example, in the case of a single stock promotion that outlines the investment case for one stock, 80% of the letter may go into this stock’s story and why it makes a compelling investment. Many details are given, important ones (including the name of the company and stock ticker symbol) are left out.
The idea of the promotion is to whip the reader/viewer into a fervor over this investment story, as one of the most compelling opportunities to invest their money today.
And when they take us up on their offer, they will get a report outlining all the details of this stock, including the company name, ticker symbol, and specific recommendation for how to invest in it.
This is often positioned as “free” when the prospect agrees to take a risk-free, no-obligation trial of the newsletter itself, which will contain regular similarly-compelling recommendations.
That is, they’re going to put down the $49, or $99, or $999 subscription fee for the newsletter today. They will get immediate access to this special report outlining this one investment recommendation. They will also get 30, or 60, or 90, or 365 days to experience the newsletter subscription. And if they don’t want to continue the newsletter, they can get a prompt and courteous full refund within the “trial” period.
They didn’t necessarily buy for the newsletter itself. Rather, they bought for that one stock report that they had been introduced to in the promotion.
Likewise for other promotions that may focus on a market trend, rather than the newsletter itself. There is almost always a packaged version of a set of investment advice, usually as a “special report,” that is the immediate deliverable and what is tied to the big idea of the promotion and sold. This initial deliverable is what gets folks in through the door, with the subscription being a part of getting that first thing.
While the monthly newsletters, subscriber websites, current portfolio, and a number of other aspects of these investment newsletter services help it feel tangible, it’s very hard to make the sale on these items alone. It’s almost always one clear, compelling offer for a special report or other immediately-actionable piece of information that moves prospects to become customers.
That’s how these intangible, invisible, “nothing” services are made to feel like something.
Here’s how to apply this in your business…
If you sell services, or something that is not really “created” until after the purchase… Whether that’s published products and training, copywriting, coaching, consulting, whatever…
It’s critically important that you find a way to make it as tangible as possible.
It’s critical that you turn it into something that feels real, even when it’s not yet.
And perhaps — no matter what it is — take a cue from the investment newsletter business. Find a way to use information as part of the sale.
The most scalable way that will feed a constant stream of potential clients to you — if you do it right — is to package your services up in a knowledge product that people buy before they hire you. This is a DIY version of your expertise. Ideally, they could buy the knowledge product, and do what you do themselves.
Some will, but your really good clients won’t. They will buy that, figure out that you know what you’re doing, and then hire you to do it because they know you’ll pull it off way better than they could.
Plus, you will be selling this knowledge product, and have an additional income stream from your expertise.
At the very least, you want to find a way to package your service so it feels more like a product than a service.
For example, my clients don’t really buy “copywriting” from me. Ultimately, they’re buying the promise of results. But they way those results are delivered is through a long-form sales letter, an order form, supporting emails and other copy, and the strategy to deploy it all in the most effective, sales-generating way possible.
Sometimes, the elements change. But for the most part, the client knows what I offer and what they’re buying. It’s clear, and for the right clients, compelling.
That’s what you need to do for your services offer — borrowing from the physical products world — to make it as easy as possible to sell.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets