Tag Archives: expert

Use the bad points to sell the product

In my high school English class, I learned how to write (as we call it here) bullshit. I can now, reliably and without much effort, spout off minutes or pages of words with almost no meaning at all. It’s a very useful skill, and I’ve used it often, especially in graduate-level classes when I realized that my professor wasn’t reading our papers anyway.

But it was in my high school history class that I learned how to write. That is, how to write analytically, clearly, and persuasively. And one of the lessons I remember best was from Dr. Carter in sophomore or junior year. He insisted that, when we write a persuasive essay, that we include all of the counterarguments that would seem to defeat our main thesis.

Confusion. Outrage. (How dare this doctoral professor tell us 15-year-olds that our way of writing was wrong?)

Doing so, he said, provides two benefits:

    Credibility No one believes that your argument is clear-cut and that there’s only one side. (If it was, why would you have to write an essay to persuade people of it?) So if you try to claim that there are no counterarguments, all you do is convince people that you’re lying, or ignorant, or both. By including the counterarguments, you establish that you are an intelligent and thoughtful person who is aware of the larger picture.

    Rebuttal If you’ve selected your thesis wisely (and assuming that you are an intelligent and thoughtful person who is aware of the larger picture), then you must be aware of the potential counterarguments, and there must be some reason that you believe your thesis in spite of them. By including the counterarguments in your essay, you have the opportunity to explain those reasons.

Using counterarguments to boost sales

Since sales is simply a matter of persuasion, your sales and marketing methods can use the same technique. You know all the reasons someone might hesitate to buy your product; include them and explain why customers should buy anyway. Doing so reassures your customers that you’re being honest (sales copy claiming that a product is perfect is automatically dishonest), and helps them work through any objections they may have.

    Example: Board Games When I worked at a board game store, I would mention the downsides of any given game to a customer that was considering buying it; and if they didn’t ask, I would look for a way to work it into the conversation.

      Me: Now is it normally just the two of you, or will you usually have others to play with you?
      Customer: No, we have two boys, 13 and 16
      Me: Oh, OK. In that case, it’s great. Bohnanza sucks with just two players, but it’s awesome with three or more.

    Or, to a customer looking at Descent:

      Me: Now the downside to any Fantasy Flight Game is that it’s going to take you a couple of hours the first time to learn how to set it up and play it. But once you’ve gotten through that, you can play it forever and never get tired of it, because it will be new and different every time you play.

Your product isn’t for everyone

Someone in my Twitter feed (and I’m so sorry that I don’t remember who!) recently said “You can’t make a product that anyone will love without making a product that someone will hate.”

Fantasy Flight Games are a good example of this: they have a very devoted following, and I know several people who buy everything they put out. They’re the people who don’t mind taking a few hours to read through a rulebook and learn how to play. They’re the people who hate hate HATE to have any element of a game repeat ever. And they are more than enough to keep FFG in business. But they are less than 5% of the population.

Odds are good that your product has downsides. Your target market doesn’t care.

As long as they don’t know what the downsides are, they’ll be too scared to buy. But if you tell them what your product’s weak points are, many of them will say, “Oh, is that all?” and hand over the money.

Summary and Action Steps

Telling your customers about your products’ downsides can make them feel a lot more comfortable about buying from you.

What are the bad points of your product? In what situations do you feel that your product is worth buying anyway? Why?

Are the people in your identified target market in at least one of those situations? If not, how can you change your product or your target market to bring them into alignment?

This article was cross-posted at my business blog, NeoAgora Marketing, where you can find more information on marketing if you’re interested.

Success Isn’t Instantaneous

Taking a big step towards your dreams can be is really, really scary. You like the idea of success, but taking a step that might actually bring about success? No, that’s just terrifying. Trust me, I’ve been there. I was there when I started this blog. I was there when I got as many visits in 1 day as I used to get in a month (Thanks @daveseah!). I was there this last week, when I decided to launch an info product on how to design a marketing plan.

I have good news for your lizard brain — success doesn’t come like it does in a Disney movie. You may well have a Tipping Point. But what comes after weeks or months or years of hard work and dedication… is more hard work. Like last week, when I decided to launch my info product. I wavered back and forth and paced around the room and cried (yes, literally) before I went ahead and took action. I registered a domain name, set up the website, and….

realized that I have no idea how to use paid internet advertising. I have an adwords campaign. Setting one up is as easy as they claim. Setting up a good or effective campaign… that’s something else entirely. My results to date have been:

  • 670,454 impressions, resulting in 552 clicks, resulting in 3 orders… all from countries I can’t yet ship to. [campaign corrected to show ads only in countries I can ship to]

  • 17 impressions, 0 clicks [modified campaign according to google’s advice]
  • 5 impressions, 0 clicks [started over. Actually read help files]
  • 26 impressions, 0 clicks
  • 511 impressions, 0 clicks (2000% improvement!)

I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. And as long as my campaign sucks enough, it doesn’t cost me anything. And the really good news is that my lizard brain has determined that this is no threat, so it’s curled up and gone to sleep. By the time the incremental success catches up and turns into actual success, it will be too late.

So whatever you’ve been thinking about doing — it’s not as scary as you think. It probably won’t work anyway. So go ahead and try it.

Dangerous or Gutsy?

You and some friends are on a tour in the African savanna, enjoying the scenery and the wildlife, when an angry rhinoceros charges the vehicle. There’s a rifle on the seat next to you with enough power to stop the rhino. Do you

    a) Scream and cower in terror?
    b) Grab the rifle, take aim, and shoot?

Please note that this is a scary situation. Sitting up straight, taking careful aim, and shooting steadily will require a lot of courage. It’s a gutsy thing to do.

But it’s also the safest thing to do. If you miss, you’re no worse off than if you hadn’t tried, so there’s no downside risk. If you hit, you’re a lot better off than if you hadn’t tried, so there’s a lot of potential upside. You’re clearly better off doing the gutsy thing.

And… how does this relate to business?

We tend to associate “gutsy” stuff with “dangerous” stuff. And sometimes that’s true: going over Niagara Falls in a barrel requires guts and is dangerous. But sometimes, as in the rhinoceros example above, the “gutsy” decision is also the least dangerous decision.

And that happens in business sometimes, too. Buying enough factory capacity that you can actually meet demand, shipping a product you know isn’t quite as good as you’d like, or starting a blog in your free time… all of these take courage, but are, objectively, the best, smartest, safest decision.

Recognizing which ideas are dangerous, and which are gutsy-but-good, is one of the most important skills you can develop.

Resources for Further Reading
Intelligent Risk Taking
Risk Analysis

Learning From Your Competitors

In my last article, I talked about why judging your success by what your competitors have done is stupid. But does that mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to what your competitors are doing?

Not at all — that’s a good way to go out of business. It only means that you shouldn’t decide how well you did based on what your competitors did — your measurements of success should be internal, based on things you care about achieving. Competitor analysis is a terrible way to judge success… but a great way to help you decide what to do.

What you can learn from studying your competition

  • What your customers like
  • What your customers don’t like
  • How much (approximately) your customers are willing to pay
  • New products/services you can offer to your customers
  • What combination of products/services your customers are most likely interested in
  • What promotional methods are most likely to be effective
  • Industry trends
  • Industry standards

Look at what your competitors are doing, so that you can decide what you need to do in response– whether that’s copy it, offer an opposing product, or ignore it — just don’t use them as a standard of success.

Resources for Further Reading
The Problem With Competitive Metrics

The Problem with Competitive Metrics

I’ve I’ve mentioned previously my MBA class this term is centered around an online simulation which I’ve mentally dubbed “Sim Startup” (although it has no affiliation with The Sims or Sim City.) The simulation is divided into 6 quarters, during which our executive team must make decisions about product, manufacturing, advertising and so on, and then see how we do in the marketplace. The class is divided into four such teams so that we have competitors and our hypothetical customers have more choices.

Last quarter, my team achieved the following:

  • Revenue increased by $2.9 million
  • Operating profit increased by $400,000
  • Our products were rated 5-8 points higher by consumers
  • Our ads were rated up to 10 points higher by review boards
  • We matched manufacturing to demand so that we neither sold out nor had too much excess inventory.

Not bad, eh? But our team is depressed, because we’re now in 4th place among the competing teams instead of 2nd.

Does it matter?

There are some advantages to looking at your competition. But it doesn’t make sense to judge “success” based on whether you did better or worse than other businesses. Did you go into business because you wanted to do better than existing companies? Did you quit your job and take on the risks of being an entrepreneur because you wanted to beat the pants off that guy down the road? I’m guessing not.

The purpose of metrics is to help you achieve your objectives. So the metrics you use should be based on what you want to achieve. Did you start freelancing to get more money? Then measure how much money you made compared to last year. Did you become your own boss so that you’d have more flexible hours? Measure how many of your kids’ soccer games you missed. Did you open a store so you could share the joy of your hobby with others? Measure how many of your customers have taken up that hobby. What your competitors accomplished is not relevant to your goals.

Don’t count the other guy’s money.