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Tell Me What Hurts

Posted By: Randy GageMay 31, 2014

No matter what kind of business you’re in – sales and marketing (and to a lesser extent, your branding) are the engines that drive it.  Every entrepreneur has to at least be cognizant of what good marketing is and isn’t.  Yet it’s alarming how many of them are completely ignorant of the subject, fobbing it off on low-level marketing execs or an outside ad agency, hoping for the best. 

The amount of dull, ineffective and just plain ridiculous advertising out there is mind-numbing.  Even worse, the biggest offenders are some of the largest brands in the world.  You would think with huge creative teams and even bigger budgets, they’d be delivering a compelling, benefit-centered message, targeted to their best prospects.  But if I have learned one universal truth about advertising, it is this:

The bigger the budget, the more stupid shit will be green lighted.

A perfect example of this is beer advertising.  A massive market, with billions of dollars spent in this category.  Which means you’ll see some of the most insipid, off-target and downright wasteful advertising anywhere. (Although you have to give Anheuser-Busch creative points for promoting themselves as “America’s local brewery,” since the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate is actually owned by Belgian company InBev.)

We don’t care where the beer was brewed nor do we want to scan a code to see who was working on the assembly line the day it was bottled.  And if your unique selling proposition is the width of the hole in the top of the can – you probably should go back to the well and try again. Likewise if you think the most exciting thing about your beer is that I can punch an extra hole in the can with a can opener so the beer flows faster.

Can you imagine sitting in on the meeting where the big idea was to shape the can like a keg? How many beer drinkers do you think were lying awake at night, wishing their beer had a can that changed color to tell them if it is cold?  All of these multi-million-dollar campaigns miss the mark on the two most basic premises of all successful marketing:

1)   Don’t talk about the features of your product, tell me about the benefits for me, the prospect.

2)   Have a big idea.

Let’s look at them both in turn:

It’s just human nature that when we’re asked to market something, we default to listing the features of it.  If I give you a widget to sell, it seems logical to describe its color, size, and the materials it’s made of.  But no one really cares about the features of your drill bit; they just want a hole in their wall.

You have to go the next step and think about exactly what the widget will do for the prospect: the amazing joy it will bring her when she gets it, or the cataclysmic consequences she will suffer if she doesn’t get it.

The big idea should be the thing that grabs attention, attracts the tribe or speaks directly to the prospect, but in the context of the benefit to her.

It should be the mechanism in the copy platform that pulls things together, creates the story arc, and pulls the prospect through the message to reach the desired conclusion.

It’s great if you have Kevin Durant in your Sprint commercial.  But with no big idea, it’s just him talking to a goofy kid in a tree house dream sequence, and has no relation to the message of the campaign.  It’s almost as stupid the millions of dollars the beef jerky company is spending on their nonsensical “messing with Sasquatch” commercials.

The fact your car has a push button start is not a big idea to base a campaign on.  Neither is the fact that your minivan has a foot-activated hatch.  These hint at potential benefits, but they’re still just minor features and certainly not important enough to base entire campaigns on, which several automakers have done.

Going back to Sprint, they have some of the craziest and questionable advertisements as any major brand.  The first commercial with James Earl Jones and Malcolm McDowell dramatizing text messages was clever and showed some potential.  But then they got downright creepy.  And creepy is probably too kind a word to describe their current “framliy” campaign featuring a family with a French-speaking daughter, and a father played by a gerbil in a fishbowl with a Yiddish accent.  WTF!  What I wouldn’t have given to be in that creative meeting and hear the logic behind that.

Sometimes the big idea is little…

I was working out in my gym the other day when I noticed one of the physical therapists there had set up his massage table in the middle of the gym, and leaned a whiteboard against it, where he had written simply:

Tell Me What Hurts

How’s that for intriguing the prospect, grabbing attention, and creating a compelling headline?  Turns out his name is Ryan and he specializes in Assisted Myofascial Release (AMR).  I asked what it could do for my herniated disc, hoping to prolong my legendary (in my own mind at least) softball career.  Ryan suggested he might be able to release some tension around the disc that was causing pain to radiate down my legs and offered to test some techniques on me.  He did a ten-minute treatment, after which I immediately signed up for a series of five sessions at $95 each.

You may be thinking that Ryan’s whiteboard and free sample idea won’t scale for a big business like yours.  But I bet with a little critical thinking you could find a way to adapt something similar.  (And I’ll wager Ryan booked more real business as a result of his zero-cost, two-hour campaign than Sprint booked with $5 million worth of their talking gerbil commercials.)  Even if you can’t replicate what Ryan did, you can build your marketing around a prospect-centered, benefit-driven platform.  And you can have a big idea or theme that pulls everything together.

Sprint is working in an expanding market they have tens of millions of dollars to piss away .  You probably don’t have that luxury.  Your marketing has to speak to your prospect and explain exactly how your product or service will benefit her.  It should reach out to her and simply say, “tell me what hurts.”

-RG

Randy Gage is the author of nine international bestsellers on success, including, Risky Is the New Safe.  He’s currently on sabbatical, writing his next book, but posts occasionally here.  If you find these postcards helpful, please share them.

20 comments on “Tell Me What Hurts”

  1. Brilliant article Randy, reminds me of the famous quote by Leonardo da Vinci - "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

  2. Excellent post Randy with the great example of the white board, simplicity and laser focus on the customer, not the widget. It does boggle the mind what money "creative" types are trying to use to say something they feel is important will be important to anyone.

  3. So often I fall into the trap of getting into a long, drawn out, convoluted sales process with people, not just professionally, but in personal situations as well.  This post does a great job of basically saying, "Cut all the BS and get to the point."  That's a great starting point for a sales strategy in any line of work.  And I find it funny that in so many different environments, when working with customers or prospects, we often start a conversation by asking, "What can I do for you?"  Yet that isn't the focus throughout the rest of the conversation - it switches to remembering sales tactics or techniques, or thinking about various parts of our sales process and whether or not we're doing them "correctly."  When really all we have to do is just figure out for our target market, or for a particular individual, the proper way of answering that question, so we can say, "THIS is what I can do for you."  Brilliant post Randy, and content that is so often forgotten in day to day life.

  4. Great blog Randy. Got a lot of laugh's reading it. I would not claim to be an expert marketer but I do agree that high level marketing has gotten, freakish... I still think that most use the foundation of bring someone from a painful state and put them into a pleasurable one. Branding, in my opinion, would be most effective by using a branding iron on whatever chosen body part and film it for youtube. Can't imagine anyone forgetting that. Otherwise, I suggest that sales and marketing effectively must include integrity, giving not to get but giving to help someone else grow and develop from the content. I have followed you for many years online, not because I am bored, but because you are genuine, a man of integrity who speaks his truth and delivers more than expected and in doing so, supports others in the process of their chosen destiny.

  5. RG, this spoke to me so much! In reference to one of life's growth challenges "negative mental programming".
    I learned of an insight this evening, combined with the content from this blogpost to give me "leverage"
    on presenting a major peeve of mine; common to all people ~ and an effective solution.
    It's a prosperity calling!
    So cool to connect more dots ~ P.H. YAY! #VictoryISCloser

  6. I agree with you again, but I learned to be completely honest in selling
    I'm not quite Liars

  7. RG, all I do is sell a dream through my blog, squeeze page and social sites. Me, all over the world. My blog SCREAMS dream, and can't complain with the results 😉 Go a bit beyond benefits even, live a dream, tell that story, and your marketing will be built on some serious legs. Your dream life drew me to you dude. Thanks!

  8. Nowadays people are overloaded by dull , ridiculous and ineffective
    advertisings information .Because
    of this they become indifferent and
    mind-numbing to
    the most of the advertisings.
    When someone wants to make effective advertising which
    will catch
    the attentionof
    the potential buyer, hehas to
    display the benefits in his product
    which
    will do for him

  9. Great article. However, I love the Kevin Durant commercial and its dreamlike inconsistencies!

  10. Yes,Randy,Thanks for a good publication!
    I totally agree with you, just want to add that a good, even a brilliant idea, you need to convey the right advertising agency! And if you say another: "The idea is to shoot at ten!"

  11. A great reminder Randy, thanks. I ditched my feature-based sales presentation a little while back and now speak completely off the cuff about the pains we solve. I'm more passionate and although I made good sales both ways, I sense that my clients are more more engaged now.

  12. Well, i can clearly say - This is the sharp one. So, of course your advertisement should be short, but maximally INFORMATIVE. That means, do not attach long texts to the brochure about your product.
    What consumers really want to know - FEATURES of the product, without less words. IMHO
    To be continued..... 🙂

  13. @Sanzhar I think you're right, but with the twist that Randy provides: do present the *features* of your product or service, but make sure it relates to the *benefits* that the prospect would experience in his or her life by becoming a customer.
    Or say you're presenting a business opportunity to a friend. You might tell him that the products are protected by patents (feature). But don't stop there, lead your friend further into understanding. Continue to explain that it means that the product can't be copied by competitors (advantage) and that it means you will have a much greater prospect of earning money now and many years into the future (benefit).

    The steps between feature, advantage and benefit are subtle, but the real impact is when you reach the benefits. Basically that answers the ultimate question that your prospect has: what's in it for ME?

  14. Each time I read something you've written my team grows.  Practical application.  Thanks Randy for helping me reach the top... I have one more level and I'm looking for the missing piece today.

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  • 20 comments on “Tell Me What Hurts”

    1. Brilliant article Randy, reminds me of the famous quote by Leonardo da Vinci - "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

    2. Excellent post Randy with the great example of the white board, simplicity and laser focus on the customer, not the widget. It does boggle the mind what money "creative" types are trying to use to say something they feel is important will be important to anyone.

    3. So often I fall into the trap of getting into a long, drawn out, convoluted sales process with people, not just professionally, but in personal situations as well.  This post does a great job of basically saying, "Cut all the BS and get to the point."  That's a great starting point for a sales strategy in any line of work.  And I find it funny that in so many different environments, when working with customers or prospects, we often start a conversation by asking, "What can I do for you?"  Yet that isn't the focus throughout the rest of the conversation - it switches to remembering sales tactics or techniques, or thinking about various parts of our sales process and whether or not we're doing them "correctly."  When really all we have to do is just figure out for our target market, or for a particular individual, the proper way of answering that question, so we can say, "THIS is what I can do for you."  Brilliant post Randy, and content that is so often forgotten in day to day life.

    4. Great blog Randy. Got a lot of laugh's reading it. I would not claim to be an expert marketer but I do agree that high level marketing has gotten, freakish... I still think that most use the foundation of bring someone from a painful state and put them into a pleasurable one. Branding, in my opinion, would be most effective by using a branding iron on whatever chosen body part and film it for youtube. Can't imagine anyone forgetting that. Otherwise, I suggest that sales and marketing effectively must include integrity, giving not to get but giving to help someone else grow and develop from the content. I have followed you for many years online, not because I am bored, but because you are genuine, a man of integrity who speaks his truth and delivers more than expected and in doing so, supports others in the process of their chosen destiny.

    5. RG, this spoke to me so much! In reference to one of life's growth challenges "negative mental programming".
      I learned of an insight this evening, combined with the content from this blogpost to give me "leverage"
      on presenting a major peeve of mine; common to all people ~ and an effective solution.
      It's a prosperity calling!
      So cool to connect more dots ~ P.H. YAY! #VictoryISCloser

    6. I agree with you again, but I learned to be completely honest in selling
      I'm not quite Liars

    7. RG, all I do is sell a dream through my blog, squeeze page and social sites. Me, all over the world. My blog SCREAMS dream, and can't complain with the results 😉 Go a bit beyond benefits even, live a dream, tell that story, and your marketing will be built on some serious legs. Your dream life drew me to you dude. Thanks!

    8. Nowadays people are overloaded by dull , ridiculous and ineffective
      advertisings information .Because
      of this they become indifferent and
      mind-numbing to
      the most of the advertisings.
      When someone wants to make effective advertising which
      will catch
      the attentionof
      the potential buyer, hehas to
      display the benefits in his product
      which
      will do for him

    9. Great article. However, I love the Kevin Durant commercial and its dreamlike inconsistencies!

    10. Yes,Randy,Thanks for a good publication!
      I totally agree with you, just want to add that a good, even a brilliant idea, you need to convey the right advertising agency! And if you say another: "The idea is to shoot at ten!"

    11. A great reminder Randy, thanks. I ditched my feature-based sales presentation a little while back and now speak completely off the cuff about the pains we solve. I'm more passionate and although I made good sales both ways, I sense that my clients are more more engaged now.

    12. Well, i can clearly say - This is the sharp one. So, of course your advertisement should be short, but maximally INFORMATIVE. That means, do not attach long texts to the brochure about your product.
      What consumers really want to know - FEATURES of the product, without less words. IMHO
      To be continued..... 🙂

    13. @Sanzhar I think you're right, but with the twist that Randy provides: do present the *features* of your product or service, but make sure it relates to the *benefits* that the prospect would experience in his or her life by becoming a customer.
      Or say you're presenting a business opportunity to a friend. You might tell him that the products are protected by patents (feature). But don't stop there, lead your friend further into understanding. Continue to explain that it means that the product can't be copied by competitors (advantage) and that it means you will have a much greater prospect of earning money now and many years into the future (benefit).

      The steps between feature, advantage and benefit are subtle, but the real impact is when you reach the benefits. Basically that answers the ultimate question that your prospect has: what's in it for ME?

    14. Each time I read something you've written my team grows.  Practical application.  Thanks Randy for helping me reach the top... I have one more level and I'm looking for the missing piece today.

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