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Make Your Benefits Clear
by Michel Fortin
The process to which is often referred as "institutional" or image-based marketing can be extremely seductive, particularly to the small businessperson since it is intoxicatingly flattering to the ego. Small businesses often attempt to copy their larger corporate nemeses in an effort to create strong brands through relatively smaller marketing budgets. Such a tactic unfortunately requires a long period of time and repetitive advertising in order for it to work.
On the other hand, when a business brags itself as being a better company with a better product at a better price, it usually winds up with very poor, long term results. If a statement is made wherein the author proclaims that his company or product is number one in the marketplace, such a statement will all but make that information more suspect. Even though there is evidence to substantiate that claim, there will no doubt be a clear lack of credibility.
In this day and age where consumers are more educated and more sophisticated than ever before, claims of any kind can never be made without them somehow being criticized or at least questioned. Therefore, a better approach is through positioning -- the concept of effectively anchoring a product or service, in the mind of prospects, above the competition.
Implication, Not Specification
Any claim, even if backed up with statistics or surveys, is seldom believable. An old mentor of mine once said, "Implication is remarkably more powerful than specification." In other words, if you specify that you're the best, you'll be questioned. But if your marketing implies that you are, without stating it outright, you will not only get the message across but you will also anchor that message (and position it) more effectively in the minds of your target market.
For instance, when Pepsi doing their famous taste tests in the 80's, Coke thought that a newer, better-tasting Coke would beat Pepsi -- hence, the introduction of the "New Coke." But where is the New Coke today? Not only did Coke reintroduce the older version under the banner "Classic Coke," but the New Coke has also disappeared from the grocery store isles.
Specify Benefits to Imply Superiority
Coke wasn't the only culprit. Pepsi made a similar mistake with its clear brand in the early 90's. Of course, during the last decade there was a fad with clear consumables. Clear soaps, clear deodorants, clear dishwashing liquids, clear sodas, and of course clear foods were stocking up shelves. At first, they were selling quite well. "But what Pepsi didn't count on was the 'curiosity factor' in its research," says Jack Trout in his book "The New Positioning."
In essence, there is no clear benefit in a clear product over its darker version. People are astonishingly attracted to benefits, whether consciously or subconsciously. And clear colas were hip because the initial perception was that "clearer" meant "better," "safer," or "healthier." It was this perception of more benefits that drove their initial success.
However, once the market realized that this was not true in that clear sodas have just as many calories as their darker counterparts, they were dropped. The only clear consumable that stood the test of time was the clear deodorant. Why? The clear deodorant prospered because people can't stand white, powdery residue on their clothes (and it is terribly inconvenient to wait for the deodorant to dry). Thus, clear deodorant has a clear benefit.
Position with Benefits
Having an impressive portfolio, including a slick ad campaign, a superior product or service, or a number one company, will not work for you in the long run -- unless you have a million dollar ad budget with money to invest in repetitious commercials. If you run a business or sell a product or service, make sure that when you position it in the marketplace you do so by marketing its main, core benefit or benefits -- not its features, superiority, or image.
A benefit that is clear, practical, and direct will, in your promotional efforts, naturally convey a sense of superiority -- without having to state it outright. In short, make your benefits clear.
About the Author
Michel Fortin is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the "Internet Marketing Chronicles" ezine delivered weekly to 90,000 subscribers -- subscribe free at http://SuccessDoctor.com/IMC/.
Tags: Sales and Marketing