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Selling How vs. Selling What
By Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.

Remember Marketing 101? Primary demand means demand for the category of product; secondary demand means demand for your brand within the product line. When an avocado growers' association publishes recipes for guacamole, they're promoting primary. When they tell you that California grows better avocados than Florida, they're promoting secondary demand.

Not selling avocados? Okay, let's imagine you're a life coach. Chances are your clients have already decided to hire a coach. They won't be swayed by promises to "turn your life around" or "take you to the next level." Everyone promises those benefits. They want to know, "How are you unique?"

Now suppose you are offering a new type of service or trying to reach a market that will not be familiar with what you offer. New customers need to be sold on benefits. They ask, "What?" Experienced customers recognize what you do. They ask, "How?"

Here's a more prosaic example. When I first bought a VCR, I asked, "Why do I need one of those?" I learned that a VCR would let me watch a program that was broadcast while I was away from home. I learned I could watch at my own pace, taking time to rewind and fast-forwarding through the slow parts or the commercials. Those were indeed benefits worth seeking.

Last time I bought a VCR I knew a lot more. I wanted to compare features. When the clerk said, "This model will allow youŠ" I asked, "How? What will I have to do to achieve that result?" If the salesperson had said, "Here's how our store defines a VCR," I would have (pardon the pun) tuned out.

Your clients react in a similar way. They don't want to wade through a whole page of, "What is coaching (or graphic design, pet-sitting, or lawn care)?" They are looking for features: personality, education, credibility. They learn about these features through your brochure, website and/or in-person contacts.

Therefore, if you are competing against others who offer the same product or service, you sell difference. Your writing should communicate your personality -- your "voice."

Alternatively, you can create a truly unique product or service. Famed horse trainer Monty Roberts developed a way to "join" wild horses without violence. His service was no longer horse training but a unique offering that nobody else could duplicate. He had to demonstrate the benefits: easier on the horse and much less time to get the horse to accept a rider. Once others began to offer competing options, each has to answer not just what but how.

Bottom Line: Before writing your website or brochure copy, ask yourself, "Am I creating primary or secondary demand?" If you believe you are creating primary demand, you need to convince customers that you offer benefits. However, once customers begin comparing brands, sell uniqueness. They're already sold on the benefits.

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Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an Author, Speaker and Career Consultant, specializing in midlife, midcareer professionals and business owners who want to get on the fast track to career freedom. Ezine:

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