My friend Carl has fallen on hard times. A few years ago, Carl was literally “rolling in the dough”, making money faster than he could spend it.
At that time, Carl was selling “software as a service”: customers paid a monthly subscription fee, and got access to his software. The service was very much in demand, and all Carl had to do was display his rates, answer questions on his website, and the sales rolled in.
Then, almost instantly, it all stopped.
People canceled their accounts in droves, and Carl's business dried up. He has tried numerous approaches to selling his software again, but the golden years have never returned.
Carl failed to understand a simple fundamental of persuasion: before we are motivated to make a purchase, we must understand our need for it – and how much it's going to hurt if we don't get it.
Carl made the same mistake most entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers make. Most believe a simple but powerful lie. The lie: the transmission of information equals the creation of understanding.
Simply sharing information with people does not create an understanding of their need for your services or products. Information does not create a desire to purchase. Information does not create awareness of the pain of not having your product or service.
So why is it that Carl, in the past, could barely keep up with the amount of orders flooding through the door? The fact is Carl was no better at marketing a few years ago that he is today. His website back then was the same as it is now: basically a brochure of facts and figures. His website merely transmits information.
What Carl, and most everyone else, fails to realize is that understanding can be created by forces outside of our business. At the time Carl was offering his software service, many consultants, coaches, and authors were teaching their clients the need for a service similar to the one Carl offered. This created an understanding in the minds of the prospect. The people visiting Carl's website had already been sold by someone else. They literally walked in the door with their credit card in hand, expecting to buy exactly what Carl offered.
None of those consultants, coaches, trainers, and information marketers, had been specifically recommending Carl's service. They simply described a service that looked very much like Carl's.
When these external forces began pointing their own clients and students in different directions, recommending newer, more advanced kinds of software, Carl lost his source of pain-conscious consumers.
Suddenly, no one was walking in the door already sold on what Carl had to offer. And, never having to do so in the past, Carl did not know how to create an understanding of the need these folks still had for his service. He was confused, because he was providing all the information people need before buying this product.
The problem is, information is not what his prospects are after.
After explaining to Carl that he needed to help his prospects understand what it would cost them not to have his service, and then to help those prospects picture what their life would be like once they owned his software, Carl changed his approach to marketing.
Sales immediately picked up. It will take time for Carl to recover the ground he's lost, but his renewed messaging has literally turned his business around.
The takeaways from this little story are:
- You must focus on the problem your prospects face, that is solved by your product or service, and understand the pain it creates for them.
- You must be able to describe that problem and that pain better than your prospects themselves could describe it.
- You must be careful not to focus on merely giving information about your product or service, but rather communicating the story of how your prospects can make the transition from the pain they are currently in to the pleasurable state of relaxed calm they actually seek.
Remember… the transmission of information does not automatically equal the creation of understanding.