What Do Customers Want?

By John Foust

We all know that sales people should sell benefits. We know that advertising should emphasize benefits. And we know that people buy benefits.

What kinds of benefits do customers want? According to Don, who has been in the advertising business for many years, “It all comes down to: more, better, faster or cheaper. You can talk about other things, but if you don’t show them how your product or service offers at least one of these four, they’re not going to buy.”

Let’s take a look:

1. More: When you’re preparing for a sales presentation, ask yourself if your publication has more coverage than in previous years. Can you offer advertisers more ads for the same dollars? Do you offer extra marketing or analytical services that may appeal to certain businesses?

“When you’re thinking of ad ideas in this category,” Don said, “the most obvious example is a two-for-the-price-of-one offer – or buy-one-get one free. This tactic has been around for a long time, because it works so well.”

There are plenty of other choices. As you’re gathering information, look beyond pricing. Find out if your advertiser has additional services. Or new locations. Or expanded business hours.

2. Better: Every business claims to be better than the competition. The challenge is to be specific. Two questions: (1) Exactly what is it that makes your widget better? (2) Can you communicate that without using the word “quality?”

In my opinion, “quality” is the most overused word in advertising. Usually, it doesn’t mean anything.

Do you know what distinguishes “quality construction” from other types? Do you know the characteristics of “top quality service?” Do you have a good understanding of what “better quality” means? Neither do I. And neither do your customers.

Now, this is not to say that “quality” should never be used in selling or advertising. Just don’t use it in general terms.

3. Faster: We live in a get-it-done-now age. E-mail, texting, speed dating, overnight delivery, drive-in windows – it’s all a reflection of our demand to get things in a hurry.

While writing this paragraph, I did a Google search on “consumer demand for speed.” The search generated over 4 million results in .14 seconds. That’s point-one-four seconds. What took so long?

Healthcare has its own version of speed dating. A medical organization in Texas has a program to help people choose primary care physicians in five-minute interviews.

When it’s time for an oil change, I usually go to a place that offers fast service. Why should I wait an hour somewhere else, when it can be done in 20 minutes? Same oil, faster service.

On the highway, “speed kills.” But in the marketplace, “speed sells.”

4. Cheaper: “Price can be a huge motivator,” Don said. “Even with luxury items – or premium advertising space – people like to get bargains.”

The key is to provide specifics. How much can your customers save? How deep is the discount? How long will the sale last?

(c) Copyright 2012 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: jfoust@mindspring.com

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