What’s in It For Me?

Why most small business marketing plans fail

Consulting is fun. You delve into a huge variety of other peoples businesses.

During the past 4 weeks I have been privy to many marketing plans.

Each plan faced a major flaw. Most of us small business owners do not know who we’re selling to. Or who is actually buying. Or why they’re buying. Or even what they’re buying.

For instance, if I am selling an advertising service to a business owner – what is he actually buying?

Is he buying the fact that my system is cheaper than that of everybody else? Is he buying the fact that he can display more information on my system? I don’t think so. Or that he can display en route to the airport where there is a lot of traffic? I don’t think so. These are mere features of my service.

He is buying more clients. And if I don’t sell him on that one issue then I am wasting his time and mine.

Almost all the sales literature that I read focuses on the supplier and his product.

  • This product is state of the art [who cares],
  • or revolutionary [ho hum],
  • or unique [yawn].

But nobody tells me exactly how it will benefit me! Allan Pease talks about WII-FM in his book Write Language.

What’s In It For Me? (WII-FM)

If you want to sell to me then get onto my wavelength and tune out all the other stuff.

And my wavelength is simple: What’s In It For Me?

Dan Kennedy says the same thing in a different way:

“It takes extreme, extraordinary measures to compel people to act in a way that is contrary to the way they normally act (do nothing, decide on nothing, buy nothing).”

If you’re selling to a business keep it simple. Tell your prospect how he will benefit from your product. Tell him what it has done for others like him.

But don’t waste your time telling him how wonderful the product is. (Unless you can translate wonderful into instant money for him. That’s why he is in business.)

When talking to prospects focus on one thing: WHAT CAN YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE DO FOR THEM.

  • How much money can it save them?
  • How much time can it save them?
  • How many more clients will it bring them?
  • How many people can they fire by using you instead? How much more mileage will they get?
  • How much admin will it cut?

Good luck in finding questions your clients want to hear.

This article first published in May 2000.

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it (HarperBusiness, May 17, 2016)

 Easy to read, full of insight, and very relevant to small business owners.

We personal business owners tend not to be nearly as good at negotiating as we should be. A whole bunch of things get in the way, most of which relate  the way we learn to treat each other on the playground. Life isn’t as fair as the playground was.

And yet, we negotiate each day. With suppliers. With staff. With prospects. With people that owe us money. With people we owe money to. Almost every time we interact with another human being we are negotiating.

Many, if not most, of the problems I see small business owners face result from not negotiating well enough to stay out of trouble. My favourite is the negotiation with your bank when they ask for a personal guarantee. That cost me a house, two cars, a motorcycle, my bicycle, and a wife, although she had the grace to tell me about it long afterwards.

The book is so engrossing that I read it, cover to cover, during an 11-hour flight from Johannesburg to Zürich.

I now look at negotiations in a completely different way. So will you.