Is it really possible to get a surge in sales with products?
And are product sales similar or different from services? In this episode, we go exclusively into the sale of products. But more importantly, you get to see where you need to dig to create the power of your headline and how the consequences that follow make a massive difference.
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You've probably never heard of Ben Curtis
Ben's a client and a self-described fan. In an e-mail addressed to both Renuka and me, here's what he wrote: “I am a massive fan! I listen to all your podcasts and reread sections and chapters of the Brain Audit over and over.
I am constantly applying your tools in every way possible. I am using your advice and information in exactly the way you hoped people would from your book. I also purchased the “Applications for the Brain Audit” too. I am constantly using those tools for headlines, marketing material, and websites.”
But it's not all hunky-dory, rah-rah
Ben also has a bit of a bone to pick with me, in particular.
And here's how he puts it:
“I'd like to make a suggestion, recommendation, or at least make you aware of something when you're writing content.”
“It's not that anything is wrong (I love it), I just wish there was more relatable or direct content for people who have products. That's what I do, and many other people have products too. I have products to sell either online or in retail stores, or both.
In the Brain Audit, there were two examples– Website Strategy Workshop and Allergy Clinic. Both are service-based businesses. It was difficult for me to try and write with a product in mind when there were only two examples, and both were services.
I'm was very happy to stumble upon the Applications to the Brain Audit because I was dying for more examples. I just started it, and already love it. However, I noticed the same thing here. The 15 case studies in Chapter 2 are all still service businesses and not directly relatable or useful for myself. It's difficult to model after the examples when none of them are products. I know that what you write can apply to many industries, but I am talking specifically about examples for products.
There are 15 examples, and there wasn't a product based business.”
Ben's got a point, don't you think?
Well then, it's time to correct this grievous mistake, because it gives us a chance to dive deeper into The Brain Audit. Well, here we go. Let's look around the room for some products and play a game of “I spy”. What do I spy? It starts with the letter M. It's a product, and it's a microphone. Except that I already have six microphones, so why bother with another one? Let's find out, shall we?
In this series, we'll go through the stages of how to get—and keep the attention of the client.
Stage 1: We'll list all the benefits—and narrow down on our problem.
Stage 2: This stage calls for us to drive home not just the problem, but also the consequences of ignoring that problem.
Stage 3: We'll do an instant check after we've gone through the first two stages.
We didn't start off needing or even wanting the products because the products have been randomly chosen. Has that desired level gone up just a little bit? Let's find out.
Let's start off with three different products. And as you'd expect, I spy something with my eye, and we know, it starts with the letter m. M as in “microphone”.
Stage 1: We'll list all the benefits—and narrow down on our problem.
Let's look at the microphone that I recently bought. What problem could it possibly solve? Why buy yet another microphone when there are plenty lying around? As you're probably aware, every product solves many problems, and since we're on that trend of reasoning, every product must have many features and benefits.
Let's list the benefits and features of this microphone, shall we?
• Let's start with the weight: It's just 10 g. That's just 0.35 ounces. That's light, don't you agree?
• The usage time on a single charge is 6 hours. That solves a problem too, of having to change batteries all the time.
• The operating temperature is from -10°C to 50°C. Which means it would work well in a desert, which is freezing by night and boiling by day.
• And finally, it has an operating distance of 65 feet or 20 metres. That's a fair distance away.
But what problem does it solve?
Let's say you're keen to shoot videos of yourself as a speaker. There are two reasons why you'd need to capture the event. The first reason would be to capture the information for a showreel for your clients. The second reason would be to see and hear yourself so you can improve your technique.
However, you've always needed a slightly sophisticated set up with a cordless mic. But imagine a microphone so small that it's just a clip-on. And once you have it on, you can be a whopping 65 feet away and record perfect video—but more importantly, the audio. It's a Bluetooth mic that frees you from cords and cables.
That's it! No cords, no cables, but what about the other points?
What about the weight, the extended battery time, the ability to work under crazy weather conditions? They're all important, but you have to pick one problem if you want to get the attention of your client. It's not like we're chucking away the rest of the points.
We just can't have it all up in lights together. Only one problem needs to be chosen. Think of it as a movie. There's the hero, and there is the supporting cast. The rest of the points; those benefits and features are the supporting cast. The only thing that matters is the “no cords and no cables”. And if you're a speaker, you know exactly what that means.
To be able to simply walk across the room, over even across the bridge to the other side and be recorded perfectly, that seems like a dream come true. It's a big problem and this microphone; this Bluetooth microphone solves the problem perfectly.
That's example No.1 down. Let's take another example: Daniel Smith watercolours.
Now this example is interesting because I've never used these watercolours. Back in 2010, I went for a watercolour class, and my teacher, Ted, told me to do one small watercolour every day. Being a model student, painting every day is approximately what I've done. In the past eight years, I've probably painted about 2500 images—yet not one of them was with Daniel Smith.
My goal today was to find out why I should bother with Daniel Smith watercolours when I already have several tubes with a rival company called Winsor and Newton. So many tubes of paint, in fact, that though I paint every day, I'd still be using those tubes for at least two-three years.
And yet, here we are, looking for a problem to solve with a whole new brand of paints
This diversion brings up an essential fact of customer behaviour. In a majority of situations, clients or prospects may not have a problem. I am reasonably happy with my paints, but that doesn't mean I'm not on the lookout for something different. When we, as sellers of a product fail to get the point across clearly and succinctly, the customer is left in a bit of a limbo. Which is what Daniel Smith colours tends to do when you do your research.
But here's a start from a post online: I love Daniel Smith. What I like about the paint is the pigment load, ease of re-wetting in my palette; ease of handling on the paper. Every tube I have bought is fresh, soft and well mixed with the binder, no separation into binder and pigment. And I love their range of colours. No other paint maker offers such a huge number of colours. It seems Daniel Smith is always looking for new colours to add.
In that short client description we have the bits and pieces needed for a problem, don't we?
Let's look at the features and benefits mentioned in that post.
• Ease of pigment load: That's a bit technical, but what I can figure out, is that the paint sits nicely on the brush.
• Ease of re-wetting: This is a nuisance with watercolours. They tend to dry up into a hard rock-like mass. Re-wetting is a definite benefit.
• Ease of handling on paper: It's a vague description, but we'll take all the description we can handle.
• Well mixed with the binder—no separation of binder and pigment: That's yet another winner.
• And the final one: Astounding range of colours—especially for those always on the lookout for yet another shade.
Once again, we have to pick, and most of the time, the pick will be based on the target profile
It seems that artists are always on the lookout for new shades, new textures and so the range of colours is a big solution. And the opposite of the benefit is—tah, dah—the problem. Daniel Smith has a massive 252 colours, including the Primateks as well as 48 luminescent, pearlescent and interference colours.
The problem is evident isn't it? With the paints I've been using, I've more or less restricted myself to a range of shades. Daniel and Smith seemed to have gotten me out of my stupor and caused me to investigate a whole range of colours that I may never have considered before. In effect, it's created a problem where none existed.
This takes us to a third product, like the t-shirt I'm wearing.
I'm a big fan of graphic design, and there's probably no greater joy than to walk into a t-shirt store when on vacation. Portugal, for instance, has an astounding design sense, which frankly surprised me. Whether we were in Vancouver, Tokyo or Sardinia, I'd be on the lookout for new, well-designed t-shirts. Yet, for the past three years or so, I've more or less given up buying t-shirts while away from home.
It's a strange phenomenon, don't you think?
The plot, as it were, thickens, because the t-shirt brand I now wear doesn't quite suit my design appetite. Even so, I've made the change to the Icebreaker brand. And the reason why I've made this leap is that it solves a precise problem: it doesn't stink.
It's summer here in New Zealand, in January
And summers here are hot, really hot, and with heat comes sweat and body odour. Which means you have to get yourself some sort of deodorant or wipe rubbing alcohol, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide onto your underarms. If you want to save yourself of the trouble of any of those weird and wonderful methods, all you do is wear an Icebreaker.
That's it. No odour. Wear the t-shirt for a day, no odour. Ten days, still no odour. Forty days? You're getting the point, aren't you? As you can quickly see, Icebreaker solves a problem you didn't know you had in the first place. I wouldn't go so far as to say all my t-shirts are Icebreaker, but let's just say they've taken the whole fun part out of my vacations.
I haven't bought a new t-shirt on vacation in over three years. I ask people to send me vouchers for Icebreaker for my birthday, or if they want to give me a gift. I use Icebreaker in my presentation on Dartboard Pricing at events. I can't even begin to tell you what killjoys this company has been for me, consistently solving my problem.
And there you have it, random picks right in the room with me.
A set of paints from Daniel Smith watercolours (I had to look up the name again). A t-shirt range called Icebreaker that wasn't on my radar but now accounts for 100% of all t-shirt purchases. And a microphone—the sixth or seventh microphone that I own, just because it solves the problem of no cords, no mess. Of course, we could go on and on.
There's a type of cream in the room, shoes, a language course, computers—three of them, a standing desk that I never use any more, drives, etc. All of these solve a problem, but where do we go digging to find the problem?
In the benefits, that's where
We may not be clear which problem is the one we need to pick, but we sure know the benefits. You can pick up any object in your room, or head downtown to any store and randomly pick up a product. There on the side of the packaging are all the features and benefits—what we like to call the “solution”.
The opposite of the solution is the problem. As you'd expect, an Icebreaker t-shirt will happily tout all its benefits, but it's best to stick to one as the lead actor, letting the other problems take a secondary role of supporting cast.
And once we have our problem, you know what The Brain Audit recommends next, don't you? Yes, it's time for the consequences. A problem is a problem, but it's not quite as big a problem unless there are consequences. What are the consequences and how do we use them with the marketing of our product? Let's find out.
Stage 2: The consequences of the problem
Imagine you're driving down the road, and in the corner of your eye, you see flashing red and blue lights. What do you do? You slow down, don't you? You're aware that somewhere in the vicinity there are cops and there's no point in flooring the accelerator.
That's how the brain works. It senses a problem and immediately most other thoughts are subdued. The focus is almost exclusively on that problem. However, to stay in that state for too long would be counterproductive, so once the cops are out of sight, you and I tend to go back to our normal behaviour.
When clients are buying products or services, the problem gets their attention, but it's not enough
Once the problem isn't front and centre, there's the risk of the client going their own way. It's akin to spotting a cop car on the highway and then encountering a sign that says: No cop car for the next 300 miles, guaranteed.
Without the consequences, the attention wavers quite a bit. Which is why when you introduce the problem, you need to pick the problem that is top of mind for your target profile (read about target profile in The Brain Audit). If you don't have a target profile, then you're going to have to make a choice, but it's more precise if you use the target profile. Anyway, let's not go off track, because we still have to focus on the consequences.
So what are the consequences of not having an easy-to-use Bluetooth microphone?
If you've ever fiddled with a wired microphone, you'd know what a pain mics can be. The cords and cables run all over the place, someone trips over the cords and cables, or at the very least they need to be taped down. That's great if you're in the sound business because as disaster hits, you have Option B in place.
However, as a small business owner, you're hoping for one take. You want to get your video on YouTube, or you want to record that seminar you're giving. That's one take, in most cases, and there's no going back. With a Bluetooth mic, a simple phone can record the video from anywhere in the room, while capturing very high-quality audio.
Without audio, even the sharpest video is unwatchable. And that's why a Bluetooth mic is so very crucial. One that you can quickly fasten to your clothing and in seconds the wired microphone is history.
That's an example of consequences
Just because you've brought up a problem in your headline or speech, doesn't mean that clients get the point to the fullest extent. There's no doubt they're paying attention, but unless the consequences are driven deeper, there's a good chance of bypassing, or at least not valuing the product to the fullest extent.
The consequences are akin to underlining what's being said, and yet staying on point. We're not trying to cover all the problems the product solves. If anything, you have to be careful to stay on target. When I was writing about the microphone above, I was tempted to talk about the lightness factor and how it lasted for six hours. It took all of my focus to stay on topic of “no cords or cables”.
We can bring up the issue of how it lasts for six hours later in the message. On a sales page, there's a lot of space to bring up features and benefits much later. At first, however, we have to nail down the problem and the consequences to the exclusion of everything else. And the consequences matter.
Take for example another product like “Dartboard Pricing”, a product about pricing on the Psychotactics site
When you look at the sales page, it's clear that the problem—the biggest problem—is about “losing clients if you choose to raise prices”. That message is clear, but just letting the headline do all the work is a mistake. The consequences have to come in quickly. And here's what the page reads like:
How do you systematically raise prices without losing customers?
Is it possible to raise prices and still keep customers? And how do you keep those costs going up, up and away—and still keep customers coming back?
We all undercharge!
No matter what our business, we've all undercharged for our products and services. And yet, at this very moment, there are others in our field that charge a lot more—for what seems to be a similar offering to ours.
We know we should increase prices, but we can't bring ourselves to take that leap because we're deathly afraid our customers will leave in droves. And so we charge a lot less for our products, workshops, services and courses.
As if that first section were not enough, there's a story that comes into play that explains the consequence of not being able to increase prices.
I remember the first time we sold a copywriting course in 2006
I was reasonably happy with the price until I read the feedback from one of the participants. “You're charging too little,” she said.”I just did another course on a similar topic, and they're charging twice as much.” I took the feedback but felt the terror of having to increase, let alone double my prices.
This is the dilemma we all face. We don't know how to increase our prices, even by a tiny bit.
So how do we strike a balance between running a profitable business without losing clients and sales? How do stop trusting our mostly inaccurate “gut instinct” and work with a precise system instead? How do we raise prices solely based on client demand? And most importantly, how can we do this price increase step by step, instead of randomly increasing prices?
The consequences put a spotlight on the problem, but because it creates agitation, it also sets up the client for the solution that must follow.
As you read in The Brain Audit, the problem shows up, and then we go to the solution. But sitting smack in the middle is that big consequence that needs its share of the spotlight.
Execute the consequences correctly, and it's clear why Daniel Smith range of colours solves a pressing problem of not quite having the shade you need in your paint palette. Or why choosing Icebreaker as a garment makes for the most pleasant t-shirt wearing experience, because who wants to stink?
The consequence of being inadvertently socially unacceptable or even having to put chemicals (or for that matter vinegar) on your body is a bit of a pain. And it's only when those consequences are driven deep that we're ready for the solution. In fact, we're not just ready; we're hankering for the solution at this stage.
Stage 3: An instant check
Which brings us to the third part of this series: An instant check after we've gone through the first two stages. We didn't start off needing or even wanting.
Did you need a microphone?
If you're recording an event, do you feel like you need one now? And do you need that specific brand so that you don't run into cords and cables? What about the paints? Maybe you're not a painter—yet—but should you wander into watercolours as I did back in 2010, you'd want the best possible colours, right?
And personally, I'm feeling a bit like a dunderhead because I haven't heard about this brand though I've been painting for eight years straight.
What about the t-shirt? Icebreaker has no stink, even if you wear it for a month. Not that you want to wear it for a month, but notice how the problem and the consequence have gotten your attention and kept that attention.
The proof of the pudding is almost always in the eating
If you feel you need the products mentioned above, then The Brain Audit has started to weave its magic. We're not done yet, of course. There are the other “bags” of The Brain Audit that need to be tended to, as well. We still need to go to the target profile, the solution, the objections, testimonials, risk reversal and uniqueness.
All those “seven red bags” need to be taken off the conveyor belt (and you'll know what I mean by conveyor belt when you read The Brain Audit). However, what we've done here is gotten off to a great start.
And more importantly, we've found out that products, physical products or digital, don't differ that much from services. In fact, we just have to look at one thing to figure out the problem and the corresponding consequence. What's that one thing? Let's find out in the summary, shall we?
The three things we covered in this series were:
Stage 1: The list of benefits that to narrow down the problem
Stage 2: The consequences of ignoring the problem
Stage 3: An instant test of desire
This is your ONE thing to do today. Create a list of benefits.
Look around your room and pick on that lampshade you bought. What are the benefits of that particular shade? The bookshelf that's in the corner does it have features and benefits? What about that bottle of wine that's on your desk? Wait, you have a bottle of wine at work? Anyway, all the stuff around you is probably there for a reason.
You could make your work a little easier by heading over to Amazon.com because you won't need to hunt down features and benefits because all packaging has a list of bullets. However, this exercise is a solid one whether you're hunting down stuff in your office, on Amazon or just about anywhere. This exercise shows you that there's no real difference between a product or service or training.
They all have their features and benefits, and one of those points is going to need a flip. You'll take one of those benefits and turn them into a problem.
Which takes us to the second point: consequences.
If you don't stick with the consequences, it's unlikely that the client will continue to pay attention. In many cases, the client may already fee the consequences, e.g. the roof tiles are missing, and a torrent of water is pouring in, but in a lot of situations, you have to drive home the consequences.
For instance, I can tell you that The Brain Audit helps you in removing that last minute hesitation that you feel from clients. However, it's only when I recount the story of the seven red bags that the message really stays with the client. That's the point when they buy The Brain Audit, use it and write those wonderful testimonials.
The entire sequence: from The Brain Audit to 5000bc, to other courses like the Article Writing Course is mostly dependent on taking the time to elaborate the problem with a paragraph or two of detail.
And finally, we get to test the power of the problem
I didn't start out wanting Daniel Smith paints. In fact, at one point, I even forgot the name and called them Daniel and Smith. But by the time I realised the problem they were solving, I was keen to buy some and test them out.
The same concept applies to the microphone. I didn't realise how intrusive wires and cables had become until the microphone company brought it to my notice. Did they do a good job of consequences? Maybe not. Most of us are too busy trying to get our message to every possible audience and to line up the features and benefits.
We think the more we load onto our website or marketing material, the better. But in reality, it's the core stuff: the problem, the consequences—that is what really matters. And we can test it because clients don't just say, “wow that's interesting”, but instead ask, “where can I see it or where can I buy it?” That's your test. That shows you that your message is working.
And that's pretty much it. You can use The Brain Audit on products, services or training with equal effect. Try it out today and you'll see how effectively it works.
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