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Ryan Deiss

By Ryan Deiss

Nov 1, 2018


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How to Make Boring Products Sexy…and Sexy Products Irresistible

Ryan Deiss

By Ryan Deiss

Nov 1, 2018

How to Make Boring Products Sexy…and Sexy Products Irresistible

Some products are easy to sell. Cars. Electronics. Vacations.

They’re sexy, and the copy pretty much writes itself.

When you’re selling something sexy, marketing is easy; It’s fun, and you, the marketer, look like a genius.

But what do you do when your product or service isn’t sexy?

What do you do when your product is bland, boring, and utilitarian? How do you make nuts and bolts irresistible?

Fortunately, your product doesn't have to be exciting for it to be life-changing. You simply need to use the technique I show you in this article.

What's this secret technique for making even boring products exciting and emotional?

It's all about selling the transformation.

Get Clear on What You're Really Selling

You must learn to talk to people about where they are and about where they're going; where they want to be.

If you can do that effectively, you can sell—even if you're not an A-list copywriter or a natural-born salesperson.

The way we systematize that process is with the BEFORE & AFTER Grid, but before we dig in, let's talk about the importance of transformation.

In marketing, you should always be spot-checking yourself to make sure you're speaking transformationally.

Ask yourself, “When I describe my product or service, am I describing the actual product or service, or am I describing the transformation?”

Here's why that matters:

People don't buy products or services, nor do they buy features or benefits. People buy transformation.

That's the only thing people are ever buying.

As much as we love our products and services, our customers are buying transformation—not the actual product.

They're buying the AFTER-effect.

That being the case, you need to understand your customers both before they use your product and after they've made the transformation. Your goal in your marketing is to describe the shift that takes place.

A great sales message simply articulates the shift (a.k.a. transformation) from the BEFORE state to the AFTER state.

Let's look at some examples...


If you go back to Apple's first Super Bowl ad in 1984, you see the transformation of a group of people from mindless drones into individuals.

That's what Apple's been selling from Day 1: this transformation from drone-in-a-cubicle or nerd into someone who's cool.


If you look at the ad, it definitely describes transformation.

While everyone else is walking around with their black earbuds and Sony Walkman, you've got white earbuds because you're different. You're fun. You're dancing. You're grooving.

make boring products sexy_apple

Now notice the imagery in the ad.

The people are silhouettes. If Apple had shown real people, there would be a sense of "otherness" about them. Instead, because they're silhouettes, we're able to layer ourselves onto the graphics.

This creates the feeling of, "That could be me dancing!" (Whether you're a woman or a man...or an alien or gorilla, apparently.)

Every single Apple ad does this. They all have a story of transformation.


This is an online bill-paying solution for consumers.

If you're a mom and you want to pay your 14-year-old babysitter (who obviously doesn't accept credit cards), Plastiq lets you pay with a credit card and gives the recipient cash.

make boring products sexy_plastiq

What's the implied BEFORE? Chaos. Frustration. You have to write checks.

The AFTER is never writing a check again. And, you understand how repulsive it is to have to write checks because it's dramatized on Plastiq's homepage.

Look at the relief on this woman's face.

She's visibly happy because, thanks to Plastiq, she'll never have to write a check again. Instead of verbally explaining the transformation, here, it's illustrated.


Here, the message, "Look great when employers, clients and even dates Google you," implies that you don't look good when people Google you.

make boring products sexy_brandyourself

They're showing you the AFTER with their copy, which implies the BEFORE.

This clearly lays out the transformation: from not looking great to taking control of your online reputation. And of course, we all want this AFTER-effect.

See how simple it can be to communicate the transformation? Just a few words or a powerful image can tell the whole story.


TruConversion is an online suite of analytics tools. Again, the messaging spells out the AFTER: It's easy to double your sales when you know EXACTLY what your customers want.

make boring products sexy_truconversion

The BEFORE, implied by that message, is just as clear: You don't know what your customers want, so you can't double your sales.

The background image shows us the excitement of being in the AFTER state, but notice that the image has been softened with a color overlay.

The point was to create a silhouette-like effect, where anyone who sees this image can project themselves into this same AFTER-effect.

These are subtle elements that are important in presenting a powerful offer.

You must show the AFTER state of the transformation, so the audience can envision themselves going through it. If you don't—especially if you just show your product—you're talking about yourself.

Talk about your customers. Engage with them with the BEFORE. Speak to them about the AFTER. Position your product as the vehicle.

You can do just that by completing a simple exercise...

Identify Your Ideal BEFORE & AFTER State

Here at DigitalMarketer, we use a worksheet called the Before & After Grid to identify the BEFORE and AFTER states of our customers.

before&after grid_DigitalMarketer

You'd be surprised at how much easier it is to craft your marketing messages once you've identified the transformation your customers want and need.

Download the Before & After Grid Grid.

Fill it out as you read the rest of this article.

before&after grid order_DigitalMarketer

You'll fill out the BEFORE & AFTER Grid in this order:

  1. CUSTOMER SEGMENTS – Here, you'll think about the Who

  2. BEFORE – Here's where you think about where your customers are right now

  3. AFTER – Here, you'll think about where your customers want to be

  4. PRODUCTS/SERVICES – Here, you'll think about how you can make that transformation happen

Now, you may be tempted to start with your product or service. Resist that temptation!

Your goal is not to retro-fit a transformation onto your existing product or service. It’s to figure out the transformation your customers want then find the products/services that will deliver that transformation.

Example #1: Acme Baby Products

Let's start by filling out the Grid for the fictitious company Acme Baby Products, who sells modern, cutting-edge kids' products.

One of those products is a soft, squishy tub for bathing infants.

A pretty boring product, wouldn’t you agree? How can you offer transformation for your customers? Let’s take a look...


We start by talking about our Who (who we're selling to).

First, the obvious: new moms—but there are less-obvious buyers. For instance, mommy bloggers and baby retailers, who are each looking for a different transformation.

In this Grid, you want to add all of your customer segments, but understand, you'll need to create a different BEFORE and AFTER for each of them. Their needs are simply too different.

Add them all to your worksheet now. Then, circle the segment you're focusing on. You can then create another worksheet for each of your other segments.

How do you define a unique segment?

If their desired AFTER is different, they're a different segment.

If  it's a different AFTER, you also need a different Before & After Grid.


For this example, we're going to circle "new moms" and fill out the BEFORE & AFTER for this one segment.

What's the BEFORE state of a new mom?

We're looking for the BEFORE in 5 different categories: have, feel, average day, status, and good vs. evil.

Let's see how that looks for new moms:

  • Have: Cold, hard tub

  • Feeling: Baby is scared at bath time; Mom is frustrated and feels like a bad mother

  • Average Day: Bath time is terrible

  • Status: Unappreciated

  • Good vs. Evil: They're being told they can't have it all. You have to choose between working and staying home with your kids, etc.


How does having a soft, squishy bathtub help new moms get to a better place? Let’s evaluate the same five categories we looked at before:

  • Have:  Warm, squishy tub

  • Feel: Confident, in control

  • Average Day: Bath time is enjoyable, giving you more precious moments with your child

  • Status: Super Mom

  • Good vs. Evil: Moms, you can have it all

Notice that as you move down the list, the messaging begins to have more emotional impact; Especially, say, in making bath time enjoyable.

The baby stage is incredibly brief, just a tiny moment in the life of your child. So, people want to enjoy it.

Also, remember, the AFTER state isn't something people realize on their own.

Moms feeling like Super Mom (as opposed to unappreciated) doesn't happen on its own. There has to be messaging that plants that idea in their heads.

Using the BEFORE and AFTER we just created, imagine a video with a frazzled, unhappy mom trying to bathe a squirmy, crying baby.

Now, she gets her warm, squishy tub, and suddenly, she's got it all together. The baby is cooing and mom is enjoying the special time with her baby. She puts the baby to bed and she kicks back, reading a book. She's perfectly relaxed—all because of Acme Squishy Tub.


Now, it's time to fill out the last box, Products / Services.

See how the BEFORE & AFTER help you identify any number of products that deliver the transformation you just illustrated.

In our example, the soft, squishy baby tub is one product, but you could achieve this same transition with a cozy pacifier.

Just as we did in the Customer Segments, write in the product you're creating an offer for now, but take time to think about other possible products you could offer that would create this same transformation.

With the Grid filled out, you can really begin to speak to your market.

You can talk about them and not about your product, making them the hero of your story. And you can easily position a product as simple as a baby tub as something that can dramatically change someone's life.

You don't have to mention the awards, the celebrities who use it, how long you've been in business. Honestly, no one cares.

“What are you going to do for me?” That's all your customers care about.

Example #2: Acme Lawn Care

Now, let's create another Before & After Grid for an imaginary lawn care company.


  • Homeowners


  • Have: Dead grass and weeds

  • Feel: Annoyed, exhausted

  • Average Day: Saturdays are wasted

  • Status: Forced to work the land

  • Good vs. Evil: Prisoner in your own castle (Try to tap into the psyche here!)


  • Have: Gorgeous, green lawn

  • Feel: Powerful, well-rested

  • Average Day: Your Saturday is yours again

  • Status: Best lawn on the block—and they didn't have to do it

  • Good vs. Evil: King/Queen of your castle


  • Mowing and maintenance

  • Fertilizing

  • Sprinkler install/repair

  • What else?

Now that you know the transformation this customer segment wants, what else could you do to provide that transformation?

If you're in the Saturday business—freeing up people's Saturdays—you should expand beyond just lawn care. Maybe a handyman service. Your message is, "Let us give you 100% of your Saturdays back. Never do another thing on Saturday that you don't want to do."

Be aware, in your marketing, you want to speak to the real AFTER.

Your messaging shouldn't just cover the features and benefits of your product or service. It should tap into the psyche of your customers, illustrating the transformation they long for—even if they've never articulated it before.

Example #3: DigitalMarketer

We use the Before & After Grid for each of our segments at DigitalMarketer.


  • Small business owners

  • Marketing executives

  • Agency owners/managers

We have 3 distinct customer segments, but for this Before & After, we'll focus on marketing executives.


  • Have: Disorganized team

  • Feel: Frustrated, overwhelmed, and maybe a little scared

  • Average Day: "Coaching up" under-performers or solving problems their team should be capable of handling

  • Status: Disrespected, behind the times

  • Good vs. Evil: Victims of the traditional university model. No one is teaching this stuff


  • Have: Well-oiled machine

  • Feel: Confident, in control

  • Average Day: Focused on strategy

  • Status: Respected and up for a promotion

  • Good vs. Evil: Helping to training the leaders of the future. Like a professor, rather than a student of an outdated university model


  • Digital marketing training

  • Hiring guides and job board

  • What else?

Notice that in Step 3, as you begin to nail down the narrative of your transformation, you start to see pictures of what that transformation looks like.

That's the goal.

Even when you're just writing words, you want those words to create a picture.

Now it's your turn!

Download the Before and After Grid PDF. Write your company name at the top. Create 1 Grid per customer segment. Where possible, get your team involved.

Then use this this worksheet to guide all your marketing. Remember, the key is to talk about the transformation, not your product.

Focus on the AFTER state, and your marketing will be stronger for it.

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The one and only They Ask, You Answer conference. Reduced rates on sale for a limited time.