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?
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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.
You'll fill out the BEFORE & AFTER Grid in this order:
CUSTOMER SEGMENTS – Here, you'll think about the Who
BEFORE – Here's where you think about where your customers are right now
AFTER – Here, you'll think about where your customers want to be
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...
STEP 1: CUSTOMER SEGMENTS
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.
STEP 2: BEFORE
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
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.
STEP 3: AFTER
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.
STEP 4: PRODUCT/SERVICES
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.
STEP 1: CUSTOMER SEGMENTS
STEP 2: BEFORE
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!)
STEP 3: AFTER
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
STEP 4: PRODUCTS/SERVICES
Mowing and maintenance
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.