First, before we do any­thing else, watch this:

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Yup, “Pre­sen­ta­tion” is often THE crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence between good busi­nesses that grow to be great and good busi­nesses that strug­gle to achieve the suc­cess they deserve.

And, yes, pre­sen­ta­tion, in the larger sense of the word, not only encom­passes mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing, but is an essen­tial ele­ment within mar­ket­ing, a fact alluded to by Seth Godin in this short but bril­liant post.

The Arro­gance of “Keep­ing it Real”

So if pre­sen­ta­tion is so impor­tant why do so many of us neglect, ignore, and oth­er­wise screw it up?

Because we’re sold on the bet­ter mouse­trap myth — this idea that a bet­ter mouse­trap nat­u­rally leads to the world beat­ing a path to our door, that the “real deal” doesn’t need to be dressed up.

More insid­i­ously, we’ve also half-bought into the mil­lenial notion that spend­ing time and effort on pre­sen­ta­tion some­how equates to “pos­ing” or fak­ery or think­ing that one is “all that.” That pre­sen­ta­tion is, in a word, arrogant.

The truth, of course, is the very oppo­site: acknowl­edg­ing the need to seduce, enter­tain, and wow an audi­ence in order to earn their atten­tion is a sign of humil­ity, not arro­gance.

Before a prospec­tive cus­tomer can pos­si­bly notice your unan­nounced and unher­alded qual­ity advan­tage, they usu­ally have to invest sig­nif­i­cant atten­tion and inter­est, and expect­ing them to make that invest­ment up front, with no promise or hint of a pay­off, is not only arro­gant but deranged. You are essen­tially expect­ing peo­ple to be as con­cerned with your indus­try and busi­ness — i.e., your life — as they are with their own.

What kind of lunatic expects that?

Your prospects don’t know the indus­try insider info you know, the kind of stuff nec­es­sary for them to rec­og­nize quality.

They have no clue how lower-priced providers cut cor­ners, or what that means for them in the long run, because your indus­try isn’t part of their day to day world.

They don’t know that this or that thing or habit is a cue of sloppy work or great work or what­ever. Nor are most of them will­ing to do the research to find out.

They just want to buy ____ and get back to their reg­u­larly sched­uled lives.

Fix­ing Your Mar­ket­ing Pre­sen­ta­tion Skills

If you’re will­ing to get off the crazy train and onto the gravy train, there are two rather unequal solu­tions to this, and you should employ them both:

1) Edu­cate the Customer

This is the less effec­tive but still nec­es­sary option.

Get past your own “curse of knowl­edge” to fig­ure out what your prospec­tive cus­tomers don’t know but need to know in order to rec­og­nize your supe­rior quality.

Now boil it down to super direct, no BS mes­sag­ing, and train your sales staff to deliver that same mes­sag­ing to your prospects.  Also, extend your edu­ca­tional reach past your sales team and tar­get those ear­lier stage buy­ers through great con­tent marketing.

And make sure you have a content-rich Web­site, so your full expla­na­tion of, and case for, qual­ity will be avail­able to inter­ested cus­tomers when­ever they come look­ing for it.

All of this works and is worth doing.  But on its own, edu­ca­tion never quite works as well as most busi­ness own­ers hope.

That’s because this edu­ca­tional approach reaquires cus­tomers to be moti­vated enough to do the research for them­selves. And for a lot of mar­kets and indus­tries, the moti­vated researchers are a rather small slice of the cus­tomer base, mean­ing you lose more sales than you save.  As my part­ner, Roy Williams says:

The chal­lenge isn’t to make the cus­tomer under­stand.  The chal­lenge is to learn to think like cus­tomers — it’s faster, cheeper, and more effective.”

A quote that leads me into the sec­ond strategy…

2) Tap into the customer’s nat­ural qual­ity and value cues

If peo­ple can’t tell that your HVAC guy is top notch just from watch­ing him work, you can ensure that they’ll think of him in those terms by acti­vat­ing their qual­ity cues for “pro­fes­sion­als,” sim­ply by hav­ing your worker:

  • show up in a pro­fes­sional van,
  • wear a clean, branded uniform,
  • put on booties to keep your home from get­ting dirty, and
  • talk through what he’s doing and why he’s doing it while he’s working.

2011-03-18_1031All of those things speak to presentation.

You are forc­ing your work­ers to focus on how they present them­selves to cus­tomers in order to sig­nal “this guy is an expert” in the lan­guage that the cus­tomer already under­stands.

When you bake these things into your oper­a­tions, you’ll have really sat­is­fied cus­tomers.  But when you bake them into your adver­tis­ing as guar­an­tees, you’ll have truck­loads of NEW customers.

Bet­ter yet, when you ADVERTISE those kind of qual­ity cues, peo­ple begin to expect them from every­one in your indus­try; in other words you shape cus­tomer expec­ta­tions to your advan­tage and your competition’s disadvantage.

More impor­tantly, the lis­tener con­sciously and uncon­sciously asso­ciates these qual­ity cues with your com­pany and brand — i.e., they think of you as the bench­mark for top qual­ity ser­vice, exper­tise, etc.

After an ad cam­paign like that, when prospec­tive cus­tomers need what you sell, they’ll think of you first and feel the best about you, mak­ing them seek you out rather than vice versa.

Some of those cus­tomers will go onto your Web­site and edu­cate them­selves in order to prove that you’re for real. But many more will buy based on noth­ing more than that advertising-fueled “gut feel.”

And regard­less of whether they researched their deci­sion or not, all of those cus­tomers will not only want to do busi­ness with you AND will be will­ing to pay pre­mium for the privilege.

Here’s what this tech­nique sounds like when used in an actual ad*:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (ver­sion 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Note that “smells good” is cue for ‘presents him­self as a pro­fes­sional,’ which is only rein­forced by the “shows up on time” line. Those are the qual­ity cues, and the price guar­an­tee is the direct offer. Put the two together and is it any won­der why this plumber dom­i­nates his markets?

Bot­tom line: pre­sen­ta­tion mat­ters. Not just for sales pitches or a Keynote Speeches, but for your front­line mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing, too. Find the cues, codes, and sig­nals, your cus­tomers already asso­ciate with first-rate qual­ity and ser­vice, and then bake them into your oper­a­tions while simul­ta­ne­ously weav­ing them into your marketing.

Don’t be just another busi­ness in your indus­try; focus on pre­sen­ta­tion and make your­self Super in the eyes of your customers.

* Ad writ­ten and pro­duced by Roy H. Williams


  1. Lance McWilliams on 03.19.2011

    I have always liked your writ­ing. But, here lately you have hit it into a much higher gear. Thank You for such won­der­ful insight.


  2. Caroline Barry on 03.20.2011

    What a fan­tas­tic post. Thanks for remind­ing me that I’m not too good to invest in my pre­sen­ta­tion. I think the sen­tence about “pos­ing” was writ­ten as a direct address to me!

  3. Jeff on 03.20.2011


    Thanks so much for the com­ment. Made my day.


    Glad I could help. And, yes, I think we all suf­fer a bit from mis­tak­ing pre­sen­ta­tion from pos­ing. It helps bring things into per­spec­tive to think of pre­sen­ta­tion in terms of align­ing your emo­tional, non-verbal com­mu­ni­ca­tion with your intended message.

    - Jeff

  4. Debra Ellis on 03.23.2011

    Hi Jeff,

    Super post! I’m a new­bie to your blog, but am sub­scrib­ing now. Thank you.


  5. Jeff on 03.23.2011

    Thanks, Debra. I’m thrilled to have you as a sub­scriber :)

  6. Catherine Lockey on 03.23.2011

    First off — I’m sorry I never took my niece to see Mega­mind. I spend A LOT of time attempt­ing to edu­cate cur­rent and poten­tial cus­tomers through my blog and though they know they need to do their due dili­gence, I know they don’t make time for it. Thanks for the advice about tap­ping into my cus­tomers’ qual­ity and value cues. You’re right about them mak­ing gut level deci­sions — some­times based on lit­tle to no information.

  7. Jeff on 03.23.2011


    Thanks for the com­ment. Also, Mega­mind is now out on DVD and it’s worth get­ting, IMHO. Maybe buy it as a present for that same niece?

    - Jeff

  8. Fisayo @ Secrets of Entrepreneurship on 03.26.2011

    Great post Jeff, I’ve learnt some­things to improve on. Thanks for sharing

  9. » Copyblogger Weekly Wrap on 03.27.2011

    […] It’s arro­gant NOT to pro­mote your busi­ness: “Keep­ing it real” and believ­ing that your stuff is so awe­some that it doesn’t need pro­mo­tion is pretty arro­gant. Pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing are the way to go for any­one who wants to get noticed and not be all haughty and jerky. […]

  10. Scott on 03.27.2011

    Jeff, thanks for some great writ­ing and thought­ful sub­ject mat­ter. From your post, there were 3 things for me:

    1. Arro­gance is akin to pro­cras­ti­na­tion, in this con­text. If I am not care­ful, I will find myself putting off what should be done under the guise of “my stuff is good enough — I built it, they will come.” Fail.

    2. Pre­sen­ta­tion is dif­fi­cult and time con­sum­ing for the small busi­ness owner. And it is expen­sive to hire-out. Build­ing WordPress-based web­sites is what I do for a liv­ing and I am con­stantly chal­lenged to stretch and find those unique or unusual forms of presentation.

    3. Seth Godin’s stuff is inspi­ra­tional. Your post not only reminded me of that but, along with “Herbs” by Seth, it inspired me to write for my own blog about how our pre­sen­ta­tions [read: web­sites] need to be well-spiced.

  11. Jeff on 03.27.2011


    Thanks for the com­ments. Really glad you liked the post and also took the time to click through to Seth’s orig­i­nal post on Mar­ket­ing Herbs.

    Alas, my Com­ment Love plug-in is bro­ken and I’m fail­ing to take my own advice because I’ve pro­cras­ti­nated on updat­ing my blog — doh! At any rate, wanted to make sure to link to it:

    Well worth check­ing out folks…

    - Jeff

  12. Christina Crowe on 04.04.2011

    Great tips, Jeff.

    I’ve heard time and time again from sev­eral dif­fer­ent sources that all mar­keters are either “arro­gant” or “evil.” And, per­son­ally, I think this remark is absolutely ridicu­lous. How is a new busi­ness going to stay afloat if not for mar­ket­ing? Even an aged busi­ness needs some form of mar­ket­ing if it ever wants to stay in business.

    You say, “Your prospects don’t know the indus­try insider info you know, the kind of stuff nec­es­sary for them to rec­og­nize qual­ity. They have no clue how lower-priced providers cut cor­ners, or what that means for them in the long run, because your indus­try isn’t part of their day to day world.”

    And that’s exactly right.

    You have to get your busi­ness and mes­sage in front of new cus­tomers. You need to con­tin­u­ously work to increase expo­sure. And this is true for all busi­nesses, whether or not they sell qual­ity prod­ucts or services.

    Too many peo­ple look at SPAM and auto­mat­i­cally assume that all mar­keters are cul­prit — that their only goal is to get you to take out your wal­lets. This sim­ply isn’t true; even non-profits need to mar­ket their organization.

    You do a good job at get­ting this point across.

    Enjoyed the read!


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