Seth Godin posted this with more of a “con­sumer pro­tec­tion” spin on it, but I think it’s fun­da­men­tal to mar­ket­ing as well, so I’m going to quote part of the post here, and then elab­o­rate on it a bit.  Here’s the excerpted quote, but you really ought to read the entire post:

Here’s one rea­son we mess up [big deci­sions about money]: Money is just a number.

Com­par­ing dreams of a great [car] stereo (four years of dri­ving long dis­tances, lis­ten­ing to great music!) com­pared with the daily reminder of our cheap­ness makes pick­ing the bet­ter stereo feel eas­ier. After all, we’re not giv­ing up any­thing but a number.

The col­lege case is even more clear. $200,000 is a num­ber that’s big, sure, but it doesn’t have much sub­stance. It’s not a num­ber we play with or encounter very often. The feel­ing about the story of com­pro­mise involv­ing some­thing tied up in our self-esteem, though, that feel­ing is some­thing we deal with daily.

Here’s how to undo the self-marketing. Stop using numbers.

You can have the stereo if you give up going to Star­bucks every work­day for the next year and a half. Worth it?

If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand new Mini con­vert­ible, and every sum­mer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can cre­ate a jazz series and pay your favorite musi­cians to come to cam­pus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Her­bie Han­cock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live with­out debt for a year after you grad­u­ate while you look for the per­fect gig…

Do you see the con­nec­tion with marketing?

Mak­ing num­bers, or more com­monly fea­tures, tan­gi­bly and com­pellingly real to the buyer is exactly what good copy­writ­ers are paid to do. And they do it the same way Seth does in that quote:

  • By con­vert­ing num­bers and fea­tures to human-scaled con­crete measures
  • By iden­ti­fy­ing the ben­e­fits that really mat­ter to the customer
  • By dra­ma­tiz­ing those same end ben­e­fits and cre­at­ing iden­ti­fi­able sce­nar­ios around them

Telling me that this light­weight lug­gage is X pounds lighter doesn’t do much for me.  It’s just a num­ber, uncon­nected to any­thing I might really care about.

Telling me that the saved weight equals the com­bined weight of an extra sport coat, shirt, and pair of dress pants, basi­cally an entire extra change of clothes with­out incur­ring any weight penal­ties, and I just might become inter­ested in the lug­gage for an upcom­ing extended trip.

Remem­ber, a num­ber, unless it’s a dollar-figure that’s going into my bank account, doesn’t directly address the all-important What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) ques­tion. But a vision of me enjoy­ing some tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit does.

That’s the obvi­ous part — the tac­ti­cal prac­ti­cal, must-do part.  So if you’re not con­vert­ing your fea­tures into “which means” ben­e­fit state­ments, and then con­vert­ing those ben­e­fits into dra­matic, visu­al­iz­able sce­nar­ios, then get on it… and start answer­ing WIIFM with load, clear, and vividly dra­ma­tized benefits.

And then, of course, there’s the more sub­tle part: talk­ing about what this or that fea­ture or char­ac­ter­is­tic means not in terms of imme­di­ate ben­e­fit, but in terms of self-identity and shared val­ues.  It’s a bit less practical-tactical, but per­fect for The­ory Thursday…


  1. Naomi Niles on 04.18.2012

    Thanks, Jeff! This is inter­est­ing to me because it out­lines a sort of evo­lu­tion I feel like I went through pre­sent­ing my offers over the past few years.

    I used to focus heav­ily on num­bers, which worked but I didn’t feel attracted the type of clients I per­son­ally aligned with. Then I focused on ben­e­fits. And the past sev­eral months, I’ve been focus­ing on pro­ject­ing val­ues with the hope of attract­ing oth­ers with the same type of worldview.

    So far, I don’t think it’s got­ten more sales. But, it’s def­i­nitely more sat­is­fy­ing to work with peo­ple that way.
    Naomi Niles´s last blog post ..Ded­i­cated to Mrs. Edith Pea­cock – Titanic Victim

  2. lione jhon on 09.10.2014

    Many thanks, Jeff! It is inter­est­ing if you ask me as it out­lines a kind of evo­lu­tion I find myself like My spouse and i had pre­sent­ing our gives within the last num­ber of years.

    My spouse and i accus­tomed to empha­sis heav­ily on num­bers, which usu­ally labored although My spouse and i didn’t think enticed the sort of buy­ers My spouse and i per­son­ally arranged with. How­ever aimed at ben­e­fits. As well as the prior sev­eral a few months, I’ve been focus­ing on pro­ject­ing val­ues with the expec­ta­tion of attract­ing oth­ers with the exact same style of worldview.

    Until now, My spouse and i don’t believe it’s got­ten a lot more prod­uct sales. Nev­er­the­less, it’s def­i­nitely a lot more sat­is­fy­ing to do busi­ness with peo­ple that way.

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