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Superior value equals superior sales

If your car needed some repair work, would you go to a garage that offers free estimates? More than likely, you would. Most garages offer them. Not only has it become customary but also everyone expects a free estimate from mechanics these days.

However, here's an interesting scenario: Let's say your car broke down. You are in a hurry (if you're like most people these days, you are). If you had to choose a garage quickly, and you specifically wanted one that offers a free estimate, which one would you choose? Would you go to the one you only *think* that offers one or to the one you *know* that does?

As simple as it may sound, by communicating a part of your business (or product) that's usually taken for granted by your target market, you will be chosen more often. In truth, doing so is not to claim superiority but to imply it by explaining the value YOU bring to the table -- your unique proposition.

A mentor once told me, "Implication is more powerful than specification." In marketing, it means that you should imply your superiority rather than utterly claim it. Look at it this way: The more you claim superiority, the more self-serving you appear. But the less you do, the more credible (and genuinely superior) you are -- especially in the most elusive yet vital of places in all of marketing ... Your target market's MIND.

So, rather than outright stating that you are superior (e.g., that you're the "best," that you have a product of superior or high quality, that you offer greater service, that you provide better rates, etc), explain specifically WHY you are superior.

Always keep this in mind: The most critical word in marketing contains only three letters. It's the word "why." It is much better to communicate WHY you are original, special or unique, or WHY you are better, different or superior than competitors, and not the *fact* that you are. In other words, the point is that you should imply your superiority by specifying, as much as possible, what exactly makes you better than anyone else. This approach is more powerful, and the effect lasts longer.

Realize that what makes you special, unique or superior does not have to be your business, product or service but what you add to them -- specifically, to their value -- that makes you so. Simply stated, you may offer something that everyone else does. But you could also offer something more, above and along with your product, than no one else does. Let me explain.

Your product is composed of three distinct levels:

  1. There's the core product (the product's main benefit),
  2. The actual product (the product itself and its features)
  3. And the augmented product (the product's value, such as the added value you specifically bring to the table).

The latter of the three is probably the area most marketers fail to adequately communicate. It's also the area that you can use to develop your USP (or "unique selling proposition") -- and make your product or service stand out among the crowd.

Here's an example. People may or may not know that you provide a certain value-add: An extra service or product benefit. And, more often than not, they only assume that you do. But with a marketing message and particularly a name in which people are assured that you do offer that particular service or benefit, they will choose you over your competition many times over.

To illustrate, let's go back to the garage example. You might choose a garage whose free estimates are called "Hassle-Free Formulas," "Free Fee Finders" or "No Greater than Guesstimate Estimates." You might even choose one whose tagline is: "Where Smiles and Estimates are Free!" In short, with a name, tagline or message, you are turning the "assumed" into the "assured."

In other words, putting a name on an assumed service is like turning the "assumed" into the "assured" in the mind. And in this day and age where people no longer have the time to shop around, when they'll need the kind of service you provide your name will pop into their minds -- and do so almost instantly.

On the Internet however, time is a even scarcer commodity for most people. Click-happy online shoppers no longer have time to sit through countless, irrelevant search engine results to find exactly what they want. Therefore, since people usually search the web by topics, interests or benefits, and if the term "free estimates" was specified in your marketing efforts and especially on your website, then when people search for free estimates they will likely find your site as a result.

In fact, many new and successful Internet business models have emerged based on that simple premise. For instance, while one website may offer the same product with the same features at the same price as other websites, what makes that one site any different is in the way it adds value to its clients' purchase decision (i.e., the way it brands, packages, presents or sells its product, even the way it delivers it to its customers, but also and most importantly in the way it *communicates* it).

Yahoo is the most popular free search directory. But without question, there are many free search directories and engines online. However, what makes Yahoo special is that one can also obtain a free email account, download free instant messaging software, play online games, start a free online club and so on -- on top of that, each has its own name and section. On the other hand, what makes AltaVista unique is, among others, its free webpage translation service called "Babelfish."

As you can see, I could go on and on and on.

You can certainly apply the same principle in your business. If there's something that's a part of what you offer (such as support services like guarantees, free installation, extended warranties, financing or free delivery), or even if you must manufacture your unique selling proposition by adding an extra feature or service to your product, then put a name on it too.

Then, communicate it clearly -- with every promotional breath you take! Again, this is the one area on which most businesses fail to capitalize. Why is that? According to my experience in my marketing consulting practice, it's because too many people think that a standard, conventional or customary part of their business or product is too simple, unimportant or unnecessary to market. (You would be amazed to know how much such simple value add-ons have become the pivotal elements upon which a large number of businesses have prospered and profited!)

Additional or complementary bonuses, features or services are part of what is called the "augmented product" simply because they augment the product's value. More important is the fact that they should be communicated and have benefit-based names just as well. Remember that a product is more than a bunch of tangible features -- it has three levels. In fact, the third level (i.e., the value) is where most competition occurs!

Here's a greater description of each level:

  • Your core product is the benefit -- your product's relative purpose. It's what people are really buying, in other words. If the name, packaging or any of the features change, the core product remains the same. It comprises of the benefit (if it's a good) or the solution (if it's a service) that people seek. As Theodore Levitt once said, "People do not buy quarter-inch drills, they buy quarter-inch holes."

  • The actual product consists of product attributes, qualities and characteristics -- such as its features, design, model, form, function, style, stock-keeping unit, dimensions, name, package, label, ingredients, product mix (i.e., the breadth and depth of the product line), etc. In essence, the actual product consists of what makes the product or service.

  • But the augmented product includes complementary services, benefits or features -- like warranties, guarantees, terms, financing, delivery, installation, discounts, cooperatives, management, toll-free customer service phone line, reports, shipping and handling, after-sale service, etc. On the web, they also include things such as reminder services, search capabilities, email newsletters, online technical support, personalization, customization, information and so on.

By adding a benefit-based name on your augmented product, it could actually become (or become part of) what is called your "positioning statement." A positioning statement is one that communicates your specific position (i.e., what places you or your product above your competition in the mind). For example, if your product or service is similar to the competition, then your augmented product can actually isolate and differentiate the actual product from the products and services of others.

Remember that Domino's Pizza is known more for its augmented product (i.e., home delivery) than its actual product (i.e., pizza). In your case, do you offer an augmented product that's not offered elsewhere?

Here's an example. Your website sells a software program. Do you offer free delivery of the CD-ROM? Do you offer a free reminder service that notifies people when to upgrade their purchase? Do you provide a special support line? Do you have a unique money-back guarantee? Do you provide a unique payment plan? Do you sell extended warranties? Do you offer a special trade-up program? Possibilities are endless!

Nevertheless, these should be named and communicated as well. Here are some real life examples.

  • Symantec's popular Norton Antivirus program, sold on http://www.symantec.com/, offers an automated web-based update feature called "LiveUpdate."

  • Radio Shack, at http://www.radioshack.com/ (an electonics retailer), offers website visitors a battery model selector called "BatteryFinder." (Even now they offer a free shipping upgrade to next-day air for Christmas, and it's also clearly communicated right on their front page.)

  • Bookstore (and Amazon.com competitor) Barnes And Noble, at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/, offers a free birthday reminder service presented on its own independent website, called "Birthday.com."

  • Finally, online used car dealership iMotors.com at http://www.imotors.com/ supplies with every car they sell a vehicle history report called "CarFax." (In fact, since a car online lacks tangibility, including the customary "test" drive, iMotors.com also offers a unique 7-day, 700-mile money back return policy -- talk about a superior value-add!)

Don't let people assume that you offer a certain additional benefit or service. If a competitor steps in and assures your market, especially before you do, it might be too late. Thus, turning the "assumed" into the "assured" heightens perceived value and implies superiority over competitors who may offer the same, nameless services. More important however is the fact that doing so also turns ordinary products or services into effective mnemonics ... People will remember you more.

Finally, if you don't offer anything that's unique or special, then you might want to look at manufacturing your USP. Stated differently, you might want to define your position by simply adding something to your actual product and augment its value.

For example, while your product or service may be similar to the competition, you can be the first to cater to a specific market, the first to cater to a market in a unique way or the first to customize a general product or service for a specific market. Don't compete, in other words. Instead, differentiate!

(Or as Earl Nightingale once said, "Don't copy, create!")

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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