An old story about a farmer that went out with a large bucket to pick some fruit in his back fields. On his way he passed a lovely pond filled with lily pads where he was surprised to find a beautiful young woman swimming. She was completely naked and her clothes were neatly folded on the bank under a large tree. The equally surprised woman watched as the handsome farmer calmly put down his bucket with a bemused look and sat down beneath the tree to wait till she came to retrieve her clothes. “I hope you don’t think I am coming out of the water while you are there to watch me!”, said the young lady, as she laughed and slid into the deeper water. “Oh, no Ma’am,” said the quick thinking fellow with a big smile, “I just came here to feed the alligator”.
Knowing the right message that will motivate your target prospect is key to eliciting desired behavior. Most of your potential customers are swimming about in a large market pool, with data noise and a desire for privacy muddying the water, keeping you from getting a clear view of your target market prospects. Today’s advances in big data can at least partially uncover their behavior profile and give you a glimpse of their desirability. But even when you are in the right pond and the prospect sees your company in an attractive (or at least neutral) light, chasing after customers is usually a losing (or very expensive) proposition. It is far better to have them gladly come to you.
Make sure your Unique Value Proposition meets an URGENT NEED
Many people think that to have a great business all you need is a great product that people want and you are pretty much set. Unfortunately, for farmers and startup founders alike, things don’t work that way. Getting customers or users requires more than just a great product, it also requires a 1) business model built on a unique value proposition (UVP) and 2. the ability to communicate that UVP to a target market who has a strong need or desire for it. Even when you discover what your potential customer needs and have it in hand, either through happenstance like our lucky farmer or through diligent research and experimentation, it is often not enough to overcome their reluctance and inertia to get them to move.
Hopefully, you have been practicing iterative product development with tools such as lean canvas and lean startup experiment board. During this process, you will flesh out your target user personas, develop meaningful user stories for how they will be using your product to solve their problem and above all, understand how important they think the problem is. Remember that what is what is important to your customer/user is not your product…it is the problem that your product solves for them. While they may indeed want or need your product, like the lady in the water, they can delay action indefinitely unless you are marketing your product to an urgent need. That is where focusing your messaging on the need becomes important.
Sell the sizzle
Too often, entrepreneurs are great at focusing on the solution…to a problem that no one really cares about. Yet, even when you do identify a significant pain point and develop a great solution for it, if you aren’t careful, you can spend your energy focused on selling the product, rather than the problem. Any sales book 101 will tell you to “sell the sizzle” not the steak. Neil Rackman, in the influential book, SPIN Selling, explains that the sales process goes through a process of questions elicited from the customer, from situational->problem->implication->need/payoff. The end result being that if you can get a prospect to acknowledge there is a problem that needs to be fixed, they’re far more likely to give you the attention you need to convert them into a customer. Just being aware of the problem, though, is not enough. There also has to be an implication that your product or service will solve that pain point for them – and that’s where the payoff is, both for your and your customer. Too many marketers try to sell prospects on the benefits (or even worse, on the features) of their product without properly tying it into the strong pain point it solves. If the customer doesn’t make that association, then they are less likely to take action.
Our farmer understood that he was unlikely to convince the girl of the importance of the product (her clothes) and instead focused his message on illuminating her problem (the alligator). He also understood that he did not need to explicitly spell out the benefits but that once aware of the problem and the implication of the solution, she would recognize the value of his solution and act on it immediately. Look for similar opportunities in your own products.