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Selling The Invisible: A Field Guide To Modern Marketing
Vy Harry Beckwith
Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith is a great book for those who market services. Beckwith tells us selling a service amounts to selling a promise. Beckwith says prospects want to minimize the risk of a bad experience and are often incapable of evaluating the quality of a service. For example, few people know if the tax advice they receive is the best advice possible.
So, improving your skills at your service often doesn't lead to enhanced profitability. Being better at what you do won't lead to more sales. (Beckwith says flatly that in money management, for example, investment skill ranks lower than the skill in acquiring and retaining assets to manage. Clients, too, actually rate money management skill lower than desire to build a relationship, which is surprising. That clients rate trust high isn't surprising.)
Some of the advice I especially liked in Selling The Invisible:
* Improve your points of contact. Beckwith says we should evaluate every point at which our company interacts with a client—phone calls, business cards, meetings, etc. Beckwith says we should aim to make a phenomenal impression at every point of contact. And, this isn't difficult to do, given that most organizations have relatively few points of contact.
* The greatest value in a plan isn't the plan that results. It's the thinking that went into it.
* Focus groups aren’t good, because the results are dependent upon group dynamics. Rather, seek independent, oral surveys from your customers.
* Ask: What are you good at? Beckwith says too many companies define themselves by their industry, which tends to pigeonhole their thinking. Beckwith suggests doing something, learning from it, and then adjusting appropriately.
* Service companies are selling a relationship. The prospect must feel valued and comfortable.
* Sell hope and happiness. People like hope and happiness. But, for professional services, never be gimmicky or use trickery, because service businesses must always build trust. And, trickery implies you trick clients. However, service companies must be careful not to overpromise. Client expectations must be managed. If a client expects a miracle and only gets very good service, he won't be happy.
* Don't aim for greatness or being best. Aim to be positively good. In marketing, most clients aren't looking for the very best, which probably will be too expensive. They're looking for worry-free and good service. Beckwith suggests avoiding braggery and puffery and consider using understatement.
* Risk yourself. Don't fear rejection or failure.
* When in doubt about what to do, Beckwith suggests, "Get out there. Almost anywhere. Let opportunity hit you." Beckwith tells us many strategists procrastinate, because they don't want to see their plans fail. But, that will get you nowhere. You need to execute tactics to learn and improve.
* Don't overgeneralize. Beckwith writes, "have a healthy distrust of what experience has taught you."
Beckwith makes a convincing case that we can't rely upon memory, experience, authority, and even common sense to know what will work in marketing. For example, about authority, Beckwith writes, "Ideas do not follow the good thinking in an organization; ideas follow the power." And, he points out that power often goes to those who look and sound like they should have power. In fact, he tells us the strongest predictor of an MBA's starting salary is height, not academic or business performance.
Beckwith tells us that in today's world people are looking for shortcuts and the best short cut of all is a brand, because a brand implies a name that is trusted to deliver. Branded products and services tend to be most profitable. Beckwith writes: "In service marketing, almost nothing beats a brand." (Another good book about branding is Fusion Branding by Nick Wreden.)
Selling The Invisible also has great advice about naming a company, publicity, and communication. The book's one weakness is its discussion of positioning, which I found a bit boring and skipped. In another section, Beckwith needlessly repeats himself about the need to thank people. Overall, I enjoyed and recommend Selling The Invisible.