Two weeks ago, I wrote a post calling Seth Godin "codependent." Now, I am going to lavish praise on him. His blog post today, about the iPhone, is just brilliant. And you can apply it to services marketing, too.
His blog is consistently just plain great. Every time I read it, it's like getting a little present. It's like the guy's brain is wired, somehow, to process marketing concepts and convey them, and you just flip a switch, and out come these ideas. Today is no exception.
One response is to criticize it. Today's post refers to an internal Verizon document that's up on another blog, Appleinsider. This document recommends that Verizon sales reps compete with the iPone by criticizing it, and offers detailed, feature-by-feature, recommendations for how to do this. Their strategy: succeed by attacking the competition.
Seth disagrees. And in the final paragraph of the post, he pretty much Says It All.
The iPhone is a gift for every cell phone marketer in the world. Why? Because it creates a problem where there was none before. Now, a cell phone is not just a phone. Now, a phone is worth spending money on. So, since Apple created that 'problem' in my mind, how are you going to solve it?
The WHOLE POINT of selling is to create a need. Which means painting a picture for the other person of how their life, their career, their business, their laundry, their whatever, could be different, and better. Once they understand that -- once they believe that there is a better way -- then you can provide them with a solution.
I hate my cell phone. I despise it. It's my Little Pain In The Ass. It's small, kind of awkward to use (I'm 6'2" and well over 200 pounds. I have very large hands. Watching me use a small cell phone is like watching the apes in 2001 use tools) and every time it rings, it's someone wanting something. My office is by a marina, and every time I walk by the water there, I think, hard, about throwing my phone into the water. It's about the size and shape of a small rock. I bet I could throw it a long, long way.
What Apple has done, which Seth points out, is transformed the category. The phone suddenly is cool. It does all kinds of neat things. It's beautiful. The whole idea of "cell phone" is suddenly something much more different, complex, and nuanced. And desirable. Every single person who's selling a cell phone suddenly has a much more compelling story to tell.
And you can do the exact same thing in selling services. If someone's doing something different, offering something really innovative and neat, something that transforms their client's business by adding a whole boatload of value, then use that. Use it to paint a picture of how you, too, can be a whole lot more than another advice-offerer.
I have a lot of ad agencies as clients. Agencies tend to do this through sheer creativity. Although it drives them nuts when a client says "Why can't we have advertising like Pepsi/Starbucks/Volkswagen?" (Answer: because you're not spending $100 million a year on it) these questions also vastly expand the client's idea of what you could do.
Lawyers, consultants, accountants, all you guys -- you could do the same thing. When a competitor starts offering something really amazing, it expands the whole category, and the space you occupy in your client's mind. Don't whine about it, and don't try to run down the competition. Leverage it.