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Marketing Is All About Helping Your Customers

If you have been at the receiving end of a bad car salesman, you would have received an ear-bashing about how good the car is, all the gadgets it contains, how fast (or safely) you can go, and what range of colours you can get it in.

If, on the other hand, you have met a good car salesman, you probably walked away with the car at the end of your meeting.


Because the good car salesman would have asked about your family and friends, talked about what cars you have owned before, asked about where you live and where you work.

This might sound like friendliness, and might have initially annoyed you (“I’m here to look at a car, not to have a chat!”), but at the end when he showed you the car and suggested how it and its features might fit with your lifestyle, you got to like him or her!

That good salesman knew that he wasn’t there to sell you something but to help you receive a benefit.

Marketing is all about helping your customers get a benefit from their purchase, not about what the features of the product are.

But first, let’s talk about the psychology of making a purchase.

When you are looking to buy a product, you’re not really interested in the product itself but what it can do for your existing problem.

  • You do not look for a power drill, you look for a way to make a clean hole in the wall.
  • You do not look for a shiny car – you look for convenience or safety or just transport.
  • You do not look for an experienced tax accountant, you want your argument with the Tax Department to go away.
  • You do not look for a pair of safety boots, you look for something to protect your feet.

Then, as you look for that product that will fix your problem, you start to look with your heart:

  • The red power drill with the nice handle (that makes a clean hole in the wall) really looks professional
  • That car (which will get me there safely) is German and I’ve always thought a German car would mean I’m successful
  • Mr Smith the tax accountant (who will speak to the Tax Department directly) doesn’t make me look stupid
  • That pair of safety boots (that will protect my feet) is going to make me look good with my jeans

It’s only after you have convinced yourself in your heart that the product you have chosen fixes your problem do you start to think with your head to justify the choice.

  • Actually, that red power drill is made of steel, not plastic, so will last a long time
  • Actually, that German car will keep its value over time
  • Actually, Mr Smith is very experienced as I saw all his qualifications on the wall
  • Actually, those boots have safety toes and a cushioned comfort-sole

So, a good salesman will not talk about a steel case for the drill or the German technology of the car.

They know that they first have to find out your problem, and then make the product attractive to you.



The conversation for the power drill is likely going to be something like this:

Customer: Hi, I’m looking for a drill.

Salesperson: Sure, what will you be using it for?

Customer: I need to hang up lots of pictures in my new house.

Salesperson: Used a power drill before?

Customer: Had an old one but it finally broke. I didn’t use it much but it lasted a long time and felt sturdy in my hand, you know? I was sorry when it broke.

Salesperson: Here’s our Holer-2000. It’s light but sturdy so will be comfortable and last you a long time. It’s fast so it makes clean holes. Really easy to use – just press here. The weight makes it great to use when you have a big project over the weekend and the battery will last you at least 48 hours before you have to recharge. I know customers who have had this model for years and they are still going! And by the way, the grip just feels so good in your hand and the design and colours make it stand out.

In that conversation the salesperson has:

  • identified the customer as a DIY user rather than a professional so would prioritise comfort and ease of use
  • identified the need, which may be a day’s project and so was able to show the customer a comfortable, light drill with a long-lasting battery
  • identified that making clean holes in a new house could be attractive
  • identified that the customer likes it to last even though he doesn’t use it often
  • thrown in the distinctive factor in case the customer’s ego needs to make him “look” like a professional.

That conversation did not include the brand or make, materials used, power ratio or speed settings 0 hardly any features of the product.

However, once the customer’s heart is resolved that the drill will fix his problem and that he likes it, the salesperson will then start to give him facts to back up his decision like the reputation of the brand, the warranties that are given, the materials used to manufacture it, and so on.

Now, let’s talk about Features, Needs and Benefits.

“Features” are what your product is made of, or the factual characteristics of your product. For example the steel in the drill, the German technology on the car, the training of the tax accountant, and the safety toes of the boots.

These are the items we like to talk about because we love our product – but these are very unsexy things for the customer!

“Needs” are the solutions to problems that the customer seeks. Examples are the need to make clean holes, the need to travel from A to B, the need to avoid a tax audit, and the need to protect your feet.

Your customer is looking at your product to see if it will solve his problem, meet his need. It’s a binary decision – yes or no.

“Benefits” are what the customer will get when they fix their problem. For example, the customer buying the drill will be comfortable and able to finish his project; the person buying the German car will retain value in his purchase; the person with a tax problem can have peace of mind, and the person looking for safety boots will look good in them and cause his friends to be envious.

Whatever rocks your boat, right?

But why do we do this? Why do we need to know the difference between our product’s features and the benefits it gives our customer?

It’s because of the psychology of buying explained above and the key question you are answering in every marketing project, in every sales conversation, in every campaign”

“What’s In It For Me?”

If I buy your product, what will I get, other than a power drill, a German car, a tax return or a safety boot? There are a lot of power drills, German cars, accountants and safety boots – what makes your product special – to me?

So, do you know the needs your customers have and what benefits they can get from your product while meeting those needs?

Here’s a small project for you that you can do quickly, in 15 to 30 minutes after you read this article.

First, write down all the needs your customer has for your product (and if you have several products, just choose one for the moment). Why does your customer need the product? What is the problem he needs to solve? What will he use it for? Unless you have some crazy, multi-functional product that can be used for many different purposes, you should find that you may only identify one or two typical needs.

For example, “making a hole in the wall” and “making a hole in timber” are not two needs, they are both the need to make a hole in something. However “making a hole in something” and “screwing down a screw” are two needs.

Then, write down all the features of your product – what it is made of, how it is made, what the functionality is – and make sure these relate to the need(s) you identified.

Next, look at every feature and write down what benefit that gives your customer while meeting his need.

For example – “made of steel” means long-lasting while they use the drill in all kinds of conditions.

“An accountant with years of training and experience” means they can rely on the advice and stop worrying.

If you need help in working through your features and benefits you can download our free worksheet to write it all down.

Finally, write down one or two marketing messages about what you discovered about your product, for example:

  • Our drill will make clean holes fast, and you will love using it because of the comfort – by the way, it’s made of steel so will last you for years
  • Our car will get you from A to B in style while retaining its value – and the German technology is totally reliable
  • Our tax services will make your problems with the Tax Department go away – we can say this because we’ve done this successfully for the last 20 years
  • Our fashionable safety boot will protect your feet and go with your jeans – the light-weight steel safety toe is totally safe yet hidden.

Remember to answer the question “What’s in it for me?”

To help you craft your message, download our free “Hot Button Worksheet”.

In the end, that’s all marketing is, helping your customers solve a problem.

You should be rightfully proud of your product or service, but to get into your customer’s radar, it’s not about how good your product is – yet. It’s first about if you can solve their problem, then how they feel about your product, and finally, how good your product is.

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Cover image by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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