You probably believe the building product you sell is higher quality than your competitor’s. But if your product really is better, why are you still losing so many sales to the other guy? Why don’t more customers understand that your product is better?
It Has Nothing to Do with Price
The biggest reason your customers are buying from the other guy is that you’re making it too hard for them to buy from you. Your competitor, the one with the inferior product, is making it easier.
When I say, “you’re making it harder for customers to buy from you,” what I mean is that you’re making it harder for them to understand why they should buy from you. You’re making it harder for them to see why your product is better.
Have you ever seen someone trying to communicate with another person who doesn’t speak the same language? When the other person isn’t understanding, the first person will say the same thing again, only louder. When that doesn’t work, they’ll say it more slowly. Next, they’ll say it even louder and more slowly. Finally, in frustration, they just start saying it over and over again.
Unless the first person resorts to hand signs or someone who understands both languages steps in to help, the message usually won’t be communicated.
And that’s exactly what happens to many building product companies with higher quality products. They make it too hard for the customer to understand.
Your ad agency tells you all you need to do is spend more money so you can repeat your message to the customer more often. But if your message is too difficult for the customer to understand, they won’t get it—no matter how many times you repeat it.
Make it Easier for Customers to Understand Why You Are Better
Ever since I read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths, I have focused on improving my strengths instead of my weaknesses. One of my strengths is understanding how to develop a message that lets customers easily understand why your product is a better choice for them.
To improve that strength, I went to a messaging workshop in Nashville called StoryBrand. As with any workshop, you’re reminded of some things you already knew but have forgotten or forgot just how important they are. You also learn some new things.
I will be sharing what I learned in future articles. But the first thing I learned is so important that I wanted to share it by itself.
The problem with most building materials companies is that they suffer from the “curse of knowledge.” They know so much about their product and its uses that they end up making several mistakes:
- They think their customers know the same things they do. It’s so obvious to these companies that it’s hard for them to imagine that the customer doesn’t have much of the same knowledge.
- They think they know better than the customer what the customer should be concerned with.
- The more a company thinks their product is better, the longer the list of reasons they feel their they their product is better. And they feel the need to share everything on that list.
“Customers don’t tend to buy the best products, they buy the products that are easiest to understand.” Donald Miller, President of StoryBrand
As soon as I heard this, it reminded me that this is the most common reason why your building materials customers buy from your competitor, even though their product isn’t as good as yours. They make it easy to understand; you make it hard.
It has nothing to do with the quality of your product
It has everything to do with how easy you make it to understand why your product is a better choice.
5 Reasons Why Words Are So Important
- Your customers are very busy and have no time. They need to solve problems quickly. They don’t take as much time to make a decision as you think they do. How easy can you make it for them to understand? If you were to sum up the reasons you’re the better option in five words or less, what would you say?
How hard did Hillary Clinton make it to understand why she was a better candidate? She had a 120-point program. Being President is a complicated job and she wanted you to know she was better for many, many reasons.
How hard did Donald Trump make it to understand why he was a better candidate? He kept it simple. All he told you was “Make America Great Again.”
If you were a voter who was considering both choices, Hillary made it harder than Trump.
Common sense says that there’s no way that Donald Trump should have even come close, let alone win. If your lower quality competitor is outperforming you, I’ll bet your message is more like Hillary’s than Trump’s.
- We all gravitate to people who are more like us. Building materials people are knowledgeable about their products, so they tend to spend time with other knowledgeable people. It’s like a group of college professors discussing the minutiae that is important to them but not very important to the customer.
Only a small percentage of your customers care about these issues. Your customer isn’t interested in taking a class in your product.
It would be like Mercedes letting their engineers sell the cars. Sales would plummet the next day.
The more you know about your product, the more you need someone else to manage the marketing and sales.
- You aren’t taking the time to understand just what is it about your product that makes it more attractive to your customer.
There is some feature of your product that is clearly better than your competitor. Perhaps it’s a longer warranty, a thicker membrane, better alloys—whatever. If your sales aren’t growing, either the customer doesn’t care about this or you haven’t made it easy for them to understand why it should be important to them.
Making it easy isn’t saying it loud and often; it’s using the right words and using as few as you need.
- You are fighting inertia: the property of matter (customer) by which it remains at rest (with current product) unless acted upon by some external force. Unless a customer is actively looking for a change, they are sitting still, and the status quo is the easiest solution. They have enough other problems to solve. They don’t need to create any more work and changing to over to your product is work.
The hardest part of motion is getting something to start moving. Hard to understand, complicated, irrelevant messages won’t do anything to get a customer moving towards a change.
- Whoever is developing your sales and marketing message needs to be focused on how easy they can make it for the customer to understand why your product is better.
I was working with the head of marketing for a large successful building materials company. They hired me because they had a new competitor who was taking more of their business every day and they couldn’t find a successful way to respond.
The input they gave me was, “Our product and why and how you use it are very complicated. Once our customers understand all of this, they will see why we are better.”
The solution I developed was only three words. They didn’t believe it would work, so I made a sales call and took them along. My presentation was based on my three words, and the customer was ready to buy.
Once that customer had decided that my client’s product was better, he had a number of more detailed technical questions. He asked these after, not before, he had decided to buy.
This time my solution was more than three words, but it was still simple, easy to understand and relevant to the needs of the builder. Within a week, the sales people were calling to tell me how much more successful they were just by making it easier for the customer to understand.
How to Improve Your Message
Strive to know as much about your customer and their business as you do about your products. Then you’ll find out what it is about your product that would make the customer recognize why your product is higher quality.
The single most important thing that can enable your customer to easily understand why your product is better are the words. It’s not the creativity of your marketing, the media you use such as a new website or a trade show booth, or the aggressiveness of your sales people—it’s the words.
If you have award winning creative and a huge marketing budget with lots of sales people, they will fail to deliver if the words aren’t right.
The other benefit of starting with the words is that you can test them on customers before you start spending the big bucks on creativity. I typically validate the effectiveness of the message by making customer calls with nothing but the new message.
Building product customers do care about higher quality products, but only when it’s easy for them to understand why they are better for them.
Customers who understand this are more loyal to those companies and make price less of an issue.
Want to grow your sales? Make it easier for your customers to understand why you are a better choice for them.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.
“I LOVE this article! This may be my favorite message of all time. Most of my time in the industry has been spent working for high end differentiated products. Changing people’s perspectives has always been the hardest challenge. I always say that “Everyone is right according to their own perspectives. Now, how do we change their perspective?” . I could write a book pointing out all the reasons I love this article and why. I have always been known as “the idea guy” at the companies that I have worked for (sometimes to the point of annoying myself because I can’t turn my brain off). I would love to sit in a think tank with people that understand this type of messaging. Did I tell you I love this article? I love this article! …..now I wish I could hide it from the rest of the world! LoL!”
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Marvin Windows of New York
Boise Cascade Company
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