There’s an old adage that goes, “Nobody buys a drill because they need a drill. People buy a drill because they need a hole.” Similarly, when you ask somebody what they do for a living, they almost always describe their occupation in terms of what it is they sell. They describe their “drill” whether it’s financial advice, patio furniture, fine wines, or some other product. But, when you look at who’s buying these products, you find they have real reasons for buying that have nothing to do with the sellers’ products. All business people are egocentric in this sense (and I mean it in the most positive way). We do what we do because that’s what we will. We go to the beach because we want to go to the beach. We go to the movies because that’s what we want to do. We start a business because we think it would be a good idea. But that egocentric approach to business can also put us at a disadvantage. We’re not seeing our brand from our market’s point of view. So here’s a two-step challenge for business people. First step, describe your business in terms of the “drill” you’re selling. Piece of cake, right? You’re probably doing it every time someone at a party asks you “So, Charlie, what do you do?” Second step, describe your business in terms of the “hole” your clients or customers are buying. For most managers, this will not be so easy.
That’s because businesses have many different customers and clients. They may each describe their reason for buying a product or service in different terms. It takes persistent, innovative questioning to sleuth out the common denominator that underlies all their decisions. And that requires a true, determined effort. Most business people prefer to wing it. They will refrain from making that kind of investment opting, instead, to rely on their own instincts and experience in the business. But that decision comes with a huge disadvantage: unreliability.
When managers wing it, they can never be – sure. There’s always that nagging thought in the back of the mind, “What if I’m wrong?” These thoughts intensify when marketing campaigns fail to deliver expected results. (Which is very often in small and middle-market businesses.) And yet, most business leaders still rely on their own instincts. They simply try another marketing tactic. But without the clarity that comes from the research; without understanding the market’s “hole”, any new guessed-at marketing campaign is likely to be equally ineffective. These people don’t want to “waste” money on market research but then squander budget after budget on off-target marketing campaigns.
Ask Boardwalk for help in finding
innovative ways to “see” your business.
FedEx is a tremendous case study in how to do it right. Their market research opened their eyes and transformed their brand. FedEx thought of themselves as being in the package delivery business. That was their “drill”. But research revealed that their customers didn’t think of them that way. Their customers had a lot of options; they had many ways to get their packages delivered. They used FedEx for the peace of mind. That was the “hole”. That was what they were really buying.
Anybody who’s ever rushed a package to the FedEx office knows the feeling of relief you get when you hand it over to the clerk just before deadline. It’s almost as if, just by dropping it off, the package is already on the other side of the country. That’s how reliable FedEx is. But because FedEx had never asked before, they were unaware of their customers experiencing this release from pressure, this relief.
Once FedEx realized they’re actually in the peace-of-mind business, not the package delivery business, it changed everything for them. They changed their name, officially, from Federal Express, to FedEx, which is what their customers called them anyway. It’s how their customers thought of them. Changing their name allowed them to better match up with their customers expectations. They also changed their packaging and livery to better meet their customers wants. Most of all, the revelation gave them the power of clarity. It allowed them to come up with brilliant, successful campaigns like, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
Through research, FedEx was able to see themselves through their customers’ eyes. They realized their true competitive advantage and became one of the strongest, most valuable brands around. Now when B2B companies tell me branding isn’t for them, I always point to FedEx.
So this year, instead of taking a blind stab at a new marketing campaign, try something innovative. Try talking to your market. Find out what kind of “hole” they need that they would come and buy a “drill” from you. It will help you serve them better. Serve them better and they’ll reward you with brand loyalty. If you need help with this, give Boardwalk a call.
Best Branding Reads – Week of September 9, 2019
‘Green Book’ and ‘Roma’ producer Participant gets a makeover as it rides ‘conscious consumer’ wave
Producer of woke films gets more woke.
Why Focus Is Essential for Effective Branding and Marketing
Total focus on the needs, wants and desires of your customer.
Leveraging Brand Culture To Combat Recessions
Makes the important point that how a business responds to adversity has a huge impact on its brand’s future.
The Decalogue of Building Brand Loyalty
Really great and useful article but, hey …thou shalt not use fancy words in your headline.
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas
A too-brief but fun history of an iconic sign. More to the story than you’d expect.
New Logo and Identity for Moda Operandi
Agree with reviewer this is a tasty antidote to all the blanding that’s going on with fashion brands now.
AXA’s Paul Bennet on Brand relevance
Bennet discovers an important insight: the more successful your brand relationship, the more your market will expect of you.