Why analytical thinkers struggle to sell

I’m not a watch guy, but when I think of Patek Phillipe, two things come to mind.

First, there’s Future on Racks Blue:

“The Patek a two-tone/ I done went colorblind I’ma get my shine on, yeah”

Then, there’s the highfalutin ad copy, usually on the back of The Economist:

You never actually own a Patek Philippe.
You merely look after it for the next generation.

Patek Philippe Press Advertising | Colour Andre

It’s a brilliant (yet douche-y) attempt to arouse our desire for legacy via the father-son bond.

But let us not forget. It’s a friggin watch.

You’ll have to look well beyond the advertisement to find the craftsmanship, timekeeping accuracy, resale value, and provenance of this fine accessory. These unique features are nowhere to be found. Instead, you’ll just find the benefit: your son will proudly carry on your legacy.

The quarter-inch drill bit

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

This famous quote from the legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt encapsulates the Patek ad. And it exemplifies where things can get tricky for left-brained analytical thinkers trying to deploy their persuasion skills.

Why is this relevant? Well it goes well beyond the scope of marketing. As we know, so many things in life involve a “sale.”

Your Tinder profile? A “sale” of one’s self as a future mate.

An email subject line? A” sale” of the contents to be delivered.

The investment memo? A “sale” to the committee on the merits of an investment.

As a Computer Scientist turned digital entrepreneur, understanding the psychology of persuasion has been extremely challenging. I’m most definitely the guy who would list Patek’s features – as the compelling reason to buy.

One reason: shame. We’re ashamed that we fall for these marketing tricks. My business coach and marketing consultant Billy Broas explains:

We often resent the ancient part of our brains. Especially intelligent people. We hate that this type of marketing “works” on us. I’m trying to show people it’s not a bad thing that we buy this way, based off our emotions. That it’s actually a sign of higher intelligence, not lower.

And so I’ve had to (unintuitively) learn that people often take action based on what their heart tells them – and not their heads.

When features enable benefits

In April Dunford’s book Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It the former tech executive and “positioning expert” lays out a framework to map features, benefits and value. The left-brainers on the list will find the left column eerily familiar:

Dunford continues (as if she’s speaking directly to me):

Moving from “features” to “benefits” and then to “value” often confuses people, particularly folks who come from a technical background. An engineer by training, I often viewed features and the benefits derived from those features as interchangeable.

Sure, a 15-megapixel camera is cool. But you know what’s even cooler?

Printing them out and they still look dope AF.

Don’t forget your responsibility

Now let’s take this a step further. In This is Marketing, Seth Godin challenges Levitt’s drill bit metaphor:

No one wants a hole. What people want is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole. Actually, what they want is how they’ll feel once they see how uncluttered everything is, when they put their stuff on the shelf that went on the wall, now that there’s a quarter-inch hole.

Yes, we want a bookshelf and de-cluttered apartment, right? Nope, there’s more:

They also want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves. Or perhaps the increase in status they’ll get when their spouse admires the work. Or the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the bedroom isn’t a mess, and that it feels safe and clean.

Had Godin been asked about the Patek campaign, he’d probably say: “People don’t want to buy a $20,000 watch. They want the infinite and enduring love from their children.”

I’m grateful that the insights of Levitt, Dunford and Godin have undoubtedly helped me scale my business towards the pinnacle of $10K work.

But that’s not why I’m here. It’s not why I send these emails. I send them because RadReaders are a kind, inquisitive and creative bunch.

And as your biggest fan, I want to do everything in my power to give you the tools to live epic and intentional lives.

So please use this newfound knowledge responsibly 😉


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