How can I communicate benefits when what I offer is intangible?

Q & A by C.J. HaydenA common mistake service professionals make is to focus on nice-to-have benefits in their marketing messages. But in order to get your prospects to respond, it’s not enough that they might want what you offer. It has to be something they are willing to spend money on, and they must be able to justify that purchase to themselves and others.

Imagine a conversation a woman might have with her best friend about whether to spend money on getting more “passion” in her life —

Woman to friend: “I’m thinking about hiring a life coach to help me find more passion in my life.”

Friend: “Really? Why don’t you just give me the money and I’ll read you an erotic novel?”

Woman: “No, that’s not what I mean. I want more fulfillment in my day-to-day life, and this coach says she can help me to get that.”

Friend: “Sounds a little vague to me. If I were you, I’d spend my money on taking those design classes you keep talking about.”

Compare that to this conversation —

Woman to friend: “I’m thinking about hiring a life coach to help me change careers.”

Friend: “Really? How can this coach help you?”

Woman: “She says she can partner with me to help me seek out new possibilities that match what I’m really looking for and stay focused and motivated while I’m doing it.”

Friend: “Sounds like it could be helpful. What’s the coach’s name?”

Notice that in the second case, the coach has given the client the language to clearly explain the desired benefit, and justify the purchase to both her friend and herself. The more concrete you can be about what benefits and results clients can expect, the more likely they are to hire you.

This is why the “12-year-old test” works well to check the effectiveness of a 30-second commercial. Children tend to think much more concretely than adults and will ask blunt questions that adults might be hesitant to raise. Ask a kid, “Would you spend your allowance on this?” and you’ll get an honest answer.

There is a small percentage of any target market that has enough discretionary funds to spend significant amounts of money on services that simply make them feel good, or would be nice for their company to have. So you will find some clients who are willing to pay for finding more “passion.” But there are much larger numbers of people willing to spend their money or their company’s budget on specific results like getting a better job, increasing their income, improving communication skills, finding customers, reducing employee turnover, etc., and these clients exist in a much wider range of income brackets and budget sizes.

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