No One Cares How It Works

By Mae Scott-Schaefer I recently needed new brakes on my car. When I picked the car up from the garage, the mechanic explained that the shoes and pads were worn, and that he had to replace them. He didn’t launch into a lengthy discussion about how the braking system functions, or the benefits of the particular parts he decided to use. The mechanic clearly understood that I did not really care how the braking system works. What was important to me was that when I apply the brake pedal, the car slows down. This got me thinking. When we market our products to our users and buyers, why do we so often focus on features and functionality? Why aren’t we focusing more on identifying pain within the market, and discussing how our products alleviate that pain? To do that, we must first understand our market. Who are the users and buyers? How is the competition responding to market problems? What are the market problems, and how can we quantify them? Once we’ve done that, we need to position our products in such a way that we communicate facts. What problems do we solve? What is the value of our solution? What about our solution is unique? What is one single, overriding benefit? After we’ve scoped out all of these, we can think about branding. Branding, simply put, is the mythology that we create for our products. It’s not a logo or a tagline; rather, it’s the unique experience that our users and buyers have. We need to create a compelling story here, and to do that, we need to understand what it is that our market values. How do we find out? Well, that’s pretty simple. We need to get out and LISTEN to our market. Did you notice that I said “listen,” and not “talk? That’s important. We don’t want to go out to the market and talk about our new product ideas, and what we think would be a really cool feature. We’re not there to tell the market what we think. We’re there to understand what they value and what their pain is. Some specific tactics we can employ to strengthen our brand awareness are developing a social and media relations strategy, building relationships and creating thought-leadership that tells a story, is relevant and can be shared. All of this helps people buy, which is our end goal. We got here by focusing on results, not on deliverables, and by understanding the value of the perceived problems that our product can solve. We didn’t get here by telling people about all of our products’ features and how they work! Mae Scott-Schaefer is a pragmatic marketer who helps companies position their products and services in ways that resonate with the needs of their markets. She has worked in the publishing, consulting and software industries, and holds both a B.A. and an M.A. in English. Contact May at
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