Don’t Market Your Product — Market the Solution

drilling hole for book shelves

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Fred doesn't care about your drill bits.

Fred Homeowner is installing bookshelves in the office of his home. The supports for these shelves require a quarter-inch anchor screw mounted in a stud that can support the weight of a variety of books. Fortunately for you, your product line includes quarter-inch drill bits. You give him an advertisement for quarter-inch drill bits. He doesn’t click on it. It doesn’t interest him. Why not? 

“People don’t what to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
- Theodore Levitt, professor of Economics at Harvard Business School.

All too often, we are so close to the product we’re looking to market that we forget what drives people to buy it. Even thinking about what would make the product appealing is often the wrong way to approach marketing efforts. How on earth are you supposed to market your products and services? 

Sell the Solution

When you become too focused on the actual product itself, you miss out on a lot of what your target demographic wants.

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of headphone manufacturers on the market selling quality wireless, noise-canceling headphones, few people are buying headphones.

Instead, they’re buying a pleasurable listening experience.
They’re buying serenity on a hectic flight.
They’re buying the ability to get lost in an audiobook while running on a treadmill.
They’re buying the ability to catch the attention of their peers and gain status as a fashionable person (cough [Beats by Dre] cough [AirPods] cough).

You’re actually in the business of selling bridges to experiences.

Sell the Complete Picture

Professor Levitt is undoubtedly correct about the quarter-inch hole. Still, sending targeted marketing to Fred Homeowner with pictures of quarter-inch holes isn’t going to grab his attention either. To drive the message home, your marketing needs to accompany Fred on his journey.

Before drill bit is necessary, why is it required? To build a bookshelf. Why does he need a bookshelf? Because his office is a mess of stacked books and it's driving him crazy.​

What would cure his anxiety? Organized books. Along this journey, he needs to mount a bookshelf. Your drill bit and the hole it provides are steps in this process to Fred's peace of mind. Fred likely doesn’t care what alloy your drill bit is made of — all he cares about is getting the monkey off his back that is his disorganized home office.

When you sell the relaxation that comes with a tidy office, you go from selling the machined piece of metal to selling relief. 


The next time you are tasked with marketing a product, remember that what you’re actually marketing is the alleviation of friction in your target audience’s life. You are removing a thorn from their side. Don’t market products or services. Market solutions. 

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