Pizza & Cheesesteak

Some marketing messages just hit you between the eyes.

I was in Philidelphia’s Reading Terminal Market to discover the delights of the famous philly cheesesteak and the sign in the picture had me straight away.

“Pizza & Cheesesteaks” is the simplest kind of marketing message, relying on the idea that if you want a pizza or a cheesesteak, and you want it now, you should stop wasting your time and buy it here. It’s a straight forward tactic that worked well for the cheesesteak that day and for commodity products any day.

But what if your product is a bit more complicated than fast and cheesy food?

Leading a team that wants to skip to market with a reputation for great products means weaving four simple ideas into every part of your go-to-market thinking. The first two often get lost under the heading of marketing — remember the old saying though, marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department — the second two are pure product development, but all four are built from the ground up.

Simple Description

What is in the box? The idea here is to give your customers a simple way to describe what you have to offer, whether it’s cheesesteak, a micro-blogging platform or a jet engine.

If you’re struggling to work out what you’re selling, listen in to what your existing customers already call it. Don’t worry about trying to differentiate here — the in-the-box question isn’t supposed to turn up a unique answer, but a framing one.

Simple Value

Why would I buy it? If I’m in the market for what you sell AND you come up with a great reason to buy, you have a least half a chance of turning me into a customer.

So what’s the value, what will it do for me? Will you fill that huge sandwich shaped hole in my stomach, connect me to the world in less than a minute, haul an aeroplane full of paying passengers/cargo into the sky at the lowest cost per unit?

Of course, the best marketing messages are stuffed full of differentiated offers and compelling thoughts. Marketing communications people spend their day doing this but they sometimes lose sight of the true value. However persuasive the copy, and however sophisticated the message you have to get across, make sure you don’t obscure the simple description and simple value of what you have to offer.

The point of marketing is to ease a customer’s path to your door — good marketing means I’m more likely to try, and even persist with a product for a while — but the success of the product comes when I incorporate it into my daily life and tell my friends about it. And that means it better be simple to use too.

Simple to Use

Don’t make me work (too hard). Marketing may provide customers but the product lives or dies in the hands of the customer.

Any product that’s difficult to use risks a future covered in dust and destroys almost all chance of positive word-of-mouth. Products should be as intuitive as possible but the creators are usually the worst judges — so get out of the building, talk to customers, test, test, test, and then act on the results.

Simple to Extract the Value

Help me be successful. Ultimately, you have to deliver the value you promise. You’re not selling widgets, you’re selling what the widgets can do for the customer.

Send your customers on an unsupported voyage of discovery and they might get to the promised land but more likely they’ll bob around on rough seas. Build a support network around your customers that helps them get exactly the result they wanted when they dipped into their wallet.

The Ultimate Benefit

Of the four simple things, the ultimate benefit is the value that customers extract. Great products, reputations, and word-of-mouth are all built when customers do things more quickly, more easily, more cheaply, or just better than before.

The ultimate benefit means success for the customer and success for you.

The success of my cheesesteak? My stomach complained but my face was smiling.

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