Stop Selling Me Stuff

As I’m writing this piece, and recording the podcast episode that will come from it, I’m taking a break from shooting some of the videos that will make up our copywriting course, called Copywriting 101: Enhancement Marketing. We talked about the concept last time. One thing has become clear: We need to stop selling stuff to people, and start solving their problems.

Here’s an audio version of this piece for your dining and dancing pleasure.

In truth, it’s more like, “go back to solving their problems.” Somewhere along the way, and I can’t put my finger on when, we marketers forgot how to do that. Attention to the bottom line meant the customer’s satisfaction went out the window.

We can stop selling, for example, when our customer service is so good that our customers are more like fans. That’s hard to do when your Customer Service website links are almost impossible to find. Tricky when I try to call you and have to punch fourteen things to get to a human. Tougher still when that human is thirty-seven minutes of mind-numbing hold music away. And damn near impossible when that human isn’t empowered to actually make me happy.

We ease up on the salesmanship when our product is so good that our customers’ friends do the marketing for us. Sounds crazy, but some people love stuff so much they tell their friends about it. That changes everything about our advertising and marketing efforts. Then all we have to do is nudge ourselves back toward top-of-mind awareness. And that, my friend, is The Holy Grail for marketers.

When you love the product yourself – actually love it – you can stop selling. Instead, you’re helping. If you had freebies to give out, and you’d make sure to put one aside for your Mom, or your husband, you’ve stopped selling.

Stop Selling, like David Ogilvy did

David Ogilvy was one of the giants of the advertising industry. The agency he founded in the 1940s still bears his name, more than 20 years after his death. It has a network of more than five hundred offices in more than hundred countries. So quibble with Ogilvy when you’ve opened office number five hundred and one. David Ogilvy himself wrote ads for brands like Rolls-Royce, Hathaway shirts, Dove soap, and plenty more. It would be fair to call David Ogilvy one of the greatest salesmen of all time. But Ogilvy would probably agree, he was able to stop selling and just focus on service.

Ogilvy himself said,

Almost everything I consume is manufactured by one of my clients. My shirts are by Hathaway, my candlesticks by Steuben. My car is a Rolls-Royce, and its tank is always full of Super-Shell. I have my suits made by Sears-Roebuck. At breakfast, I drink Maxwell House coffee or Tetley Tea, and eat two slices of Pepperidge Farm toast. I wash with Dove, deodorize with Ban, and light my pipes with a Zippo lighter. After sundown I drink nothing but Puerto Rican rum and Schweppes. I read magazines and newspapers which are printed on paper from the mills of International Paper. When I go on vacation (in Britain or Puerto Rico) I get my reservations through American Express and travel by KLM or P&O-Orient Lines. And why not, pray tell? Are these not the finest goods and services on Earth? I think they are and that is why I advertise them.

David Ogilvy

When you approach it that way, you can stop selling.

What brought all this up

Part of why this is top-of-mind for me right now is an email I got from someone who was interested in our copywriting course. Well, less interested in taking the course than in selling it. See, we have an affiliate program; once you graduate, you get a code. If someone comes to us via your referral code, signs up and completes the course, you get fifty bucks. So they wanted to know if they could just skip the course and get to the selling.

Sounds like a deal! I get somebody who’s motivated to sell the course, right? Except that at the heart of what I’ve come to call Enhancement Marketing is the idea of service. The idea that we stop selling things we don’t actually stand behind. And how can you stand behind something you’ve never experienced? I’m willing to stand behind the course, that’s why it has a money-back guarantee. But if you’ve never taken the course, you’re not recommending something you think will help. You’re recommending something you know will put fifty bucks in your pocket every time someone says, “Yes.” That’s self-service, yes. Not actual service,

It’s when we don’t believe in what we’re selling that things like dubious claims and inflated promises start to become a problem. When you get tired of customers complaining, you make it harder for your customers to reach you directly. Because trust me – nobody ever gets tired of happy customers making the phone ring. Ever. The only reason companies make it tough to get through is because history has shown them you’re going to complain. Maybe if they would stop selling stuff and start serving people, it could all be better.

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