As entrepreneurs and business leaders, we focus on building the best possible set of features into our products and services and then marketing them. Yet, there is another and sometimes better way: selling the invisible – features and processes that are not obvious in product design.
Recently, a client asked why our ADAP Formula (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations) was so successful. I explained that by looking for visible and invisible factors affecting audience decision-making, we could appeal to whatever we thought was strongest. For instance, when a company selling women’s dressy-dresses tried to think through how to sell itself into a new Private Equity firm, we explained that the prior failure was due to an invisible factor: the buyer’s team consisted only of men. They thought about tuxedos, which can be worn several times; yet women need a fresh dress for every special event. By re-focusing their attention before even starting the presentation, we had their attention that this was a much larger opportunity than they thought. It worked.
Remember the old advertisement for Dunkin Donuts? “It’s 4 AM and time to make the donuts”. It focused on an invisible feature – dedication to FRESHNESS. Note, it didn’t focus on the observable size, flavors, tastes, etc. When Krispy Kreme was launched, they similarly focused on an invisible feature: the smell of freshness: they piped out of the kitchen into the street the smell of making fresh donuts. It became a craze and helped give them competition directly with Dunkin Donuts.
One of our Vistage members just competed against a bigger company on providing a service. A small part of it required installation of a unit. Using the same kind of “Prefab-design and preparation” that leading home builders now use to save on site-labor-costs, he submitted a bid which included installation in a fraction of the time of the competitor – saving time and money for the client.
As the member and I discuss growth, I realized that his invisible “competitive advantage” in logistics and distribution would make his service capability much more attractive. Indeed, his service which helps companies reduce energy costs on a sustainable basis through monitoring, also allowed companies to control airflow in buildings (which reduces Covid exposure) – which appeals to a much larger audience.
Think about “invisible” practices you use in your business that can get the attention of prospects and customers. It can be a real true “Competitive Advantage”.
Years ago, I read Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith and incorporated it into my former company, Brilliant Image, a 24/7 presentation service bureau, where most customers could not tolerate late delivery. Since then, I refer to this concept in my marketing courses. While teaching in China the last time, another professor saw me re-reading it and tipped me off to the Youtube video by his wife: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=4HdA924aqbM&ab_channel=ChristineClifford.