It was the best of booths, it was the worst of booths, it was the conference of wisdom, it was the conference of foolishness.
I recently ran a vendor booth at one of the biggest trade shows in the country, and noticed a truly amazing contrast.
To set the stage, it was the first time my company had purchased a booth at a conference, so this was a big deal. Across the aisle was a large, household-name electronics manufacturer with a big fancy booth. As attendees walked past, only one of the companies could win their attention. It was setup to be David vs. Goliath.
Yet something amazing happened. The little startup was passing out buttons and stealing all of the attention. Our booth was packed and theirs desolate.
During a break in the action, an employee of the electronics company noticed what was happening asked if he could have some of our buttons to give away. “Why not,” we thought, as they were stamped with our logo, and we passed him several dozen. He gave them all away, but was completely unsuccessful at driving more traffic to his booth.
When I paid attention to the sales pitches, I understood why we were winning.
At one booth, someone told attendees “Free button! Check it out!”
The other booth, armed with the exact same buttons, asked people “Want to be a marketing hero? If so, this is for you!”
Which booth do you guess was ours?
Selling the “Why”, Not the “What”
This is a classic example of selling customers on WHAT you do (features, tech specs) instead of WHY you do it (the end result). The WHY gets to the core of the value proposition, and can explain the financial value provided. Even better, the WHY can inspire a customer to take action. It paints the picture of what life could be like if they purchased.
WHAT is a means. WHY is an end.
“Free button” is what you give away. It’s boring. “Become a marketing hero” is why one takes the button; it makes an emotional sale on a desired future state of the world. And the first step toward living in that world is to simply take the button.
When someone asks “What does your company do?” it’s better to reply “I’d rather first tell you why we do it.” After all, the what only matters once someone first buys into the why.
Next time you walk the sales floor, think about this example. Two companies selling the exact same product. The winner is selling customers on WHY. Are you?