Friday, May 20, 2016

Fresh Fish for Sale Here: Are You Emphasizing the Wrong Thing?

I was linked to a fantastic article by Ryan Sauers that reminded me of a story I heard about a fishmonger's sign many years ago. One of Ryan's points in his article is that you should be able to tell someone in 17 seconds why your company is great without using the words "quality", "service", or "price," and I have a similar challenge for my own readers at the end of this article.

The fish story has made the rounds, but for those who are not familiar, I'll summarize it.
A man approaches a fishmonger's stall which has a sign out front that says "Fresh Fish for Sale Here". The man asks the fishmonger, "Do you think that sign is effective at selling more fish?"
"I guess so," the fishmonger replies.
"Well, it says 'here', but where else would you be selling the fish?"
"Good point," answers the fishmonger as he removes the word 'here' from the sign.
"And 'fresh'? Of course it's fresh. Would you sell old, bad fish?"
"Certainly not!" the fishmonger declared, reducing his sign to "Fish for Sale".
"You don't give it away do you? No one would expect that, so why say 'for sale'?"
"Good point." The fishmonger's sign now said 'Fish'.
"Your stall contains nothing but fish. I don't think you need a sign to explain that." And that was the end of the sign.
Every business tells you about their superior quality, excellent service, and best prices. You hear it all the time, and you believe absolutely none of it. You tune it out. I tune it out. Everyone tunes in out. Let's imagine a generic pitch that hits on those three concepts.
Dumcorp's best salesman.
Dumcorp offers you high quality products at the lowest prices. We promise to beat our competitor's price without sacrificing quality, and our service is second to none.
It sounds like copy written by a lazy copy writer that likely has no bearing on what the company actually does. Basically what you read when you see that is...
Dumcorp sells something.
"Quality", "Service", and "Price" are probably your "Fresh", "Fish", "For Sale", and "Here".

When I sell, I don't sell on quality, service or price. I sell on what sets me apart.

Minuteman is a good printer with great quality, but there are other good printers with great quality in our market. Is our quality better than most? Certainly, but can I prove that?

Minuteman has good, competitive prices, but their are other printers with comparable costs of doing business, equipment and quality, so the prices will be comparable. I can't promise ours will always be better, but they are competitive and fair. We take good care of our customers in terms of price, but can I prove that?

Minuteman has good service, but so do our competitors, so I cannot guarantee that our service will be better, and once you're at the top tier of service, what is "better" anyway? And how do I prove it?

Included free with every purchase.
So, when I sell printing, I sell on the greatest asset I have to offer: myself. I don't just print your stuff. I bring my experience and expertise in small business and marketing into the process. I don't just ask what you want to print. I ask why you need it so I can maximize the effectiveness of your printing dollar.

Here is a challenge for you. Can you describe your competitive advantage in 50 words or less without using the words "Price", "Quality", or "Service". For added challenge, let's also avoid the buzzwords of "Value", "Best", and "Competitive". Show us what you've got in the comments.