In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

Make it personal is one typical bit of advice for sellers of intangible services. In other words, explain “how it makes your life better.” “Show the benefits” (outcomes) is another way to sell an intangible product. When even that is tough, sell “peace of mind.”

That’s why credentials, furniture, street address, references and “experience” become proxies for value and competence where an intangible product is concerned. Even tangible products such as fashion items or vacation resorts have a huge and similar problem, namely creating a brand or mystique that helps potential buyers evaluate the product, which either is a means to another end, or an “experience.”

Trust also is important for selling intangibles.  As there is nothing tangible to show customers, customers have to trust their suppliers. And though it would be hard to show a direct correlation, one element that promotes trust might be that lots of other customers have chosen a particular supplier. So market share becomes a proxy for value and a reason for greater trust.

In his book Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing, Harry Beckwith makes the point that an intangible product cannot be sold in the same way as a physical product.

“In fact, a service does not even exist when you buy one,” notes financial analyst Ben Carlson. “If you go so a salon, you cannot see, touch, or try out a haircut before you buy it. You order it. Then you get it.”

Product failure also is harder to determine. Did you get good advice? How a good a job did your painter, dentist or doctor do? That is unknowable. That is why products can have warranties. There is some way of knowing and quantifying the risk of product failure.

Most services cannot be similarly quantified, with the possible exception of outage or availability performance. The big point is that customers buy connectivity services that mostly come without guarantees or certainty. So anything suppliers can do to provide proxies for quality should help.

And that is why “brand” reputation matters. Irt is a proxy for quality and a reason for trust. That is why personal relationships matter: they are proxies for quality and reasons for trust.

That is why good storytelling matters. Companies and people sell themselves, their vision, philosophy and values. Being likable is a prerequisite when the customer has endless choices.“Prospects do not buy how good you are at what you do. They buy how good you are at who you are,” says Beckwith. That is why sellers of broadly similar products benefit from “accentuating the trivial.” That might be one of the few ways to differentiate, when products perform in broadly similar ways.

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