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Archive for May 8th, 2011

Marketing a Product Is Most Effective When Presented Through Story Telling

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

by: Geoff Ficke

Marketing a Product Is Most Effective When Presented Through Story Telling 

Many years ago, when I was just a young rookie salesman I was fortunate to fall under sway of a wonderful veteran sales manager. His name was Milton Lupow and he became a mentor, teacher and coach as I struggled to climb the ladder to success. The lessons he taught stick closely to me until this day and at every opportunity I introduce Mr. Lupow’s concepts to my clients. When I became a sales manager, then an executive and business owner I appreciated his imparted wisdom even more. 

One of the most important, and profitable lessons taught me by Milton Lupow was to sell by telling stories. Ben Franklin closes, take away closes, sales tapes and courses were the rage of the day in the marketing and sales world of that time. Hard selling was common. Mr. Lupow would have none of the trendy techniques. 

His sales presentations were seminars in weaving a products features and benefits, and thus importance to the buyer and their customers, through placing the product in the center of a story. After many successful presentations, as we reviewed the meeting notes, we would discuss the customer’s reactions. I began to notice that buyers enjoyed and looked forward to Mr. Lupow’s visits as they were not the normal sales blather that was served up by competitors.    

Product comparisons, figures, data points, market share and so many other important elements key to marketing and selling consumer products usually do not sufficiently differentiate your product from competition. Telling stories does. Very few people enjoy being sold something. Everyone enjoys hearing a good story. 

After 40 years in the consumer product sales, marketing and product development business I have enough experience to tell stories based on my own history. Those many years ago I did not have this chest of knowledge to dip in too. I learned to take some element of the product, research and obtain unique elements of origin, geography, harvest, processing, rarity or availability and weave that bit into my story. 

For instance, when I was presenting a fragrance I would highlight the unique, exotic essential oils we utilized, how weather affected their price and access and how the flora or fauna that rendered the oils was discovered. Ambergris is collected from the surface of the ocean after whales vomit. Berber women process rare argane oil from endangered trees in the Sahara desert. Many ingredients are harvested in the Amazon by indigenous tribes. A kind of travelogue with cultural highlights frames the provenance of the product. As I called regularly on customers I discovered, much as I had experienced with Milton Lupow, that the stories were successful in conveying a more positive image of my offerings. I also found out that I was more welcome each time I returned. 

When I marketed pet products the story might highlight how I had stumbled onto the product concept while watching dogs interact on the beach, or at a park, or at my sister’s pool party. I invented a wellness pet product by utilizing an ingredient I had found was being used in medical surgeries. I had taken a quart of the compound and when placed in a sealed, soft-sided bag pets loved to relax on the cooling unit. I discovered this by accident while relaxing at the beach. 

If I want to convey how products can jump categories I might tell the story of the famous over-the-counter topical treatment Preparation H. The product was developed by a Dr. Sperti, a Cincinnati-based chemist. It successfully provided hemorrhoid relief for generations. Some enterprising hemorrhoid sufferers somehow discovered that the properties that made the cream so effective in its targeted treatment also made Preparation H a terrific facial wrinkle cream. It became the base for some of the earliest wrinkle creams. That is a real leap. 

Several years ago we worked on a gourmet food project. The product was wonderful. But it needed a better story to differentiate it from competition. We perused the ingredients in the recipe and researched their supply sources. Targeting two key components of the label statement we developed a unique process story about them. We then bought minimum quantities of the ingredients from the most exotic, artesian sources and added them to the product. We now had a unique, rare, quality-driven story about the products special features and benefits versus the competition. 

Process stories are excellent tools to utilize for cosmetic, aromatherapy, bath and body, wellness, food, drink and other consumable products. A proprietary style of production that can be detailed, utilizing a unique engineering or lab process can be a huge difference maker. Ingredient stories alone are rarely enough to achieve success. A trade secret, highly specific method of handling, blending and producing is much more compelling and intriguing to buyers.

Learn to weave interesting stories and points of discovery into you product marketing and sales presentations. Your trade show meetings and sales appointments will be much more interesting and memorable. You will enjoy the increased sales too!