How Selling the Hole Can Get Customers to Buy Your Drill | Bolin Marketing
December 11, 2018

How Selling the Hole Can Get Customers to Buy Your Drill


Did you hear the bit about how to sell a drill?

It goes like this: “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Okay, that’s not a joke, but sage advice originally articulated by famed economist and Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt. As compelling as Levitt’s words are, many companies focus on extolling the virtues of their products rather than focusing on the solution that solves their customers’ problems. Instead, many sales and marketing leaders find themselves with a bad case of marketing myopia: a short-sighted focus on the products that they sell rather than a big picture view of what their customers need and want.

It can be tempting to remain focused on how your 3D printing is higher quality or that your thermostat offers more features than the competitions. After all, you know your products better than anyone and it’s those types of characteristics that you probably see when you look at them. That’s not what your client is looking for. They need roofing shingles and siding; they want a solution that helps create their dream home. Shifting your marketing focus on the solution rather than the product can be much more effective at getting your customers’ what they’re looking for–and here’s how you can get started today.

Understanding the Key Aspects of Solution Marketing

When creating a marketing message focused on solutions instead of on the product, there are a few key elements that all building materials manufacturers should consider:

  • The solution: It may sound obvious, but this can be trickier than it sounds. Take Theodore Levitt’s example again: if you didn’t know that the reason customers wanted your quarter-inch drill was to make quarter-inch holes, you’d never be able to move past product marketing to a solutions-focused approach. When your customers buy your products, what issue are they hoping to resolve?
  • The customer: Obviously knowing who your customers are is important in any form of marketing. However, since the whole point is that you’re trying to sell the solution, you really need to understand your customer and their specific problems in order to be effective. At Bolin, we do that through our DISTIL research methodology, where we develop personas to help better understand your customers and their pain points.
  • The problem: You can’t have a solution without first having a problem. Understanding what the problem is and how your product can solve that problem are fundamental to effective solutions marketing.


5 Steps to Shift Your Marketing Message from Product Attributes to Customer Solutions

  1. Take time to understand your customers’ problems

One of the biggest issues with narrowly focusing your marketing efforts on your products is that you can easily lose sight of why a customer would be buying your products in the first place: namely, because they have some problem that they need a solution for. All building materials companies must make the effort to understand their customer’s pain points. Perhaps they need to go greener with their materials or are struggling to incorporate more luxury finishes. Once you understand the problem, you can directly offer them an effective solution.

  1. Use this knowledge right out of the gate

Once you break free of your marketing myopia, you’ll start to realize that one of the easiest ways to engage with a new potential customer is to directly target the problems that they’re facing. Demonstrate that you understand their business problems to quickly capture the prospective customer’s attention–and open them up to hearing about the solutions your building materials company can offer.

  1. Shift content to focus on what problem your product solves rather than what it is

This means that instead of talking about the long list of great features that a particular product can offer, you focus instead on highlighting the ways that the product can help the customer overcome some pain point. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s necessary in order to shift from selling a product to selling a solution.

  1. Make it clear why your solution is better than that of your competitors

Even if you have an effective solution for your customer’s business challenges, your competitors will, too–and your marketing needs to address this head-on. Highlight how your product and customer experience makes your offering a more effective solution than everything else. It’s important to be specific. Offering great customer service is one way that your solution might be better than the rest, but you’re not going to convince customers that your customer service is the best simply by saying so. Instead, draw attention to specific factors that play into the customer’s problem: for example, that your building materials company has an extensive knowledge base that can help with troubleshooting installation or that you are able to offer quicker-than-average turnaround on material orders.

  1. Realize that selling the solution means selling the customer on the value you can offer them

Here again, you need to look at the big picture. Maybe you realize that your customer would be better served by using a more expensive material because it has fewer issues during installation, cutting down on waste and reducing the needed man hours. Communicating this to your customer is part of selling the solution. The first thing they’ll see is the higher price tag; you have to show them that this solution is actually less expensive for them overall.

Moving from a product-focused marketing strategy to a solutions-focused one isn’t always easy. Solution marketing is often more complex. When you’re focused on selling the product, it’s easy to use the same marketing approach for the same product to different types of buyers. On the other hand, your product may solve different problems for a contractor than it does for a home owner, forcing you to tailor different marketing messages for different types of customers.

Luckily, you don’t have to embark on this challenge alone. We can help you craft a message for your clients that effectively communicates the solutions you can provide–and our experience lets us know exactly the types of solutions a building materials company’s customers need. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you solve your customer’s problems, contact us.

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