Selling the Invisible | Harry Beckwith

Summary of: Selling the Invisible: Biz Books to Go – A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
By: Harry Beckwith


Dive into the world of modern marketing as explored in Harry Beckwith’s ‘Selling the Invisible: Biz Books to Go – A Field Guide to Modern Marketing.’ The book summary emphasizes the challenges and opportunities in marketing services, which can be quite different from marketing physical products. From utilizing abstract advertising techniques and maintaining consistent quality to understanding the power of the brand and the story, the book reveals valuable insights, strategies, and examples that help businesses think differently about positioning their services in the market.

Marketing Services Effectively

Marketing services can be challenging as services are abstract, not standardized, and lack a physical product to display. Unlike physical products, services’ quality is not always consistent. Companies that sell services need to rely on more abstract advertising techniques and branding. The US firm Travelers Insurance, for example, chose an umbrella as its logo to symbolize protection. Being unable to display products means that marketing services effectively can be difficult for companies. Concentrating on image-heavy advertising where the product takes center stage works better for companies with easily identifiable products like Porsche. However, marketing services require more abstract methods and techniques. The quality of service can vary depending on which staff member serves you, which also makes it difficult to market services effectively. Even if the marketing is excellent, a negative customer experience can deter a customer from using a company’s services again.

Meeting Customer Expectations

To remain competitive, businesses must continually ensure customer satisfaction. Services are judged by their ability to exceed expectations, and gathering feedback is the best way to evaluate this. Negative feedback should be seen as a chance to improve and correct mistakes to ensure future success.

Differentiation in Services

To succeed in a service-based business, it’s important to differentiate yourself from competitors. Being different, redefining the market, breaking new ground, and innovating are key strategies.

While it’s easy to see differences between physical products, it’s much harder with services, which lack visual elements. To stand out from competitors, you must find ways to differentiate yourself. The most straightforward solution is to be different in some way. FedEx, for example, succeeded by offering a service that was entirely different from that of the US Postal Service. Walmart broke new ground by opening stores in small towns that had been ignored by competitors.

Being an early adaptor in a new business territory can also be advantageous. With few or no competitors present, you can gain an edge and become the go-to service provider. However, even if you are well-established in your business, long-term adaptation through innovation is also necessary. Companies that don’t change with the times become stagnant and risk losing customers.

The banks, for instance, used to help their clients manage their finances, including their insurance policies. However, they became stagnant and lost customers to innovative competitors like credit unions and insurance companies.

Differentiating yourself from competitors, redefining the market, breaking new ground, and innovating are essential strategies in service-based businesses. The key is to stay vigilant and innovative to stay ahead of the curve and maintain customer loyalty.

Finding Balance in Business Planning

Strategic planning has become a standard practice in many businesses, but it has limitations. It is concerned with predicting future goals, which can be problematic since the future is unpredictable. Furthermore, if companies plan until they get everything perfect, they risk getting left behind. Instead, the key is finding a balance between planning and being proactive. One should plan for what is expected to happen but also be ready to take advantage of unexpected events. Success comes from being open to change and evolution, learning from mistakes, and reacting intelligently to available opportunities as they present themselves. The example of Apple’s Macintosh computer shows that initial failures can lead to better products and experiences. Therefore, businesses should aim to find a balance between planning and proactivity, rather than obsessively planning for an unpredictable future.

The Importance of Consistency in Business

Every aspect of a company that a customer may encounter should reflect the marketing message of the company. Customers do not distinguish between different areas of a company. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that every touchpoint of the business portrays a positive image. Failing to treat all staff as extensions of the marketing message can result in negative consequences. Ensure that all employees, especially those who interact with clients and prospects, are trained to reflect a positive image of the service. A single negative experience can tarnish a customer’s impression of the entire company, regardless of how well other staff members are trained.

The Psychology of Buying

People make buying decisions based on irrational factors like prestige and familiarity instead of just price and quality.

When it comes to purchasing behavior, people are not always rational, and this is something businesses need to consider. While price and quality are important factors, other aspects such as prestige and familiarity can also influence buying decisions. For example, despite higher fees and fewer perks, American Express credit cards are popular due to the exclusivity that comes with membership. Similarly, customers are more likely to buy a product that they are familiar with or constantly see advertised. To benefit from these irrational factors, businesses must make themselves visible and actively promote their brand.

The psychological aspects of buying should not be overlooked. By understanding and accounting for these elements, businesses can successfully cater to their customers’ needs and ultimately improve their sales. It is not just about the product itself, but also the image it presents and the emotional connection it can create with customers. The importance of these factors cannot be underestimated, and businesses that fail to acknowledge them may experience disappointing results.

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