If you can correctly answer this question, you’re halfway to assuring your business will succeed

There is a very simple question that too few business people ask. Many don’t even stop to ponder it. And yet, having an answer for this question can mean the success or failure of a business.

No. It’s not “Can we close this deal today?” Or, “How much does my competition charge?” Nor is it even, “Would you like fries with that?”

I have had clients look at me with a blank stare when I ask it. Some have become irritated. One started to giggle. In all cases, it took some time to find the correct answer.

The question is this: What are we really selling?

Watch out. Your first reaction may not be correct. Let me give you an example.

What are people buying when they buy a ¼ inch drill? Power tools? Drill sets? Toys for guys?

They are buying ¼ inch holes.

Until someone needs or wants a ¼ inch hole, they will never buy a ¼ inch drill. It doesn’t matter if you drop the price, offer two-for-one, or hold a parade in your parking lot.

The tricky part is that the real need that is being filled is often different than you might think.

If you don’t get this question answered correctly, you are probably wasting a great deal of time and money in your advertising and sales efforts.

Still a little confused? Let me give you a few examples:

You’re not selling fertilizer. You’re selling a growing, vibrant garden.

You’re not selling insurance. You’re selling peace of mind.

You’re not selling tickets to a basketball game. You are selling memories of an exciting event that is shared with others and will be remembered forever.

This is the primary reason so much advertising money is wasted. People spend a great deal of money putting out ads without first determining what the correct selling message should be.

I am fortunate to be connected with a regional youth theater company based in the California Foothills. Now if you immediately got images of the second grade school play where you played a tree, you’ve got the wrong image.

Over the past seven years, El Dorado Musical Theatre has grown to be one of the largest youth theater companies in the United States with five major productions a year. Production budgets for shows are regularly over $100,000 a show and the product on stage shows it.

Peter Pan, Wendy, and her brothers flew in Peter Pan. Audiences were greeted to 32 pairs of tapping feet doing the original Broadway choreography in the opening of the production 42nd Street.

In a period when theater companies, ballets, and other performing companies are closing their doors or are on the critical list, this theater group is growing.

What’s the secret? We determined exactly what we were selling and aligned all of our promotional efforts accordingly. Much to the surprise of everyone, we determined that we’re not really in the theater business.

I know. It sounds crazy. We cast shows. We sell tickets. We have kids on stage in costumes and make-up singing and dancing. There are standing ovations and very happy audiences in the end.

Not in the theater business? That’s right. We’re not.

We’re in the kid business.

The focusing goal of El Dorado Musical Theatre is “Building confidence for life, through excellence in theater production.”

Audience members are buying a ticket to see a show. That’s the excellence in theater production part.

But, the foundation of the business is the families of the performers in the show. They do much of the work as volunteers and help encourage people to come see the show. What these families are buying is a growing, nurturing experience where their kids build confidence. Theater is merely the vehicle.

When parents understand that, this kid’s theater company takes on a whole new level of priority. Families will happily eat macaroni and cheese instead of dining out before they give-up this experience for their children.

So think for a moment: What are you really selling?

Are you sure? What else could it be? Can you take the answer and open-up a whole new area for your business?

Mercedes Benz sells more than transportation.

Starbucks sells more than coffee.

Nike sells more than athletic shoes.

What are you really selling?

Figuring this out is the first step we take when we begin working with any client. The answer becomes the foundation for crafting a marketing program that gets results.

Getting the right answer to this question is often the difference between getting little or no return from your marketing, or having a wild success.

Want help sorting out this question for your business? For a limited time, you can get some assistance and leave your checkbook at home. Call Sentium at (800) 595-1288 and we’ll arrange a telephone conversation.

So, What are you really selling?

To your business success,


Looking for help getting the right message to produce exceptional results for your business? The first step is to make a simple phone call. Call Sentium to set-up a no-obligation telephone consultation. It will cost you zero, zip, zilch, nada, but could give you answers that can dramatically boost your sales results. Call us at (800) 595-1288.

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Richard Wilson is the Founder/Chief Marketing Strategist for Sentium Strategic Communications which helps companies craft the right message for extraordinary results. Over the past 31 years, his clients have ranged from start-ups to major technology companies.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved. All people who are looking to dramatically boost their business should read this e-zine. Don’t even think about reproducing this document or its contents without written permission from Richard Wilson. But feel free to forward this or e-mail it to all of your friends. For reprint permission, please call 800-595-1288.