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In the 1950’s, when Walt Disney built his first theme park, he wasn’t looking for corporate synergy or to sell merchandise or to make Anaheim a vacation spot. Walt just wanted to capture the spirit and feeling he had as a child, enjoying a carnival. Somewhere parents and kids could have fun together. Clean, nice – and affordable.

“Disneyland would be a world of Americans, past and present, seen through the eyes of my imagination– a place of warmth and nostalgia, of illusion and color and delight.” – Walt Disney

When Howard Schultz bought the Starbucks name and franchise rights from the folks who would later expand Peet’s across the country, his goal wasn’t to sell more cups of coffee. Instead, he wanted to create a “third place” where people could relax – and maybe enjoy a cup of coffee.

“…the vision was to re-create that for America – a third place that had not existed before. Starbucks re-created that in America in our own image; a place to go other than home or work.” – Howard Schultz

Sell the Person, Not the Product

Obviously, in both these examples, things have changed over the years, and not necessarily for the better. But I want to focus on the original vision. Walt wanted a fun place for parents to take their kids that they could all enjoy together. Schultz wanted to create a living room atmosphere in his business.

Which begs the question – what does your business really sell? Is it widgets? Outsourced marketing? Or is it affordable solutions to a known problem? Peace of mind, knowing you don’t have to know everything, because there’s someone you can trust to do it for you?

I’ve talked about this several times before – the more you can elicit an emotion in a buyer, the more likely you are to get the sale. So why do we focus on the intimate physical details of a product or service, and not how owning it will make you feel?

Alcohol marketers know this. A few focus on the quality of the hops and the brewing process. But most are more –– look how great you’ll feel; how many attractive members of the opposite sex you’ll draw; aren’t parties great? How many people started smoking because all the cool, mature people were doing it in the movies? I mean, women swoon over Cary Grant – and he historically smoked 60 cigarettes a day!

Taking it One Step Further

When you know what you’re actually marketing, it can cause a radical shift in how you do business, period. Not to keep bringing up Starbucks (although that is part and parcel of the Grow The Dream branding), but in Mark Gobe’s book, Emotional Branding, he talks about a decision the board faced in the early 2000’s. Their accountants figured out that switching to single ply toilet paper would save them millions. But it was decided that single ply toilet paper would detract from the ideal Starbucks experience. So the idea was flushed.

A good marketing strategy – based on primal, emotional decisions – creates a brand that makes you stand out in the marketplace – especially for those people who are your ideal customer. You can’t sell to the whole world – even Coke hasn’t managed that. So stop trying. Focus on the people you serve best. The product you provide them. And the emotional impact they feel when they invest in you and your company.

If you’d like help figuring out just what you’re selling and how to connect with those customers who are looking for you (whether they know it or not), please reach out. We’ve built our business helping small businesses and entrepreneurs grow their dreams into success. And we can help you too.