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When I discuss Marketing Innovation, one-on-one or with a group of 250, I always tell the story of the drill bit. It goes like this: You walk into Lowe’s to get a half inch drill bit. Six dollars later, you have your drill bit. But you didn’t go to Lowe’s because you wanted to add to your drill bit collection. You went because you wanted a half inch hole. It’s the hole that was worth $6. The bit was just a means to an end.

Common sense isn’t so common

While this should make perfect sense, the truth is, many marketers don’t get it. Take a look around. I promise, all your competitors are selling drill bits. Maybe you are, too. A perfect example: the boating industry.

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Can you tell the difference?

I’m a sailor. I read sailing magazines and I can tell you that in 98% of cases, the boat manufacturers are missing the point. Nearly every ad shows the same thing: a photo of a beautiful new boat gliding along under sail. Cut the ads out of the magazine and pin them to the wall and you can’t tell the difference. It’s true with sailboats. It’s true with power boats. It’s true with kayaks and fishing boats.

Nobody buys a boat just to have a boat.

Some sailors like to race, some like to cruise, some like to sit at the dock and play Jimmy Buffet music while they drink rum drinks. Show me an ad that has me crossing the finish line ahead of my friends and I can get excited. Show me an ad with a couple dropping anchor in the Bahamas, and I can see myself right there. Show me an ad from my perspective and you get my attention. Show me another pretty boat… boring.

What are you selling?

It’s easy to get caught up in features and benefits, engineering-speak, and the latest “shiny” improvement. When you market from that point of view, you talk about you. When you market from my point of view, you talk about me. Take some time to figure out why your customers buy what they buy, and then focus your energy on that, your marketing will be dramatically more effective.

What are you selling, drill bits or holes? Your comments are welcome here.

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