The first thing we know about our business is what we sell.
As we develop our strategic plans, we also define the problem that we solve. Once we go to market, we are tasked with describing this in a way to attract the right attention, and in only a few sentences.
Follow this rule to always pique the right interest.
Tangible versus Intangible
The first step is to determine whether your product is tangible or intangible. There are several definitions for this difference; in this post I am using the word “product” as a catch-all to mean anything you sell.
A tangible product, then, is something to which you can physically point, or you can physically hold.
An example would be a computer, which a client can see and perhaps even test before purchase.
By this definition, certain services also become tangible. Think of a website: a developer can build a portfolio to share his or her experience and outcomes. An estate planning attorney delivers a will or a trust: something clients can physically hold in their hands and read through.
An intangible then is the sale of knowledge, of information, or of advice to a future outcome. Coaching falls into this category, most legal work, many business services and, some would say, even a service like personal fitness training.
Step 1: determine if your deliverable is tangible, or intangible.
Tangibles become Aspirational
Think of walking into a room saying “I make websites”, or “I write wills”, or “I sell computers”. The people in the room know nothing of interest. They know what you sell, but not how it impacts their lives.
When you describe your product as aspirational, you are creating an image of success. But beware: this doesn’t mean describing a mood or a psychological outcome, because you don’t control your clients’ moods. In other words, don’t ever say “I sell peace of mind”. Your description still must be concrete, and focused on the outcome rather than the thing.
For (a simple) example, a website developer might say “I make websites that will take client appointments while you are busy serving other clients”. An estate planning attorney might say “I will create the one document your loved ones will need in case of an emergency, to make the next steps take care of themselves”.
In this manner you are describing the physical thing as well as its impactful outcome. The promise of the benefit your product provides is wrapped into the product definition.
Describe your tangible products in terms of their aspirational effects.
Intangibles become Concrete
What if your product is completely intangible? Legal advice, or a business plan, or a “better you” through personal coaching? And yes, you could say a business plan is a tangible piece of paper but the product is the information contained there-in: which is advice or a plan for the future. The outcome is still dependent on how the recipient acts upon it, not the information in of itself.
These are products that can not be directly experienced, held in your hand, or compiled into a portfolio.
When your product is aspirational, as in these examples, you want to describe it in concrete terms, still focusing on the outcome.
A business attorney, for example, may describe the exact concrete protections provided by the contracts he or she writes. A business plan can be described as a step-by-step guide to maintain a viable business and grow your client numbers (by x% or a specific amount). Note, it should not be about “growing your business” or taking it “to the next level”. Neither of those is concrete.
For a life coach, the deliverable might be “a step by step guide and plan to getting that promotion”, or “5 more hours of ‘me-time’ in your average week”, depending on the focus of the particular coaching.
Describe it as the opposite
For tangible deliverables: the secret is to describe your product not in physical terms, but in aspirational ones.
For intangible deliverables: the secret is to describe your product as if it were an object.
How can you best describe the value of your deliverable to your audience, to explain what you sell, the problem you solve and what’s in it for them? Contact me for a deep dive session to review your value proposition.