What do you sell? I mean really, what is it that you actually sell? Why do people visit your website, or even buy your product? What do you offer that compels them to do this?

In a world of substitutes and alternates, we have to learn to better understand what drives our customers. Understand this and you understand how to make your site more effective.

Let’s start with a simple question.

Why do people buy expensive sports cars?

Well, in true Family Fortunes style, we’ll pretend we asked 100 recent purchasers of sports cars and they predictably said:

  1. I like the classic styling
  2. I like the finely tuned engine
  3. I like the build quality of high performance sports cars

However, if you were then to ask them anonymously, they would say something like:

  1. It helps me attract sexy young women
  2. It lets me pretend I’m Jason Stratham in The Transporter

Jason Stratham in The Transporter
Really. They think that.

Think about your business model, what do you think it is? You could be in the business of selling clothes, plumbing supplies, online content or event admissions.

Now take what you’ve thought of and put it in this sentence: “X is just my route to market, what I actually sell is:”

Harley Davidson understands this. It’s probably apocryphal, but they’re famously quoted as saying

What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.

Jo Malone also understands this. Jo Malone, if you didn’t know, sells a range of luxury personal and home fragrances, and their candles can reach up to £250. What Jo Malone sells is not the ability to have a finely scented life, but that buying a candle allows you to pretend, for the burning length of a candle or the brief top notes of a fragrance, that you live like this:
Jo Malone Decor, nice, isn't it
instead of like this:

My Living Room

TV by Panasonic, coffee table by IKEA, boyfriend asleep on sofa after using laptop and watching Star Trek – Bloggers Own.

What we, as website managers and facilitators of our brand, have to understand is what is it that we actually sell?

So how does this work with your website? Well let’s have a look at mine (www.wiltshirefarmfoods.com if you haven’t already seen it); We serve 2 types of people:

End Customers: WANTS

Agnes lives at number 3. She’s having difficulty cooking for herself nowadays, but doesn’t WANT to be seen as being reliant on anyone, Doris at number 10 is such a gossip. She’s also loathe to admit to defeat in that she can’t cook anymore.

Influencers: NEEDS

Robert lives a couple of hours away from his mother, Agnes. He’s worried that she’s not eating properly, but the distance and his job makes it difficult for him to visit regularly. He NEEDS to find a way to help.

So what I am actually selling? For Doris, I’m selling the ability for her to remain independent at home, and our brand is orientated to be aspirational, that our customers are making their own choice. For Robert, I’m selling the reassurance that his mother is still eating well. Informed by this, I can then for example create specific content for my site, addressing the questions and concerns that Robert has.

How do you apply this? For your specific business it’s likely that you have USPs that attract the customer and form the basis of your business – otherwise you wouldn’t still be in business. Your USPs are the things that support the purchase decision, and are likely elements spun off from the concept you’re actually selling.

For example, at Wiltshire Farm Foods we spend a lot of time focusing on our delivery experience, our drivers are trained to not only be friendly, caring, reliable and supportive, but also we ensure that our customers always get the same delivery driver, order after order, so that a rapport and friendship quickly builds.

But that is an offline thing, how can analysing our business model help us to create online USPs into your website?

A little presentLet’s take a generic example: Say you run an online toy store, if you think that “Selling toys is just my route to market, what I sell is:

I would argue the answer is “the ability for my customers to delight their children”.

You can then use this concept, Delight, to then form how your website aligns itself to the customer’s needs and wants. So, how do you provide Delight in an online toy store?

  1. Your customer wants to delight their children, so they need to choose the correct gift. Taking the guesswork out of which toy to buy, by having “Toy Trends” content – take a note from online fashion retailers and pull in third party content, adverts and reviews, you could then shoot off from this with a gift choosing wizard.
  2. Providing gift wrapping options that enhance the delight of opening the present – perhaps you could be the first toy retailer to offer “Pass the Parcel” gift wrapping, complete with user-customised (and branded!) forfeits. If you were savvy these forfeits could also included incentives that facilitate a loyalty scheme.
  3. Your customers need to make the gift giving timely, which you can support both in terms of event (say, Birthday) reminders and offering a next day or even better, a same day delivery service.

By focusing on the reasons why people shop with you, and realising your actual business, it not only allows you to align yourself better to the customer, but also helps you to innovate to meet their needs and wants.