Sell Dreams, not Products (or Services)

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There’s a saying in sales that goes like this: “Nobody who bought a drill actually wanted a drill. They wanted a hole.” But here’s what I always wondered: Why do they want the hole? The title of this article comes from a little ebook called, Innovate the Steve Jobs Way: 7 Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success. In it, the author makes the point that…

Nobody cares about your company or product. They care about themselves, their dreams, and their goals. Help them achieve their aspirations, and you’ll win them over the Steve Jobs way.
Notwithstanding the book’s subtitle, this is neither insane nor different. Zig Ziglar once said something very similar:
You can get anything you want in life by helping others get what they want.
One of my sales managers once told me that the more your prospect talks about the future … and relates his dreams, aspirations, hopes and desires to your product or service, the more likely he’ll be to buy your product or service. So let’s get back to the drill vs. hole analogy. You could also say that nobody who bought a website actually wanted a website. They wanted to …
  • Sell a product or service
  • Promote their business or organization
  • Generate leads
But again I ask why do they want to sell a product, generate a lead, or promote their business? What do your clients really want? In a previous article
, I said that people buy because of the emotions associated with the product’s benefits, and not the product or benefits themselves. Here’s what I mean:
  • People who buy cameras are actually buying memories.
  • Men and women who buy perfume and cologne are actually buying attractiveness and sex appeal.
  • The dad buying a baseball bat for his son in little league is really buying home runs.
And the person buying that drill may, in reality, be buying family photos hung on the walls of his home. As designers and developers, we get quite caught up in the technical aspects of the thing we’re producing. Coming from a print design background, I had to learn that the website I was designing was not a work of art—it was my client’s business tool. We can become overly concerned about having XHTML/CSS validating, standards-compliant websites and forget to take a step back and look at the big picture. That website may be one small piece of the puzzle that allows your client’s business to succeed and enable him to send his children to college, earn that promotion, or retire early. Are you asking the right questions to go beyond “features and benefits” and get to the heart of what your clients really want? If not, why not?

Frequently Asked Questions about Selling Dreams, Not Products or Services

What does it mean to sell dreams, not products or services?

Selling dreams, not products or services, is a marketing strategy that focuses on the emotional connection between the consumer and the product or service. Instead of highlighting the features or specifications of a product, this approach emphasizes the experiences, aspirations, and lifestyle that the product can provide. It’s about selling the idea of a better life or a better self, which the product or service can help achieve. This strategy is often more effective because it appeals to the emotional needs and desires of consumers, which are powerful motivators for purchasing decisions.

How can I apply the concept of selling dreams in my business?

To apply the concept of selling dreams in your business, you need to understand your customers’ aspirations, desires, and needs. This involves market research and customer profiling. Once you understand what your customers dream of, you can tailor your marketing messages to highlight how your products or services can help them achieve these dreams. This could involve storytelling, experiential marketing, or aspirational branding. Remember, the key is to focus on the emotional benefits, not just the functional features of your products or services.

What are some examples of companies that sell dreams, not products?

Many successful companies sell dreams, not just products. For example, Apple doesn’t just sell computers and phones; they sell the dream of innovation, creativity, and status. Nike doesn’t just sell shoes and sportswear; they sell the dream of athleticism, performance, and determination. Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee; they sell the dream of a unique, personalized coffee experience. These companies are successful because they understand their customers’ dreams and aspirations, and they position their products as tools to achieve these dreams.

Why is selling dreams more effective than selling products?

Selling dreams is often more effective than selling products because it appeals to the emotional needs and desires of consumers. People are often driven by their emotions, not just their rational thoughts. When you sell dreams, you’re tapping into these powerful emotional drivers, which can lead to stronger customer loyalty, higher customer satisfaction, and ultimately, more sales. Moreover, selling dreams can differentiate your brand from competitors who are only selling products or services.

How can I measure the success of selling dreams?

Measuring the success of selling dreams can be challenging because it involves assessing emotional responses, which are subjective and intangible. However, you can use several indicators to gauge the effectiveness of this strategy. These include customer satisfaction scores, brand loyalty measures, customer testimonials, and sales figures. You can also conduct surveys or focus groups to gather qualitative data on how customers perceive your brand and how your products or services align with their dreams and aspirations.

Can selling dreams backfire?

While selling dreams can be a powerful marketing strategy, it can backfire if not done correctly. If your products or services don’t live up to the dreams you’re selling, customers may feel deceived and lose trust in your brand. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that your products or services can genuinely deliver the experiences or benefits you’re promising. Authenticity and honesty are key in selling dreams.

How can I improve my strategy of selling dreams?

To improve your strategy of selling dreams, you need to continually understand and adapt to your customers’ evolving dreams and aspirations. This involves regular market research and customer feedback. You also need to ensure that your products or services can genuinely deliver the dreams you’re selling. This may involve improving your product quality, customer service, or other aspects of your business. Additionally, you need to communicate your dreams effectively through compelling storytelling, engaging marketing campaigns, and consistent branding.

Is selling dreams applicable to all types of businesses?

While the concept of selling dreams can be applied to many types of businesses, it may not be suitable for all. It tends to work best for businesses that sell lifestyle products or services, or products or services that can significantly impact the customer’s life or self-perception. For businesses that sell more functional or utilitarian products, selling dreams may not be as effective. However, even these businesses can benefit from understanding their customers’ aspirations and incorporating this understanding into their marketing strategies.

How does selling dreams relate to storytelling in marketing?

Selling dreams is closely related to storytelling in marketing. Storytelling is a powerful tool to convey the dreams you’re selling. By telling stories, you can show how your products or services can help customers achieve their dreams. These stories can be based on real customer experiences, hypothetical scenarios, or the history and values of your brand. Effective storytelling can evoke emotions, create a connection with customers, and make your dreams more tangible and compelling.

How can I learn more about selling dreams?

There are many resources available to learn more about selling dreams. You can read books or articles on marketing and consumer psychology, attend marketing seminars or workshops, or consult with marketing professionals. You can also learn from successful companies that excel in selling dreams. Analyze their marketing strategies, customer interactions, and brand narratives to gain insights into how they sell dreams effectively.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

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