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You Can’t Sell Tickets to The Titanic if You’re Marketing it as a Rowboat

In: Business 101, Marketing,

Listen up, business owners: Like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover. And that cover happens to include the words on the front. And those words will make all the difference.

Even something as simple as the way you advertise your services. There’s a palpable difference between the words, “hire me” versus “engagement fees.”

There’s a difference between “buy now” and “apply now.” (Even though those “apply now” snobs drive me insane.)

And there’s a difference between, “Cost: $5,000” and “Cost: $1,000 deposit to get started today” (Hint: One triggers the brain to flip on the flashing red lights and instantly categorize you as, “TOO EXPENSIVE!” while the other gives the brain a chance to process the value without getting distracted.)

People spend so much time painstakingly slaving over their business models, their offerings, their processes, their projections—but they’re all too quick to brush off the packaging as a superfluous extra—something that they’ll “figure out later” because in the meantime they just want to “get it out there.”

What they don’t realize is that they’re shooting themselves right in the big, Devil-Wants-to-Wear-Prada toe.

Yes, there is value in “shipping.”

Yes, there is value in getting it out there.

Yes, there is value in failing early and failing fast, as they say.

But you can’t sell tickets to The Titanic if you’re marketing it as a row boat.

Labels do matter. How you word it matters. What you say about it matters.

You could write the next Great American Novel, but if, once you’re done, you just slap any old title & description on the front–“A Good Book, by You,” expecting the content to [extra title=”Nothing sells itself. Not even drugs. That’s why there are drug dealers, you guys.” info=”tooltip” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover”]”sell itself”[/extra] while you crack a beer, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening. (And probably a rude hangover.)

A much smarter and much more profitable strategy is to figure out how to package your product firstWhat’s your angle? Where’s the catchy concept? How can I make this memorable, soundbiteable and exciting?—and then work backward from there. It’s how books like Eat, Pray, Love get the publishing deal, sell the movie rights, and then end up having Julia fucking Roberts ride a cute little bike with a basket through a god damn rice paddy AS SHE PLAYS YOU IN REAL LIFE. Sure, the book is good. But the packaging? Is why it sells.

Another example: Let’s say you’re a masseuse. (Man could I use one of you right now.) Instead of advertising yet another “Swedish Massage,” re-package that service into one called, “OVERWHELM BE GONE: A Specialized Massage for Stressed Out Business Owners Who Work Hunched Over the Computer All Day.” Or one called, “ATHLETE’S FOOT: A massage for sports enthusiasts who beat on their feet.” Or maybe one called, “MOM’S REVENGE: The massage for moms who need me-time.”

You’ll help the right clients feel like they won’t accept any other massage except THE ONE THAT IS JUST SO PERFECT FOR THEM…even if the standard Swedish Massage is the exact same massage.

It’s not about the product. It’s about the package.  Because the package is  the product.

And more and more, as the world of e-commerce grows and everybody including your grandma has a website, your words are your package.

The last thing you should ever do?

Is leave them for last.

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18 thoughts on "You Can’t Sell Tickets to The Titanic if You’re Marketing it as a Rowboat"

  1. Margo Snyder says:

    Doing some intense work on this right now! Copy is my least favorite thing to do (even though I don’t completely suck at it) so I always put it off to the last moment and then try to push my products to get them out there ASAP.

  2. Shir says:

    Where do I sign up for OVERWHELM BE GONE? 🙂

    1. Ash Ambirge says:

      RIGHT? @sheershir:disqus

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