Always Let Your Product Sell Itself

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Fine restaurants in the Pacific Northwest had been serving cedar plank salmon for years. But Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks wanted to sell a home version.

Their idea was to manufacture a 6-inch-by-12-inch piece of cedar wood. You put your salmon on the wood plank, put the plank into your home barbecue, and - voilà - cedar plank salmon.

When Aldrich met with the seafood buyer for the Fred Meyer stores in Portland, OR, he didn't bother with sales patter. He just said, "I'm here to help you sell more salmon." Then he let the buyer taste a filet cooked on one of his cedar planks. The reaction? "Wow!"

Aldrich provided some facts and benefits, but the buyer was sold with the first taste. Within a week, Aldrich and Maddocks had lucrative orders from more than 100 Fred Meyer stores. And they sold truckloads of those little cedar planks.

The lesson here is simple. One of the best ways to sell is to let your product sell itself. With a few proven techniques, you simply give your prospects a "taste" and their enthusiasm does the rest. Two techniques are obvious:

Sample. A printer embosses a sample calendar with my business name, telling me I can order this very item for my clients. A generic perfume company offers two scented samples, one with an expensive name brand and one with a knockoff, challenging my wife to guess which is which. A textile company encloses a sample of a fireproof fabric and a match, daring business buyers to set the bit of cloth on fire. When you have a good product or service, nothing will sell it as well as simply putting it directly into the hands of your prospects.

Free trial. This is the single greatest offer in the world. You let prospects try your widget for a time period: 10 days, 20 days, 30 days, whatever. Or you can offer a free issue, shipment or some unit of sale. The free trial is often tied to a negative option. "Try 3 free issues of Wingnuts Today Magazine. If you like it, you'll get a full year for just $14.95. If you don't, just write 'cancel' on the bill. But keep the first 3 free issues as our gift to you."

But samples and trials aren't the only way to give people a taste of your product or service. The point is to bring products and prospects closer together. And you can do that to a lesser degree right in your direct mail package or ad. Here are a few ideas:

Teaser copy. I used this technique in a recent newsletter subscription package for administrative assistants. At the top of the letter, I showed a picture of the newsletter with a list of teasers preceding the offer, such as "How to dress down and still look professional," "9 steps for motivating a lazy co-worker without stressing yourself out" and "7 ways to be a take-charge employee." Virtually any information product offer can do the same thing.

Product photos or illustrations. Visuals give your prospect a sense of the quality and value of the thing you're selling. For subscriptions and books, show the front cover. For software, include screen shots of the most powerful features. For industrial or high-tech equipment, provide cutaways with callouts describing prominent features. For less visual offerings, such as financial services, create an offer you can show, such as a special report, brochure, certificate, coupon, etc.

Letter with a story. While it's often best to present your offer quickly, a good story can start a letter with a bang while allowing your prospect to experience your product or service second hand. I created a package recently to sell a book on how to buy a house, and the letter told a little story before giving the offer:

I could just kick myself!

A couple years ago, my wife and I bought a new home. After we moved in, our neighbor asked us over for coffee.

What a shock! He had the same house design, but it was full of all the extras we couldn't afford - like a fireplace, panel doors, tile, oak cabinets. It was stunning.

When I asked how much it cost, he smiled. "Nothing. I knew how to get the extras added on free." And it was so simple, I could have done it, too. If I had only known the secret!

Testimonials. In addition to adding credibility and supporting your claims, testimonials let people vicariously sample your product or service through the experiences of others. But don't settle for vacuous verbiage such as "I love it!" The best testimonials include specific details about using the product.

Harry Aldrich and David Maddocks made a fortune by giving prospects a taste of their product. What would happen if you gave your prospect a taste of yours? There's only one way to find out.

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