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Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group
The Most Obvious Marketing Mistake – Selling on Features
March 15, 2019 at 11:00 AM
by Stacey Danheiser
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I recently made a trip to Home Depot to buy a replacement light bulb for my bedside lamp.

On any given year, I spend 0% of my time thinking about light bulbs. I’ve never googled “the best light bulbs”, nor read any product reviews about light bulbs, nor asked any friends about which light bulbs they buy.

In fact, the only time “light bulbs” ever cross my mind is when one of them happens to burn out. So here I am standing in the light bulb aisle at Home Depot, faced with hundreds of light bulb choices.

To say I was overwhelmed with choices is an understatement.

Every light bulb looked exactly the same.

Every package was labeled with the same jargon like “40 watts”, “Incandescent”, “LED” “Equivalent A19”, “Energy Star 90+”, “CEC Title 20” and a bunch of other features that meant absolutely nothing to me.

Where were the “standard” light bulbs? I thought. Where are the best light bulbs for reading at night?

I started to panic. I thought this decision would take 90 seconds, tops. Now it was becoming clear that this was apparently a much more involved decision.

I looked around for help. Nada.

So I pulled out my phone and went to Home Depot’s website thinking I may get better guidance and sorting capabilities there. That was wishful thinking. What I got was 4,417 choices of light bulbs with unhelpful sorting options like “light bulb shape code”, “bulb construction” “brand” and “light bulb base code”.

There were no sorting options to select how or where the light bulb would be used.

You see, here’s the mistake these light bulb companies make. They are marketing on FEATURES and not on the BENEFITS or VALUE provided to customers.

I didn’t come to Home Depot to buy an “800 lumens” light bulb (the feature). I came to buy a light bulb that would glow softly while I read my book before going to sleep each night (the benefit) so that I can meet my goal to read 50 books this year (the ultimate value to me).

I have no idea what the difference is between “soft white”, “cool white”, “warm light” and “daylight”. (Seriously – if someone has figured that out what these obscure labels mean, let me know!). And I suspect there are other people like me who could care less about learning the ins and outs of all this lighting jargon – they just want the light to work!

What if light bulbs were marketed based on the value they provide to the user:

  • “feel like you’re in a movie theater”
  • “so bright you won’t cut yourself shaving”
  • “read before bed without waking up your spouse”

In the end, I spent 20 minutes narrowing down my selection to two light bulbs that appeared to be close enough to what I thought would be a good “reading light”. And guess which one I chose?

The one that was the cheapest.

After all, like all buyers think when making a purchase – why would I pay extra for something I don’t see value in?

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Customers don’t buy products. They buy solutions to their problem. Struggling to communicate your value to customers? Check out my company’s FREE E-book to learn how to craft compelling customer value propositions with a repeatable, actionable framework.