You and I have likely never met. I know nothing about your business. You know nothing about mine. We live in different cities, shop at different stores and read different books.
Yet I can tell you one thing without argument: You and I both sell the exact same thing.
Whether I run a tech support service and you own a coffee shop, or I’m a marketing consultant and you run a company that specializes in helping companies win more government contracts, we still sell the same thing. People come to us because they need a remedy for a pain—we are the remedy-makers.
And now that you know we all do the same thing and that the thing we do—offering relief—isn’t special, you can get down to the business of setting your brand of feel good apart from all the other Dr. Feelgoods out there.
Let’s take a look at two must-have methods for using relief to attract more of your favorite customers.
Find Your BUQ (Big Universal Question)
How do you respond when someone asks you the most dreaded question in business? You know: “So, what do you do?” If you pray for the elevator you’re in to plummet 16 floors, putting you in the hospital for a week, well, you’re not alone. Lots of business owners are tongue-tied when asked to explain just what they do in 25 words or less.
Instead of a blank look, I’d rather you put a smile on your face (and sigh with relief) when facing this question. All it takes is figuring out the BUQ—the Big Universal Question—your brand answers.
What exactly is a BUQ? It’s a question that 95 percent of your target demographic would hear and respond to with, “Ummm … yeah. Like every day!”
For example, when people ask me what I do, I ask them a question in return. “Have you ever felt stuck?” The resounding answer is, “Ummm, yeah. Like every day!” "Well," I respond, "I help curious brands and entrepreneurs get unstuck and over those annoying problems that keep them from being awesome."
If someone’s in my target demographic, they then generally ask, “Well, how do you do that?” And that’s where the conversation gets fun. We can begin to talk specifics about them, their brand and their challenges.
A BUQ is designed to help you: 1) regain the lead that’s lost when you blurt out some meaningless, boilerplate this-is-what-I-do response; 2) come up with an answer that explains the emotional benefits of working with you (for me, that's getting unstuck and on to feeling awesome), and 3) make the best prospects for your brand ask the follow-up question.
Here's your homework: On the left-hand side of a piece of paper (or spreadsheet for my fellow geeks), make a list of all the wonderful things your clients and customers have said to you about how it felt to work with you. On the right side of the paper, list the questions for which these customer responses would be the answer. For example:
Customer response: With your help, I don't have to think about my tech issues anymore.
Your question: Don't you want to stop worrying about your tech issues and just do the work you planned to do when you started your company?
Customer response: You make me feel at home in your coffee shop.
Your question: Have you ever wanted a home away from home (and preferably, one with delicious coffee)?
Once you get started, you’ll begin to see a pattern in both your customers' feelings and questions. Start testing those questions when people ask you what you do. You’ll know when you’ve hit the mother lode because you’ll be starting more conversations and sending fewer people running away from your marketing speak.
Talk More About Emotions, Less About Mechanics
If there's a page on your business's website that talks about your "process,” please take it out behind the barn and give it the Old Yeller treatment. Why? Because no one cares and you’re commoditizing your brand.
If what you do can be outlined with a step-by-step process, what you offer isn’t special and will certainly never make a customer feel as special as they deserve (and demand) to feel.
Your competitors have the same mechanics. So every marketing message you release into the wild must speak more to feelings and less toward mechanics. There are a few ways you can turn your mechanical speak into something that turns heads and increases foot traffic.
Here's your homework: It's list-making time again. On one side of a piece of paper, jot down all the things your company offers. To the right of each of those things, list the reasons why those things matter to your customers.
Here’s a list I created for an IT consulting company:
What we do: Offer 24-hour monitoring
Why this matters: Because customers need to focus on running their business, not on whether their technology is working.
What we do: Security analysis
Why this matters: Because outdated technology can lead to security breaches, making brands less trustworthy to customers.
What we do: Live customer support (real people; no phone systems)
Why this matters: Because there's nothing more frustrating than having a problem and not being able to talk to a human about solving it.
With a simple list like this, you can instantly abandon mechanical speak and tap into the relief your clients crave. Understanding why what you do matters to the people for whom you do it is critical for business success. It also keeps you out of the trap of writing Web copy, advertisements, signage and brand messages that could be used to describe anyone.
Your brand deserves messaging that speaks to the needs your customers have and how you can make them feel better. And who doesn’t want to feel better? Heck, that’s why I buy coffee from my local coffee shop every morning.
While it might be disheartening at first to learn that every business in this world sells the exact same thing (relief), you’ll thank me for the revelation later. And now that you know, it’s your chance to tap into emotion and attract the customers who are most in search of your brand of feel good. All it takes is the willingness to ask a big question and talk less about the how and more about the why.
Why do we want relief? Because it feels good. And that feeling is why we go back to our favorite brands and businesses time and time again.
Read more articles on branding.