Beauty Contests Aren't For The Ugly

One Sunday some girls I know were complaining to me.

They had been in a bar the night before and, as usual, all the single guys in the bar were only interested in the same few girls – the best looking ones. 

They said that this was proof that men are superficial and only interested in a girl’s looks.

I told them they were wrong.

I said:

 "Look at this from the guy’s perspective. He goes into a bar and he sees a lot of girls. However, all he knows about those girls is what he can see.

"He doesn’t know who’s a nice person. He doesn’t know who’s got an interesting personality. All he knows is the way they look.

"So, he uses the only piece of information he has ...  and picks the girl who looks the best. It’s not because he’s superficial. It’s because, all things being equal, good looks are better than no good looks."

By being unwilling to go up and talk to these guys or even to smile at them, my friends were entering into a beauty contest.

The problem was that, although they were 7’s on looks, there were always going to be 8’s and 9’s in the bar. So, my friends were always going to lose.

I told them “you’re 9’s on personality but, because you’re forcing guys to choose on looks alone, you’re missing out. You need to help those guys see you’ve got great personalities”.

I showed them how to do this without giving guys the impression that they were a “sure thing.” A week later, I saw them again and they were raving about all the guys that had been talking to them the previous evening.

(so, guys aren’t so superficial, after all!)

So, what this got to do with marketing?

A lot of business owners I meet complain that, when they get enquiries from their Yellow Pages ad, the caller only wants to know about price.

And the problem is, they’re not the cheapest in their market. They offer a higher quality product or service. So, if someone’s only shopping for price, they’ll not get the business.

However, rather than giving them sympathy, I ask them to show me their ads in the yellow pages.

And, it’s always the same thing. Their ad was saying the same sorts of things as the cheaper companies.

So, just like my two friends who were entering a beauty contest they couldn’t win, these businesses were entering a price comparison contest they could only lose.

It’s no good them telling me that “when we say ‘quality’ in our ad, we mean better quality than when they say ‘quality’”.

By using such vague terms, they hadn’t given the prospect the opportunity to distinguish between their “quality” and their competitor's.

If you’re the cheapest, you can get business just by saying you’ve got low prices (though, if quality is important to your market, you should explain why you are able to offer low prices but still deliver on quality – otherwise you can get into the cheap = crap category).

But, if you’re not the cheapest, you have to educate your market so it understands why it’s worth paying extra to go with you.

And that means answering the first strategic marketing question:  why should someone hire you ahead of your competitors?

If you don't clearly express the answer to that question in your adverts, and you find yourself complaining about the poor response to your marketing and that your prospects are only interested in price, it may be time to stop blaming others, take responsibility, and get your marketing sorted out.

Steve Gibson

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Steve Gibson Consulting, Edinburgh 2006