Back in my high-tech business analyst days, it was hard not to focus on bells and whistles. There were so many. Computer speed, storage, input devices, monitors, software galore, everything new. Like fish with lures, we were attracted by the latest shiny new thing. Way too much.

I had to learn, back then, how much more important benefits are. Why does the customer care? What do you really do for them? Bells and whistles turn on the engineers and sometimes the reviewers; but people buy benefits, not features.

Along those lines, I enjoyed Carolyn Higgins’ “What Do You Really Sell?” post yesterday (and thanks to Anita Cambell of Small Business Trends for alerting me to it) about how a seemingly trivial detail pushed her to Peet’s Coffee instead of Starbucks. It wasn’t the coffee. It wasn’t the availability of wireless. It was the easy, immediate access to wireless–without an extra step.

It’s really a good idea to take a step away from your business to look at what people are really getting from you. Does Starbucks sell coffee, consistency, a place to meet, wireless access or what? Or, for that matter, is business plan software about the software or the business planning? Is a car for transportation, status, fun or what?

It’s an old story, really, but Carolyn’s post reminded me. It was hard for me to learn. Theodore Leavitt, marketing guru, once said people don’t buy drills because they want drills; they buy them because they want holes.

Good to remember, particularly in the startup stage. Think how this impacts your marketing message and, ultimately, your marketing strategy.

(Image: istockphoto.com)

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.