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Disbelief Is Leading Your Potential Customers Astray

Jan 22, 2008
Most potential customers wouldn't use your offering if you paid them a lot to do so. Many factors contribute, but a particularly difficult problem is presented by those who feel disbelief about what your offering can do for them.

Let me give you an example. My wife and I had dinner with good friends a few years ago. The husband described with great enthusiasm how he had just agreed to buy his wife a brand-new minivan. He spoke confidently about the many advantages it would provide: more room for passengers; better visibility while driving; and greater safety.

We politely commented that perhaps he hadn't checked minivan safety records lately. In those days minivans had terrible safety records. While minivans looked big and safe, they weren't as safe as other types of vehicles.

We mentioned that he could achieve his objectives better with a Volvo station wagon. He immediately disagreed. How could a Volvo be safer than a big truck-like minivan?

We explained that part of the problem was that people felt overconfident in minivans and drove them too aggressively. In addition, it's easier to roll a minivan than a Volvo station wagon.

Volvos were also designed to handle such rollovers more safely for the passengers than minivans were. Further, it's easier to be thrown out of a minivan in a crash than a Volvo. Many deaths occur when drivers and passengers are expelled from the vehicle during a collision.

Our friend thought about what we had to say and said he would check out the facts. We could tell that he was still very skeptical of our "facts" that Volvos were safer for his family than minivans were.

It made us smile in future years every time we saw that family's Volvo station wagon.

What went wrong for Volvo? Minivans outsold Volvo station wagons by an enormous margin. Volvo station wagons clearly had the safety edge. Most people were buying minivans for families that included young children and planned to transport even more children. Safety had to be important to these owners. Volvo station wagons were more expensive, but rich people were also buying many more minivans than Volvo station wagons.

Volvo had historically emphasized that its vehicles were safer. That advertising had, however, mostly focused on its sedans . . . the company's biggest revenue source. A little-known fact at the time was that Volvo's executives had decided not to build a minivan because they couldn't make one that would be safe enough to meet their internal standards.

Volvo did little to compare its station wagons to minivans. You may recall that station wagon sales, which had been dropping for years, plummeted as minivans gained popularity. Volvo's decision not to act was probably driven by a perception that station wagon sales were unavoidably headed down in a major way. Why spend money on a loser?

With no counter message from Volvo to explain its station wagon's advantages, many people who could afford a Volvo mistakenly bought minivans that served their safety objectives less well.

Appearances can certainly be deceiving. That's a major lesson of the Volvo example. Here are a few other examples of where aspects of vehicle appearances and performances can give the wrong impression:

Bigger is better (not when it comes to parallel parking)

More expensive is better (a Ferrari just won't carry six adults comfortably)

What you see is what you get (many two-bench truck cabs can be converted to carry more cargo internally where the back bench is)

It's how much steel there is between you and the outside world that determines safety (a roll bar can keep you from being crushed by all that steel if you flip over . . . otherwise the steel can become your enemy)

0 to 60 miles per hour in 4.5 seconds (but how fast can you stop this vehicle in a straight line on ice at 60 miles an hour?)

-What disbeliefs about the facts concerning your offerings are your potential customers being deluded by?

-Why are those disbeliefs held?

-What weaknesses in your marketing encourage these disbeliefs to continue?

-How can your marketing eliminate these disbeliefs?
About the Author
Donald Mitchell is an author of seven books including Adventures of an Optimist, The 2,000 Percent Squared Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution, The 2,000 Percent Solution Workbook, The Irresistible Growth Enterprise, and The Ultimate Competitive Advantage. Read about creating breakthroughs through 2,000 percent solutions and receive tips by e-mail by registering for free at

http://www.2000percentsolution.com .
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