The difference between “bought” and “sold”

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

There is a real difference between “bought” and “sold”. Some things are bought while others are sold. There are many marketers who say, “It will sell itself. I don’t have to market or advertise.” Well, it depends on what you have. Necessities are bought. Food, clothing, shelter are just a few categories that don’t have to be “sold”. Other newer “necessities” include, internet connection, cell phone, car/transportation, and computers. These items have become part of how we live our day-to-day lives. Most other things must be “sold”.

I would suggest marketers take a hard, honest look at their products/services to really determine if consumers “buy” their products/services or if they need to be “sold”. Most other items need to be “sold”. They are either luxury or not critical to consumers to carryout their everyday lives. They are, in a way, smaller luxuries, like Starbucks coffee. By knowing the difference, marketers can better strategize their marketing plans. If your products/services need to be “sold”, you have a different set of challenges to overcome. These include, but not limited to:

• Explaining how your products/services can make their lives better
• Conveying the emotional and image gain you provide, whether it’s cool, rebel, innovative, or a winner
•  Pointing what could happen if they don’t have your products/services

When it comes to a product/service being “bought”, you don’t have to convince consumers that they should buy one, but they should buy yours. Even real or perceived necessities need to be marketed. It’s just they have a different focus. This includes:

• Explaining why your benefits outweigh the others
• Showing what other values yours provides beyond the practical, commodity application (especially the emotional benefits which are the same as in the “sold” category)
• Conveying why yours isn’t just a commodity that should be reduced to just a price point
•  Demonstrating what support services you have if they do buy your product/service

Whether you have something that needs to be “bought” or “sold”, marketing is still the key. If you don’t market and depend on the product selling itself, you’ve just given away any control you may have had in determining the future success to luck and fate. I know that luck does play a part, but I also believe you can help luck along in your favor, too. The differences are the key messages and where the emphasis should be placed. Things that are “bought” rely on brand differentiation as a primary driver to separate themselves from their competitors. Things that must be “sold” are dependent on explaining why they are needed in their customers lives. The key element is educational and informative. Through integrated marketing and knowing where to place your strategies, marketers will have a higher chance for success in communicating the right key messages to the right key drivers of “needs” and “wants”.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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