Each week I receive a tremendous volume of e-mail asking questions about a wide variety of business topics. I received one of these e-mails yesterday which piqued my curiosity as it was not only a great question, but it also challenged me to answer the question in a specific format. The question was: “Can you provide a list of 10 things that appeal to buyers, and explain why they appeal to buyers in simple English?” I’m always up for a challenge so in today’s post, I give my opinion on the top things that sell regardless of the state of the current economy…

It’s important to note that I’m not typically one to put forth the top 10 lists as I don’t always believe there is much value contained within many of the lists that you’ll read. That being said, I thought in this instance that by answering the question posed above there would be enough value to readers that it was worth the time and effort. So off we go (in no particular order of preference)…

  1. Credibility Sells: If you and/or your company are well branded, and well thought of, that sells…There is a strong difference between being viewed as a “me too” or “one of many” vendor versus being regarded as a true professional that is a subject matter expert or thought leader. People want to work with, and buy from, professionals that they trust and respect. Your image, reputation, and personal brand are critical to your success in the marketplace.
  2. New Sells: A new concept, idea, position, approach, piece of news or information, or virtually anything else that is new sells…Even if your company is an old-line established brand it pays to examine your products and services to determine whether or not a fresh approach is warranted. Curiosity is a strong motivator for driving inquiries/responses.
  3. Status Sells: Appealing to ego is a brilliant move; far more people than not want to be perceived as being in vogue, cool, important, select, etc. If your products and/or services cause people to feel as if they are part of an exclusive group, then you can not only command a pricing premium, but you can also expect people to beat a path to your door in pursuit of their newest status symbol.
  4. Simple Sells: It is critical that your marketing hook is easily understood, so don’t overburden your concept with too many elements or distractions. I have witnessed far too many attempts at being TOO clever. Successful marketing campaigns limit the things that complicate the selling process. Work diligently at removing as many barriers and requirements as possible, making it easy to do business with you. Simple equals good; Complicated equals bad.
  5. Humor Sells: Nothing gets immediate traction faster than a good-old belly laugh. Good humor is fun, memorable, and something that people want to share. In fact, if you look at the media that goes viral the most often, it is usually centered around humor. If you can have people laughing in their cubicles, you are well on your way to establishing a brand that will be well accepted by the masses.
  6. Sex Sells: This is an easy one, and in fact has become a safety net of sorts for agencies when their creativity is lacking. When all else fails, or nothing comes to mind, insert the scantily clad female with a bit of provocative innuendo and your off to the races. However please keep in mind that more likely than not this approach will not be appropriate for what you are trying to promote. I have witnessed many a company try and leverage the “naughty hotties in a hot tub’ concept only to fall flat on the faces. This play is not traditionally corporate, holds appeal to a very narrow demographic, and will likely offend more people than it will attract. This type of play is best left for the alcoholic beverage, fashion, and entertainment sectors.
  7. Big Names Sell: Anything that leverages a credible third-party brand will add credibility to what you sell. Testimonials, references, associations, endorsements and other forms of linkage to a well-known company, person, place, or thing will be well received. This type of third party recognition works better because less explanation is required to understand what the concept is about, and the association with the known entity will strike a common chord with many people.
  8. Topicality and Timeliness Sells: Understanding what’s hot and what’s not is important…If you are out of sink with the market and/or behind the times you will not be well received in the market. Anything that is “torn from today’s headlines” can give you a leg-up over the competition. Since everyone is already talking about the topic in the first place, the communication pump is already primed. Don’t be the company trying to sell mainframe computing in a nano-computing environment…Don’t be a newspaper be Twitter…you get the idea.
  9. Reality & Authenticity Sells: People are overwhelmed, and usually unimpressed, by what they perceive to be traditional advertising. What often works best in today’s market is unvarnished content generated by real people, or at least content made to look that way. User-generated news, PR, Blog posts, Podcasts, viral video, crowd-sourcing, tweets, Facebook entries, Linkedin questions and other forms of “real” user-generated content are not only very popular but very effective.
  10. Mystery Sells: I haven’t met too many people who don’t enjoy a good mystery. So any concept that keeps people guessing will only contribute to the buzz factor creating a sense of intrigue around your company, product or service. At some point in time, however, there must be a payoff and the mystery must be unveiled, otherwise, you’ll really frustrate your audience having the opposite of the effect you were reaching for.
  11. Bonus: I saved the best two for last: Service Sells– there is truth in the old saying “keep your client happy or someone else will.” Outstanding service simply overcomes most obstacles. Examine any company and you’ll find a hallmark of their success to be providing truly outstanding service. Value Sells – put everything else aside, and if your product or service doesn’t create or add value it won’t sell. Provide significant value and your product or service will be in high demand.

Are there other things not contained in the list above that sell? Sure there are, but if you’ll recall I was limited to 10 items, and I blew that by two items as it was…I do need to give one last piece of advice on the subject matter at hand…Above all else, don’t try too hard. If you have even the slightest air of appearing desperate people will sniff it a mile away…A really compelling value proposition will stand on its own, and not only will your product and/or service be in high demand, but people will want to share it with others. Good luck and good selling.