One of the most famous quotes in marketing comes from Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Well, that’s not totally correct.

It’s not like one day you sit on a couch and suddenly get overwhelmed with a desire for quarter-inch holes in your wall.

No, what you really want is to see a painting on the wall. Or a photo of your puppy. Or a dartboard.

You want that pleasant feeling you get when looking at a picture you like. Or that feeling of triumph when you hit a bullseye. You don’t really get that feeling from a quarter-inch hole.

It’s the same in business, with a product or service you offer.

You don’t offer an accounting software. You offer a peace of mind, more free time, and no second-guessing yourself.

You don’t sell clothes or shoes. You sell the confidence of whoever will wear it, and the smile on the faces of those who look at the wearer. Or at least you sell the belief that those who will be looking at you will have that smile.

What does that mean for you?

While you still need to talk about the product and the features, try as much as possible to also paint the picture of that ultimate effect.

Not the drill, not the hole – the coziness of sitting in a chair and looking at your favorite photo.

Not the speed of software, or any particular feature. The peace of mind, the added free time, and no need to even think about that particular task.

And above all, don’t make it all about yourself. “We’re great because…”, “We are the best in the industry”, “Our award-winning X”, “We have built 500 Y”, etc.

You can briefly mention some of it further down, to build credibility, but don’t even try opening with it. It’s not about you. If you start with “we”, you’re not only not selling the hole or the drill. You’re just bragging that you’re the best drill shop in the neighborhood.

Who cares?

PS. Another saying goes “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” It’s close but also doesn’t capture it properly.