Prince Rama is worried. Demon Ravan has kidnapped Prince Rama’s wife, Sita, and is holding her captive in the kingdom of Lanka. And while Rama has amassed an army for the rescue mission, there is still a problem. A giant sea separates Bharat and Lanka, and Prince Rama and his army don’t know how to cross it!
Can’t they just sail?
They could, but Rama’s army is too big to fit into the ships. Additionally, the demon Ravana has a strong navy, which could easily destroy their fleet. Just when the situation seemed hopeless, a solution emerged. They decided to build a bridge!
The customers won’t buy your product if there is no bridge
The above scene is from a Sanskrit epic known as Ramayana and there is a lot to learn there. Quite often, we are so attached to our own product that we lose empathy for our customers. We overwhelm them with information about the features and benefits and lose sight of what the customers really want.
Customers don’t care about your product. They don’t even care about the solution (at first). They care about only one thing – their problem. And if we want to sell our product effectively, we need to build a bridge from their problem to our solution.
Let’s look at the 3 elements that make up this bridge.
1. The shared goal
I am still stuck with the same embarrassing email id that I created 22 years back. Some things are hard to change. And you know what’s harder to change? People’s minds.
Some Marketers (and I have been one of those) like telling their audience that they should want different things. That the goal that they have set for themselves is wrong.
We cannot create demand
We can only channelize their existing desires. And so the first step is aligning with their already existing goals. The intention here is to give them a signal that says, “Oh, this is what you want to achieve right? Yes, I am with you.”.
This immediately gets their attention and also holds it.
Let’s say that I want to help people lose weight. I could tell them that losing weight is not a good goal and instead they should build good habits. But this is an uphill battle that I will not win.
Instead, I can say, “Hey, it seems that you are trying to lose weight. Yeah, I am with you.”
2. Throwing stones at the status quo
Now that the audience knows that their goals are aligned with ours, we can pitch our product.
Kidding, we can’t. We are not there yet.
After establishing the goals, we define the status quo. In other words, we list the methods that the audience is currently using to achieve these goals.
Going by the weight-loss example, I would perhaps tell them, “Okay, so currently how are you attempting to lose weight? Maybe you have just signed up for an expensive gym membership to build a daily workout habit. Or maybe you are working with an expert nutritionist and have completely revamped your diet. Or maybe you just purchased branded trainer shoes.”
And as you list down these things, the goal is to get the audience to nod along. You are describing their situation with precision, and hence they feel seen and understood. (And this is why it is so essential to know your audience.)
Reveal the problems with the status quo
After establishing the status quo, we start highlighting all the problems that it’s creating. Here, we talk about the frustrations that the audience is experiencing because of their current way of doing things.
For the weight-loss prospects, we now say,
“And how has joining an expensive gym membership helped you? How long was it before you stopped going to the gym? 3 weeks? And what about the expert nutritionist? Was the fancy diet sustainable? I am guessing no.
We follow the diet for 9 days and then we quit. We go to the gym for 3 weeks and then we lose motivation.
But the problem is not ‘You’.
Going to the gym needs willpower. Following a fancy diet requires willpower. Unfortunately, depending on willpower is not sustainable. In fact, according to the research…”
Notice that, at no point, we are criticizing the audience. We are not calling them stupid. The moment we question the audience’s smartness, they take it personally and we lose them. So instead, we criticize the game that they are playing (The ‘Old Game’).
No one wants to hear that they are stupid. Instead, they just want to know, that they have been doing stupid things.
3. Introduce the big idea
Can we please talk about the product now? No, not yet.
So far we have articulated the old game and the problems with it, but we have not yet introduced the new way of doing things. We now need to sell them the big idea.
The big idea is not your product. It’s the premise on which the product is based. And once the audience subscribes to the big idea, buying your product becomes a very natural, obvious next step.
To the weight-loss prospects, we say,
“Instead of depending on willpower, can we create systems? Systems that make everything effortless? Systems that would help us lose weight, without stressing us out in the process?
This is what we will call ‘The New Game’.
The bridge is now complete.
Now is the time to pitch the product.
Can you sell your product without building this bridge?
Sure you can. Until you can’t. Without a bridge, it’s possible that a few hungry prospects buy from you. It’s because they are hungry and you happened to be serving food at the right place, at the right time.
After you are done serving the hungry prospects though, sales are going to plateau.
But I have a product already
Chances are that you have already built your product, without considering the bridge above. In such a situation, it’s helpful to forget about your product for a while. Keep the product aside, think about the audience for a bit, understand their problems, and then come back to the product.
Maybe the product needs to change
The bridge influences the product. But chances are that you don’t need to change your existing product too much. It’s common for entrepreneurs to realize that their product is already equipped to fit in the bridge and the old game/new game that we mentioned… but it just needs some minor tweaking and a different package.
Overwhelming your prospects with the features and benefits of your products is an ineffective strategy in the long term. What we can do instead, is build a bridge from their pain to the solution that we offer. This bridge consists of the Status quo, the old game, and the new game.
We cannot simply sail using a boat. Remember, even Prince Rama had to build a bridge.