Selling Good, Better, Best
Make It Difficult For Your Customers to Say No
By Lois Boyle
What is good, better, best? It's a selling technique that merchandisers have used for decades, most notably Sears, Roebuck and Co. Correctly presented, it gives customers the ability to purchase the item that most closely fits their needs and their budget. When well executed, it enables marketers to upsell and increase the average order size.
For example, imagine three stereos all providing a quality sound system. Two of them have the added feature of loading up to 12 CDs at a time, but one is clearly the market leader with exceptional speakers. In this example, the merchandiser has provided three unique buying opportunities, hopefully with three unique price points, fulfilling the needs of any customer who might be in the market for a new stereo system.
While this merchandise technique can be very successful, you also run the risk of actually inhibiting the purchase decision. How? By not providing enough information to quickly allow readers to discern the unique benefits of each product and therefore, not allowing for an easy decision path. Instead readers will have to labor through undistinguished copy and will most likely put off the buying decision. Just creating a good, better, best option is not enough.
Telling the Story
Pictures and copy alone don't give readers enough information to distinguish between three seemingly similar products. The only time this might work is when a product's appearance is reason enough to charge more. Even then, you must explain why that particular look is so special that customers should be willing to part with a few extra dollars.
In direct marketing you don't have the advantage of physically explaining to customers all the attributes of multiple product choices or even to demonstrate how one product is better than another. Instead, you must carefully craft your presentation on the printed page so there is a logical decision path that guides readers and explains product differentiation.
The first step in accomplishing this is to truly understand the combination of products, the unique attributes they share and how they are differentiated. Even more important is to understand the attributes that are most important to your customers. This assumes the merchandiser understands these concepts and has clearly presented them to the creative team.
The Story at a Glance
The second step is to tell the good, better, best story so readers immediately understand which product fits their need and budget. The good news is there are a multitude of graphic tools beyond just a standard photo and block of copy that will help quickly tell the story at a glance. The following are some of the techniques direct marketers use:
1. Group your products in close proximity to each other. Don't make it difficult for a reader to navigate back and forth when comparison-shopping. If possible, it's best to place options on the same spread.
2. Create a chart that compares features and benefits. Charts are visual tools that readers are drawn to. They immediately say "comparison." Be sure to clearly outline the most important features, but describe them as benefits. Only highlight the most important options to motivate buying. If readers are interested, they can choose to read the more detailed body copy. Make sure the chart is clearly keyed back to the specific product.
3.Visually present the most discerning benefit. Seldom is it possible to show an important and differentiating benefit with just a single picture. Using graphic tools to call out and visually explain why one product is better than another is necessary. You can use a second in-use photo, captions, call-outs (lines pulled out from a photo pointing to the feature) or any other attention-getter that will draw the eye in.
4. Use headlines to help distinguish one product from another. When creating headlines, always remember you're comparing one product to the next. The headline should be appropriate to where it stands in the "pecking order," and highlight the single most important benefit. Be sure not to create a better-sounding headline for your good option than your better or best.
5. If price is an important feature, then physically highlight the value. If you're offering a value-priced option, don't be afraid to brag about it by presenting the price larger or by visually calling it out with graphics.
6. Use bullet points to allow for a quick read, checking off the most important attributes. Long copy or long paragraphs are hard to get through, especially if you're asking customers to read through three of them. By using bullet points, readers can self-select how much they want to read and compare.
7. Draw attention to the most expensive option. In most cases it's more profitable to encourage customers to buy the most expensive choice. You can achieve this by creating a hero and placing it in the coveted hot spot (upper, right-hand corner) or by giving it more space. It's imperative that you clearly explain why it's more expensive. Create extra benefit statements and use visuals that will resonate with readers and support the additional expense.
8. Go ahead—say good, better and best. This quickly will let readers know you have a story to tell, but be sure you back it up with easy-to-distinguish comparisons. This technique should be used sparingly. Repetition is not necessary if you've used most of the techniques described above.
There isn't a single direct marketer or cataloger who cannot take advantage of this merchandising technique. The theory is solid—entice readers with a group of products they're interested in, and provide them with enough price-points that they cannot say no.
Lois Boyle is president of J. Schmid & Associates, Shawnee Mission, KS. You can reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org