step-off-the-pulpitAlmost all marketing people face a similar challenge: How do I tell a story about my product without being overbearing or preachy?

The mattress business is no different. In fact, it might be harder because it’s easy to start preaching when you’re selling a product that is life-enhancing and offers wellness benefits.

Let’s do some backward thinking. What if you were to take your product, line up all of the compelling reasons that consumers should spend their money on it, and then decide not to talk about any of them? Until recently, that is what the mattress industry did. Here are some thoughts on what we could do differently, and how we could turn heads while avoiding being pushy.

If you take a look inside the bedding business, you will see that the majority of money retailers spend is focused on driving traffic into their stores, using a product-for-a-price approach wrapped up in a big promotion. Believe me, I get the need to swing the door, but isn’t there some room in that ad to build value in the products you sell? Maybe there’s room in the budget for separate ads that do nothing but build value.

Consider for a minute the benefits of good sleep:

  • You look better.
  • You feel better and are simply nicer to those around you.
  • You can lose weight faster.
  • You are sick less often.
  • You can have more sex.

Need I go on? If Muhtar Kent, the current CEO of Coca-Cola, had this list of benefits to sell his beverages, do you think Coke’s advertising would look different than it does today? I bet it would, so how do you figure out how to tell your story without preaching to the consumer, yet still drive the traffic you have to have?

Educate, don’t sell.

In our world, sleep really is not on the radar for the consumer the same way exercise and diet are. People completely understand the benefits of exercise or the downsides of not getting exercise, but the sleep story has not been told. If we educate people while they are in the shopping phase, we can change their expectations before they ever get into a store, which will also change their assumptions of what that product will do for them once they get it home. Are you buying a replacement mattress, or are you buying a new bed that can help improve your quality of life? There is a big difference. One is a hassle, while the other is a life-enhancing solution. Take your product, figure out where the knowledge gap is, help the consumer learn about the good you can do for them during the shopping phase and watch it pay off at the register.

Get some social proof.

When it comes to selling anything, the best way to do it is by celebrating the group that has benefited the most from what you have to offer. In our case, getting people to understand that a mattress really can help you look better in the morning might be a stretch – that is, until we get a group of women to sleep on a brand-new mattress for a month and testify to the difference it made in their sleep and the way they look. Consumers are tired of companies that make outrageous claims about what their products do. Tie yours back to real-world examples and give customers a real reason to believe. You may not get a focus group of formerly sleep-deprived monsters turned into well-rested beauties, but you can find people who have gone through some big changes.

Positioning is everything.

In this case, I connect good sleep to other things in the “quality of life ecosystem,” like diet and exercise. These are two huge industries that consumers can identify with. Instead of going it alone, connect your offering to other things that are adjacent to the products you sell. Give your customer a good point of reference and a way to identify with the benefits. If you were a car manufacturer selling convertibles, you could position yourself as the ultimate tanning machine. Okay so maybe this one is taken but you get the point. Connect your product to the lifestyle that your customers want to enjoy. In the case of convertible cars, sunshine is part of the ecosystem and customer DNA. For mattresses, diet and exercise contribute to beauty, just like a good night’s rest.

Not everyone wants to buy stuff that’s “good for them,” so be careful how you talk about the benefits of your product or service. We know that educating consumers about benefits is good, but you don’t want to get too close to preaching your products.

If you were in the mattress industry, how would you tell the story?

Originally published Jul 19, 2012 1:01:05 AM, updated December 02 2014

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Social Proof