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Sell Me A Pen, At 10X The Price

Through social media, you can get into a two-way engagement that serves to “place” your brand ahead of your competitors.

Have you sold a pen before?

Unbeknownst to many, I did. I started my career selling household items that were put on sale at $10. Looking back, it was sheer hard work as I had to face lots of rejections every day. It was great experience nevertheless as I became the master of the traditional marketing mix – the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

This was a sample of my sales pitch:

  • Product: A Pen.
  • Price: It was $29.90 in the store.
  • Place: We’re having a special one-day promotion in this area.
  • Promotion: For today only, the price is $10 now. While stock lasts

It worked like magic!

Many face-to-face salespersons followed this tried-and-tested formula and succeeded. Over time, the company would introduce another P – Process – to the marketing mix; reducing the business costs further through economies of scale. But there is only so much you can do to improve the operations of the business.

A smart marketer will explore the possibilities of selling the pen at 10X its price by simply re-examining the marketing mix. Please allow me to introduce the 4Es of the modern marketing mix.

Look beyond price, think EXCLUSIVE

In business terms, “price” is based on how much a customer is willing to pay for something. The most basic form of pricing is cost-based pricing: by adding up all the costs of production and then add a percentage of profit margins to reflect the value of the product or service. However, in the economics of marketing, “price” can also mean the perceived value that the consumers see in the product or service. A pen may cost a few dollars initially, but its value may rise 10X more if a celebrity is endorsing it.

The difference between the two price points is how exclusive you’ve made the pen out to be. Yet, exclusiveness doesn’t have to come with a huge price tag too. Companies are moving into the era of exclusive free trials for consumers to try out their products or services. This is particularly common for Software As Service (SaaS) businesses.

The future of pricing strategies has since evolved towards one that is value-based. In other words, the more exclusive you made the people making the buying decisions feel; the higher the chance of a conversion.

Don’t sell the product. Sell the EXPERIENCE.

Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the “products” they want these days. It’s hardly a surprise now to hear of car buyers who actually know more about the car than the car salespersons. Think premium pen, which brand comes right up?

Montblanc.

That’s right. Many of us have bought certain things because we have developed a sub-conscious connection with certain brands. If there’s a lack of content to encapsulate the positive experiences of using your product, it’s going to be a big challenge for you to stand out in the overcrowding marketplace.

Now, think Sharpie. What is it selling? Sharpie calls itself “the original permanent marker born for original, unruly, courageous, outrageous self-expression that always leaves a bold mark and never, ever fads from glory.” Many media folks have had bad experiences with markers that smudged on posters before, thus reinforcing their trust in Sharpie.

Chart out a brand story where you can connect with your customers. This should be the ultimate purpose of your marketing because if you don’t, others will tell of their own customers’ experience and win your customers over.

Does your promotion create EXCITEMENT?

It was not too long ago when “promotion” was limited to traditional media only; such as TV and newspaper ads, out-of-home ads and radio ads, et cetera, which only the brands with deep pockets can afford. Not anymore. The “promotion” in the traditional marketing mix has transformed from big-budget marketing to smart marketing.

Companies are now reaching consumers wherever they are, on their mobile devices, and capturing their attention whenever you want it to be; with exciting content that can trigger a reaction anytime, anywhere. While push content can be exciting, guess what can be euphoric for your products or services? User-generated content; best of all, it’s free!

Back to the pen metaphor, one of the reasons why Sharpie is trusted by most, if not all people, is because of the countless photos and videos of celebrities signing autographs using Sharpie on social media. These are all powerful statements for brands to stake their claims.

Move out of the place. Go into ENGAGEMENT.

Product accessibility is the name of the game for many marketers with a wide distribution of channels. But do you know that “place” is often the “last” place (no pun intended) in the consumers’ decision-making process?

To a smart marketer, the place is an intangible concept. It has gone from a physical location to any forms of opportunity where you can engage your customers, both online and offline. Through digital media platforms, you can “place” your brand in front of the audience that best matches your customers’ profile.

Through social media, you can get into a two-way engagement that serves to “place” your brand ahead of your competitors. When you understood this point, you would be able to “place” your brand in front of the customers anytime, anywhere.

So now, try selling me a pen.

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Jon Tan
Written By

Jon is a Communication Strategist with more than a decade of brand building experience across multiple industries. He is currently the VP, Corporate Communications of one of the largest real estate networks in Asia Pacific, with a focus of unveiling the untold stories of the unsung heroes behind every dream home. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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