Positioning the Alternative

Customers will give you five seconds to tell them why they should consider buying your product. What should you say in those five seconds? While there are many ways to convince them in that short of a time, one powerful way is to position your product as a better or different alternative. Here’s why and how to do it.

Why does this work?

People are generally resistant when you’re trying to introduce a novel product or concept. Their guard is up. People like to stick with what they’re comfortable with and what they know. When they’re shown something new, they immediately think of the time it will take to set it up, get used to it, and to master its use.

Positioning the alternative works because you’re anchoring your new product to an existing solution: a product people have used or are currently using. They’re familiar with existing products and the nuances that come along with them. This approach taps into the part of their brain where they’ve stored memories of using those products. In essence, you’re maximizing those precious five seconds.

How I’ve used this approach

A little more than a month ago, we launched the 4hr Cofounder: an alternative to traditional consulting that prioritizes progress over deliverables.

See what I did there? I tapped into a widely popular solution, traditional consulting, and used it as an anchor. By doing that, I’ve reminded you of all the instances you’ve hired a consultant. I’ve also brought up a common problem with traditional consulting: that interests aren’t always aligned between both parties. Consultants focus on delivering the work with as little revisions as possible whereas what you care about is progressing with your business.

An alternative to traditional consulting that prioritizes progress over deliverables.

Five seconds. That’s powerful.

“But I don’t have any competitors”

Here’s where people trip themselves up: “But there are no current solutions because nobody is doing what we’re doing.” I’m about to burst your bubble: people don’t care about how you do it. They care about the outcome. They care about getting the job done.

Imagine that you’re trying to fix your door hinges that won’t stop squeaking. You can get yourself a handyman to come over and oil them, or you can check Youtube and do it yourself. What you care about is getting rid of the squeaky sound, not necessarily how it gets fixed. So no matter how hard a handyman might market his lubricant, if there’s a better way of reaching the outcome (buying your own lubricant and following a how-to on Youtube), then his marketing is for nothing.

Now imagine that I have a nifty alternative to fixing door hinges that squeak, and that my idea involves replacing all your existing door hinges with ones that never squeak thanks to a new mechanism I’ve developed. Here’s how I would convince you of buying my solution:

A replacement for all your door hinges that eliminates the squeak. No more oiling. No more paying for a handyman every winter.

Five seconds. With no mention of how my mechanism works. I mention the value (eliminating the squeak), anchor products (handyman or Youtube), and why my solution is better (you don’t pay every winter).

Here’s how to do it

You want to start out by defining what outcome you’re helping people accomplish. Then you go out and talk to people to figure out how they’ve accomplished that outcome before. What products have they purchased to help them achieve that outcome? This will help you figure out the anchor products you’re trying to replace.

It’s important to talk to customers as opposed to researching existing alternatives yourself because you want to make sure that what you anchor your product to is a widely used product. Imagine if nobody used traditional consulting before. My statement, which positions The 4hr Cofounder with relation to traditional consulting, won’t resonate with anyone.

After you’ve heard what people have purchased to achieve the desired outcome, you want to outline how the existing solution works and how it compares to the alternative you’re proposing. What you’re looking for is how your product differs from the anchor products, and why that difference makes it a better alternative. Voila! You have your five second statement, and a powerful way to market your product.

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