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Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

4.2 8
by Harry Beckwith

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In the first major book on service marketing, Harry Beckwith, a pioneer in this area, provides quick, practical strategies to improve the bottom line in any business by perceiving and fulfilling a client's every need.--Harvey Mackay.


In the first major book on service marketing, Harry Beckwith, a pioneer in this area, provides quick, practical strategies to improve the bottom line in any business by perceiving and fulfilling a client's every need.--Harvey Mackay.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's unfortunate that the author, founder of Minneapolis's Beckwith Advertising and Marketing, and his editor didn't spend more time on this book, intended to help service businesses sell their products. They could have eliminated the endless repetition; for example, we are told four times that clients aren't buying a service provider's expertise but are buying a relationship. A tightly focused, engaging book would have offered more useful advice. Beckwith underscores the concept that a brilliant marketing plan is virtually useless if your service is less than first-rate. He talks about the importance of pricing the service to correctly reflect the value of what is offered and why small firms should not be afraid to trumpet that they are small. But by the time we have heard again that McDonald's is really selling not food but entertainment, we aren't as receptive to Beckwith's message as we might be. BOMC alternate; Time Warner audio. (Mar.)
Library Journal
"Don't sell the steak. Sell the sizzle." In today's service business, author Beckwith suggests this old marketing adage is likely to guarantee failure. In this timely addition to the management genre, Beckwith summarizes key points about selling services learned from experience with his own advertising and marketing firm and when he worked with Fortune 500 companies. The focus here is on the core of service marketing: improving the service, which no amount of clever marketing can make up for if not accomplished. Other key concepts emphasize listening to the customer, selling the long-term relationship, identifying what a business is really selling, recognizing clues about a business that may be conveyed to customers, focusing on the single most important message about the business, and other practical strategies relevant to any service business. Actor Jeffrey Jones's narration professionally conveys these excellent ideas appropriate for public libraries.Dale Farris, Groves, Tex.
Michael Pellecchia
Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing is about marketing services rather than products. As founder of Beckwith Advertising and Marketing in Minneapolis, he has had some stellar clients, including McDonald's, Shearson Lehman Hutton, Smith Barney, Chase Manhattan Bank and Musicland. Beckwith's distinct personality comes through in this collection of very brief essays. His stories, many from his personal experience, remind me of the friendly arrogance of other legendary marketers such as David Ogilvy and Stanley Marcus. Sure, some of the anecdotes merely come from other business books, such as the oft-told tale of how Swiss watchmakers invented the quartz digital watch but lost out to the Japanese, who successfully marketed the watches. But one chapter is by itself worth the price of the book--the 25 pages on "Planning: The Eighteen Fallacies." In this chapter, Beckwith debunks commonplace notions such as strategy, patience, intelligence, facts, memory, experience, confidence and other purported positives in business. Another great chapter on branding is called "Monogram Your Shirts, Not Your Company."
Terry O'Keefe
Most of the things we buy today are unreal and intangible--services that don't exist at the time we place the order, and non-products which can't be seen, tasted, kicked, tried on or tried out. What used to be a product-driven world is now replete with services. So, unlike the product-driven economy of just a generation ago, almost everyone is now selling service. And, says Beckwith, when it comes to marketing, the differences between products and services are oceanic. To help us bridge that gap he has written Selling the Invisible, and the book is superb. Most readers will be thankful that nothing too weighty is presented here--just a smorgasboard of creative thoughts and intelligent suggestions regarding how to make sales in a service market. Many of these ideas should make you think about your business in entirely new ways. Busy readers will love how this book is organized. Beckwith offers several hundred bite-sized pieces that you can dip into a couple of minutes at a time. If you are the principle marketeer in your business, I can't imagine how you can come away with less than your money's worth from this book.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 7.87(h) x 0.92(d)

Read an Excerpt

Positioning and Focus

How to Narrow the Gap between Your Position and Your Positioning Statement

Getting prospects to move from how they see you - your position - to how you wish them to see you - the perception captured in your positioning statement - may require a huge push. And the wider the gap between your position and your statement, the stronger you must push.

Ask yourself: Given our position, will people believe our positioning statement?

This problem often arises when a small or midsized service tries to pitch that it is the "premier provider" of its service. Few prospects can reconcile "small or midsized" with "premier provider"; the claim fails the laugh test.

A similar problem occurs when a service with a well-entrenched position creates a new positioning statement that does not fit its established position. Take this frequent case in retailing:

Milt Franklin starts off in bowling supplies. He calls his company All Star Bowling; prospects position Milt as a bowling-supply provider.

Slowly, Milt learns that bowling supplies barely cover his overhead. So he adds golf supplies - even though bowlers and golfers are continents apart demographically, and even though few golfers would believe a bowling-supply salesman knows Tommy Armour 845s from Cott 45s.

Having diversified, Milt tacks onto All Star Bowling a new theme line, "Bowling, and a whole lot more." (These "And a whole lot more" themes, which abound in America, are a sure sign that the store owner has made a positioning mistake.)

Clients like Milt often name themselves into these problems, and then try to rename theirway back out - something to consider before you call your restaurant Harry's Hoagies, say. But the Anchoring Principle warns you: Most people get anchored to your initial position and will not accept the new position if the gap between them is too wide.

In positioning, you have to jump from lily pad to nearby lily pad, one at a time.

If the gap between your position and your positioning statement is too big, your customers won't make the leap. Keep your steps small.

If That Isn't Our Positioning Statement, What Is It?

A too grand, overly bold positioning statement that tries to leap over too many lily pads still has value. it can be, and probably is, your goal.

Keep it. It can motivate your people, define your longer-term goals, and guide your mission statement and long-term plan. It gives you an end in mind, as Stephen Covey puts it - a significant step toward being more effective.

Just because your statement is too grandiose for now doesn't mean you can't hope and try. But marketing must deal realistically with perceptions, and with the fact that people cannot make huge perceptual leaps. They can only make little jumps.

Have big goals and great visions - "big hairy audacious goals," as one writer put it. But make sure they are goals and visions-and not positioning statements.

Craft bold dreams and realistic positioning statements.

Repositioning Your Competitors

The country's top architects know how to design a position. They develop a style and then stand for it. They don't do some of this and some of that.

If you want avant-garde, you call Frank Gehry.

If you want postmodern wit, you call Michael Graves.

If you want very corporate late modern, you call I. M. Pei.

These architects "own" those positions. As a result, they own many other things, too.

Almost fifteen years ago, I saw Michael Graves's brilliant presentation to the City of Portland, Oregon, of his proposal for a new city hall. Graves immediately redefined the competition with his design and his manner. (His ingenious model included people sunbathing and jaywalking, and other humorous touches that got people to study the model closely.) His position veered so far from the others' that he made the others appear almost identical to one another, thus reducing the five-firm competition to two firms: Graves's and the best of the other four.

Graves did more than position himself. He also effectively repositioned his competitors. Suddenly they all appeared competent, but uninspired.

Once Graves had put himself in the finals, he moved to the middle-not unlike the political candidate who stakes a slightly extreme position in the primaries and then moves to the middle in the general election. Graves allayed some councilmembers' fears that he would go too far. That pink wouldn't really be that pink, they learned. Those wild ribbons cascading down the side of the building-well, maybe they wouldn't appear after all.

Graves won, and created a historic piece of architecture.

But before that, he created a very shrewd piece of positioning.

Choose a position that will reposition your competitors, then move a step back toward the middle to cinch the sale....

Meet the Author

Harry Beckwith is the founder of Beckwith Advertising and Marketing and has worked with four of America's best 100 service companies, nine Fortune 500 companies, and many smaller business and venturecapitalized start-ups. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford, former creative supervisor of one of America's most honored advertising agencies, and winner of the American Marketing Association's Effie Beckwith also lectures at the universities of Minnesota and St. Thomas in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife, Susan, and children Harry, Will, Cole, and Cooper.

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Selling the Invisible 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. It is short and to the point. I love his way of thinking about things, and there are tons of ideas in here on how to grow your business. Focuses on service businesses. I reread this every few months.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harry Beckwith has a way of getting right down to the bottom line. My favorite chapter is: Marketing Is Not a Department! As a marketing consultant, it's my job to hlep my service business clients embrace the wholeness of marketing a service business.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book in 1999. What caught my attention was the product: service. I enjoyed and found I was not the only one who perceived focus groups and other instruments not working for the intended purpose. In 2000 I read the book again and created a list of ideas per chapter. I understood better the difference between a toothpaste product and a dentist service one. I am reading it again. This book makes one reflect and see things from a different perspective which promotes imagination and creativity in how to do marketing. It is short and down to the point the author wants the reader to pay attention to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book never stayed on one subject talking about it for hours. The book kept on moving and never lost my interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is a comprehensive, yet, easy to read guide to achieve excelent customer service and satisfaction. The book leads the reader via practical narrations into practical actions and results. We are buying copies to all of our Customer Service Managers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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