Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith

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As previously mentioned, I picked this up in Portland. It’s not a fabulous book or anything, but I like the viewpoint of the author. It’s set up in the form of 200-some vignettes about marketing services, which makes it a great book to read in short chunks. Reading it straight through would be a bit much, but I’ve left it at work, and flipped through a few pages at a time when I need to give my eyes a break from staring at the screen.

There’s nothing revolutionary here, just a lot of common sense stuff. When you’re selling a service (whether it’s package delivery or computer programming or advertising), you don’t have a product. There is nothing the prospective customer can touch and feel and put their hands on. You are, as the title says, “Selling the Invisible”. So it’s up to you to make the prospective customer feel comfortable. You do this by making their service experience wonderful, by building your brand so that they feel reassured, by making sure your name is out there positively, etc.

I mostly bought it because when I picked it up in the store, I flipped randomly to a few pages, and all of them said something of interest to me. For instance, the first vignette I flipped to compared the perceived authority of three statements (“Most doctors recommend” vs. “5 out of 6 doctors recommend” vs. “83.3 percent of doctors recommend”), pointing out that the third statement seems most scientifically authoritative, even though all three statements are equivalent. Again, nothing mind-blowing, but lots of little tips that can help.

Of course, I’m not building my own business or anything, so it’s not directly relevant at this point in time, but it’s always good to stockpile this sort of advice. And if nothing else, there’s always the brand of me to sell.

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