Marketing Strategies That Work: Setting The Buying Criteria
What if I told you there was a simple marketing strategy you could use to…
- Stop prospects from price shopping
- Convert more prospects to customers
- Pre-empt your competition
You’d want to know about it right?
It gets even better. Because you don’t have to be a great writer… or even a great marketer… to put this strategy to work in your business.
Just so you know how powerful this particular strategy is, let me tell you a story…
Before I became a freelance copywriter, I was the sole copywriter and online marketer for a well-known home schooling company.
I’d been mulling over how to use this strategy in the business. One morning, it clicked.
I spent 4 hours writing 8 brief emails. I plugged them into our email system, posted the opt-in form on the web site, and waited to see what would happen.
Nearly 20,000 subscribers the first year and $115,168.09 in revenue.
The email series continued to produce revenue the second year, the third year, and on and on. All from less than a day’s work. Pretty amazing, huh?
The strategy I used is called:
“Setting the Buying Criteria”
A clearer way to say it is: setting the criteria by which your prospects make a buying decision.
In a nutshell, here is how it works. In your marketing material (emails, brochures, web sites, sales letters, etc.), you want to define what makes a good buying decision. And in your defining, you want to make sure that your company, product, or service is the only one that fits the definition.
This is setting the buying criteria.
When you set the criteria, you always want to do it in such a way that it excludes your competitors. They should not be able to qualify based on the criteria you’ve set.
This is why the criteria you use should always be exclusive to a greater or lesser degree.
Let me give you a quick example…
Assume for a moment you’re a car manufacturer who specializes in sports cars. One of your criteria might read like this:
“Whatever sports car you choose, make sure it has at least 250 horsepower. Any less and you’ll be sacrificing speed, acceleration, and performance, all of which are critical to the pleasure you’ll get from your new sports car.”
You’ll notice I set the criterion (250 horsepower) high enough that it eliminated some cars, but not so high that it eliminated all cars. No matter. The important thing is, I’ve narrowed the field.
As we move on, we layer additional buying criteria:
“Once you’ve found a sports car that has at least 250 horsepower, you’ll also want to make sure it has a 6-speed manual transmission. At least half the pleasure of a sports car is being in total control. An automatic transmission just won’t cut it.
“Rear-wheel drive is a must for a true sports car. It gives you the best cornering power possible, without feeling like you’re going to run off the road (as you might feel with a front-wheel drive vehicle).
“Also look for fully independent suspension, so you get the best road feel. Each wheel will move on its own, independent from the other wheels, giving you maximum traction and performance.
“Lastly, be picky about the kind of engine your sports car is equipped with. The best sports car engine is a boxer engine. It’s perfectly balanced and produces no vibration. You can set a quarter directly on the engine while it is running and it will not fall off. Plus, boxer engines sit low to the ground and provide a lower center of gravity. Boxer engines can be found in flat-4, flat-6, and flat-12 configurations.”
By shrewdly selecting these and possibly one or two additional criteria, I can make my sports car the only logical choice in a crowded market.
It’s the same with your product. If you shrewdly define the criteria for buying, you’ll create a scenario where your product is the only one that can possibly qualify. All competitive products will fall short.
Why Setting the Buying Criteria Works
Setting the buying criteria works for 3 powerful reasons:
1. You’re seen as someone who can be trusted.
By telling your prospects what they should look for when they make a purchase–or conversely, telling them what to watch out for–you become a trusted advisor.
Your prospects believe you have their best interests at heart (and you do), so they are more likely to buy your product instead of the competition’s.
2. You’re letting your prospects come to their own conclusions.
When you set the buying criteria, you’re not saying, “Buy my product because it’s got X, Y, and Z.”
Instead, you’re indirectly guiding your prospects to the conclusion you want them to reach. You’re saying, “When you make a purchase of this kind, make sure you get one with these things…”
Your prospects run down the checklist you’ve created and decide–on their own–that your product is the best choice.
3. You’re doing something different.
If you examine your competition, you will be lucky if you find even one business taking advantage of this strategy. That makes it easy for you to stand out.
When your prospects see that you’re looking out for them… and none of your competitors are… then it becomes exceptionally easy for you to turn them into customers. Prospects will be drawn to you, and will gladly give you their business.
More Examples To Illustrate Buying Criteria
I don’t know what your product is, so I’m going to use a few more examples to illustrate this process. So let’s assume you’re selling a high-end ski jacket.
Your criteria might look like this: zippered pockets, hood, removable liner, snow skirt, goggle pouch, season pass window, and a new proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric.
As you look at your competition, you find that nearly every single ski jacket on the market has “zippered pockets,” and yet this is a feature that many skiers are looking for. “Zippered pockets” alone will not set you apart, so you go further.
Now you add the “hood” to your buying criteria. There are fewer ski jackets with both zippered pockets and a hood, but there are still many.
As you layer each additional feature of your high-end ski jacket, you notice there are fewer and fewer jackets that meet all the criteria you’ve defined.
By the time you add your proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric to the mix, there is only one ski jacket still in the running. It just so happens that it’s the one you sell.
Is this starting to make sense?
If you run an accounting practice, your criteria may be: monthly statements (including P&L, trial balance, assets & liabilities, itemized expense reports, etc.), quarterly tax filing, daily backups to prevent lost data, and free tax planning twice a year.
If you sell a cleaning product, your criteria may be: kills bacteria in under 30 seconds, uses all-natural environmentally friendly ingredients, makes everything smell fresh, is packaged in an easy-to-use ergonomic container, and comes with a 90-day full money-back guarantee.
You may need more criteria; you may need less. Only you will know for your particular niche.
How to Define Your Buying Criteria
To begin defining your buying criteria, list all of the features of your product or service. Do it quickly without thinking too much. Simply write down all the different features that come to mind.
After you’ve captured all the features you can think of, review your list. Circle some of the core features that are always expected with a product or service like yours. Also circle the features that are the most unique.
Now you have the raw material you need to create a marketing piece that sets the buying criteria. The next step is in how you position these features–how you present them to your market.
This is a very important step. Position your criteria the wrong way and people will ignore you. Position your criteria the right way and new customers will flock to you.
How to Position Your Criteria
When you set the buying criteria, there are a number of ways to position them. How you position them is important, and one may work better than another for your business.
The email series I wrote for the home schooling company was positioned like this: “The 7 Essentials That Will Inspire Your Children to Learn.”
Many people (nearly 20,000 of them in the first year) subscribed purely out of curiosity. They wanted to know what the “7 Essentials” were.
With another client, I used a similar approach and wound up with “The 7 Essentials of Any Ecommerce System.” If you’re in the market for an ecommerce system, you’ll want to find out what the “7 Essentials” are. After you’re done reading, my client’s system will be your only choice.
With my copywriting services, I position the criteria inside the sales letter. As you scroll down the site, you’ll see a subhead that says, “The One Thing Your Copywriter Must Have.”
In this case, the one thing is so rare, I don’t feel the need to have a laundry list of criteria. Just the one is sufficient.
Another way to position your criteria is as a warning: “Don’t Even Think About Buying _______ Until You Read This…” or “How to Buy a ______ Without Losing Your Shirt.”
A warning is a more direct approach because it often acknowledges the prospects’ desire to purchase a particular item, but the approach can still work very well.
Joe Polish is famous in part for his method of setting the buying criteria in Consumer Awareness Guides. These little guides educate consumers about what they should look out for when they hire a carpet cleaner and other service professionals.
The possibilities for positioning your criteria are virtually limitless. Once you fully understand this strategy, you will begin to think of many ways to position your criteria.
But remember this: the most effective way to position your criteria will always be from an angle that educates and protects the consumer. You cannot say, “5 Reasons To Buy My Product.”
Your prospect doesn’t care about you or your product. At least not yet.
That’s why you need to speak to your prospects with care and concern, as a trusted advisor to a dear friend. This is how you reach them. So make sure that you position your criteria with this in mind.
Make Sure You Give a Reason Why
Before I turn you loose, I believe it’s important for you to understand one more thing… that is, the importance of giving your prospects a reason why.
When you list out your criteria and position them in way that appeals to your prospects, you still need to make sure–with each and every criterion–that you are giving your prospects a believable reason why it’s so important.
In my sports car illustration, I listed a reason why each criterion was important for the consumer to consider when choosing a sports car. I explained how the fully independent suspension was necessary for “maximum traction and performance.” I mentioned that a 6-speed manual transmission was important because it gives you “total control.”
If I had not given any reasons why these criteria are important for the consumer to consider, my case would have been very weak. The same holds true in real life. You must give your prospects a strong reason why.
Review your criteria. If you list a criterion for which there is no good reason why you’ve mentioned it, then it shouldn’t be included. Get rid of it or find another criterion to replace it with.
Evaluate Your Marketing
As you evaluate your marketing, ask yourself this question: Am I setting the criteria by which my prospects make a buying decision?
If you are not, it is time for you to seriously consider how you might use this strategy in your business. It takes very little time to do and it is highly effective.
Once you implement it, you will stop prospects from price shopping, convert more prospects to customers, and–best of all–pre-empt your competition so you become the one and only logical choice, even if you’re competing in a crowded market.