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The other day I drove past a diner announcing they’d been “Voted #1 Breakfast in Salem County.”
No reference to who voted. No reference to when they voted. And worst of all, the sign was parallel to the road—I had to drive past a second time and crane my neck to read it.
And I have to admit something. I used to LOVE this diner. Before they remodeled it a few years ago, it was an old-fashioned greasy spoon, all seafoam green and tarnished aluminum—the kind of place you’d go to mop the alcohol out of your stomach with grilled cheese at 3am and go back to wait out a hangover in the morning.
Well, they killed the old-school charm, and now it looks like any other diner. You might as well go to Denny’s in the middle of the night.
And that’s what gets me. It’s a diner. And most diners are pretty much the same.
The atmosphere is about the same. The food tastes about the same. And the price is about the same.
You can’t just put up a sign and convince me you’re the best. You’re pretty much the same.
And how do you stand out when you’re pretty much the same?
Why being “the best” won’t get customers in the door
You don’t stand out by telling me you’re the best. Let me share two reasons why:
1. No one trusts you.
If you want someone to believe that you’re “the best,” they need to hear it from someone they already trust.
Otherwise, it’s just a sales pitch. And the last person anyone trusts when buying something is the salesman.
Heaping praise on your own product is like using your mom as a reference on a job application.
It’s not gonna cut it.
You need to explain how your product benefits your customer, or the customer is going to walk away.
2. You’re probably not the best.
In a lot of cases, you and your competition are making similar offers.
Diner food is diner food on either end of town.
You have to find another way to stand out when your product is substantially similar to your competitor’s.
You have to convince your customers that your product is ‘positively good’
In Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy quotes his partner Joel Raphaelson explaining how to market products without falling into the trap of trying to prove how much better you are than the competition:
In the past, just about every advertiser has assumed that in order to sell his goods he has to convince consumers that his product is superior to his competitor’s.
This may not be necessary. It may be sufficient to convince consumers that your product is positively good. If the consumer feels certain that your product is good and feels uncertain about your competitor’s, he will buy yours.
If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don’t try to imply that your product is better. Just say what’s good about your product—and do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it.
If this theory is right, sales will swing to the marketer who does the best job of creating confidence that his product is positively good.
There’s the key: Tell me why you’re good.
A diner doesn’t have to convince anyone that it’s “the best.” And even if it did, no one goes to diners looking for “the best.”
They go to diners for good food at a convenient location and a reasonable price. They want decent service, and they’d prefer if the place was clean.
Yes, a diner should celebrate its food and its service. But it needs to find a more convincing way to do it than proclaiming its superiority.
”But I won an award and I want people to know…”
I get it. If you’re voted #1 or given an award, you’re proud of that and you want your customers to know.
And you can tell them. You just have to find an effective way to do it.
One strong way to use your award is to incorporate it into a call-to-action.
Instead of advertising that you’re the best, put up a sign that reads “Turn in here for the best breakfast in Salem County” with an arrow pointing into your driveway.
It’s one thing to let people know you won an award, but another thing entirely to ask them to try your winning food.
Even if you didn’t win an award, any business will benefit from incorporating a call-to-action in all of its communications.
Always give your customers a clear next step.
Tell them exactly what you want them to do.
If they don’t know what you want from them, you’re not going to get it.
Let me give you a simple challenge to find out how effectively you’re using calls-to-action in your marketing: Go through any communications you’re currently using—flyers, websites, brochures, social media updates, even business cards—and look for the call-to-action.
Can you find it? Is it clear what you want your customers to do next?