Marketing Intangible Benefits

“Marketing and selling are not the same thing. Selling is concerned with trying to get people to want what you have. Marketing is concerned with trying to have what people will want. Selling starts with taking to the marketplace what comes out of the factory. Marketing starts with trying to make in the factory what will sell in the marketplace. Marketing starts with trying to understand what people want and value, looking at the choices and resources (money, time, etc.) available to them, and then designing products, delivery systems, sales programs, communications, setting price and a lot of other things appropriate to what you’ve found out about these people. (When I say “products”, I mean tangible products like bricks and Jello, and intangible products like appendectomies, auto repairs, and checking account.)”
~ Theodore Levitt, “Commentary on Modern Marketing”

Following are the characteristics of intangible products:

• Products do not exist before they are bought – there is no pre-test or preview of it.
• Products / services are manufactured as they are delivered.
• Products are highly “people sensitive”, experiential and less uniform.
• The customer rarely knows when s/he is being well served.
• The seller’s reputation is a crucial part of the product.

To get a customer for an intangible product or service, the seller has to create metaphors which stand as surrogates to “tangibilize” the product, and the seller has to be able to demonstrate the promised value of the intangible product.

To keep a customer for an intangible product or service, the seller must regularly remind the customer of the worth of the product or service, and the seller must effectively manage customer relationships after the sale has been made.

It is noteworthy to see that many tangible products are actually sold on the basis of intangible qualities (i.e., the emotional connection). And while the customer can pre-test or preview many tangible products, their ultimate satisfaction will depend on actual experiences which can vary with external differences and expectations. And the intangible service delivery qualities and experience can make or break the customer relationship.

All products are clusters of expectation; that is, people don’t buy ‘things’, they buy solutions to their problems and fulfillment of their needs and wants. You as the seller have to know not only who you are and what you are offering, but also to identify your customer’s needs and wants. You must determine how you meet / service those needs and wants, continually reminding your customers of how you are fulfilling their expectations, and focus your marketing on your products vs. the ‘how’ they work.