Many people aren’t sure why people buy their product.

They know it’s good, it’s worth buying, but talking about it in a way people understand is difficult.

People often figure out what they’re selling and stop there. Socks, laptops, tea, you name it. Common sense dictates that if we list off all the features of our products, then slap the word “best” in front of them people will buy them. But that’s not what happens.

As a business owner, you’ve probably experienced this.

It reminds me of those lemonade stands kids set up on hot days in the middle of summer. I’ll be honest, there’s almost nothing that would compel me to pull over on a hot day and dig through my pockets for two quarters.

Except for a lemonade stand.

One hot day, pulled over and ordering my lemonade, I asked the group of kids who they made the lemonade for. “Everyone!” was their excited reply, “Everyone loves lemonade!” Of course it was for everyone. Everyone needs lemonade on a hot day, right?

But they were wrong.

I’ve never stopped at a lemonade stand for the lemonade. And I don’t think anyone else has either.

That’s why you never see lemonade stands run by a bunch of college kids or 40-year-old men. Imagine that: driving down the road, thinking about how badly you’d like a nice glass of lemonade. Then, as if in answer to your prayers, you see a group of balding men crowded behind a foldable table with a handmade sign that says, “Nice, cold lemonade! It’s the BEST lemonade you’ll ever have!”

Good thing it’s not about the lemonade.

So why pull over and spend valuable time and money?

It’s for the kids.

You see, I believe in empowering the next generation—teaching them to stick their necks out and try something hard, something that might get ignored. I stopped and gave them money to encourage them to keep it up. I imagined them becoming entrepreneurs or bold risk-takers. Maybe they’d just learn how to work hard.

Unknowingly, what the kids at the lemonade stand were selling me was a feeling.

In this case, one of altruism. And selling feelings is much more effective than selling products. Look at Patagonia. Or Pact. Or Starbucks.

There are other companies that provide gear, clothing, and coffee. But Patagonia makes me feel like I’m caring for the earth, Pact makes me feel like I’m taking care of the factory workers who stitched my clothes together, and Starbucks makes me feel proud as I walk into work with their Venti fashion statement.

StoryBrand calls this the Internal Problem. It’s not about the features or details of your product; it’s about the feelings and emotions your product gives people, and the way they feel when they don’t have it.

I’ll let you in on a secret: People don’t make decisions with their brains. They make most decisions with their emotions, then justify those decisions with their brains.

So, when you tell a potential customer all the features of your product, you’re not communicating with the decision-making center of their brain. To reach the part of their brain that makes decisions, you have to tell them how your product will make them feel. It is only after that that telling them about features is valuable because it is then that their rational brain jumps in and tries to make sense of the decision their emotions just made.

Most people want to feel rational, so they believe the story their rational brain tells them about the features of your product and ignore the emotions that drove the decision.

But you can’t believe that rational-brain-story. Not if you want to grow your business.

So here’s what you need to do:

1. Think through the emotions people experience before and after they buy your product or service. What emotional problem does your product solve? (A couple of examples: If your product simplifies a process, people might feel frustrated beforehand and relieved afterward. Or, if your product helps them reach a new level of performance, people might feel inferior beforehand and confident afterward.)

2. Integrate those emotions into your marketing. For example, tell people you know what it’s like to feel inferior and you want to help them feel confident.

But only tell them something that’s true. If you make up stories or emotions to try to manipulate people into buying your product or service you’ll degrade your humanity for the sake of marketing. Plus, they’ll eventually figure it out, and you’ll lose business.

Let’s look at Patagonia again. If you’re Patagonia, your customers might not have outdoor gear, or they need new outdoor gear.

Now, press into that a little more. How do they feel when they don’t have outdoor gear? What is it causing them to miss out on? Maybe they can’t go camping or backpacking, or it’s too cold for them to go outside. Maybe they feel constrained when they can’t do these things. What they truly want is to feel free.

Suddenly, Patagonia no longer sells outdoor gear; it sells freedom. No wonder people pay so much for their products. 

When you communicate with your customers’ emotions and paint a picture of how your product or service will make them feel, more people will buy, and your business will grow.

If you want help clarifying your Internal Problem, or working through the other two problems you help your customers solve, click here to schedule a call. I would love to help your business reach its next level.

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