Let them touch it, taste it, feel it, smell it, drive it.

making the sale

Ever flown first class to Hong Kong? No, neither have I. Or at least, not really. Well, sort of. Kind of. What I mean is that I feel as if I have. Let me explain. I’ve just been for a ride (turning left at the door, not right) on a Cathay Pacific 747. I settled into my cubicle with a long drink and an endless selection of videos. A flight attendant appeared as if by magic to satisfy my every whim. And the hours just slipped by as I enjoyed the sort of trip others only dream about. And yet, I never left my desk. For this ‘try before you fly’ experience is entirely virtual. It’s a revolutionary concept that takes you there – without taking you there. You can choose to see it from a first-person view, or watch somebody else experience it. You can be a man or a woman (man, before you ask). And you can read, email, catch a movie and watch the world go by without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.

The next best thing

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth much more. That’s why nothing can come close to test-driving a car – not the brochure, the salesman’s spiel, the Youtube video or the word of a friend. The open road beneath you, the wind in your hair and the smell of new leather does it every time. It’s something the software industry has known for years. In the early days, we called them ‘crippled versions’ (not very clever, nor very politically correct). They worked, but some of the features were ‘disabled’ (another unfortunate term). But then, the software companies realised that limiting the functionality also limited the experience. So they then came up with ‘time-bombed’ versions: everything worked, but after a set period, the program did a Mission Impossible – unless, that was, you upgraded to the full version.

Show, don’t tell

Experience beats description every time. Just look at Bovis and McCarthy & Stone, property developers in the UK. They’ve realised that buying a house is a big move for most people – but particularly for older people, who realise that they probably won’t move again. With so much at stake, they want to get it right. And what better way to do it than ‘playing house’ for a couple of days? You can move in and get a feel for the place. Settle down with a cup of tea and watch some TV. Try out the beds. Meet the neighbours. Go for a walk. Anything you like, in fact. And all without buying. A couple of days later, you know whether it’s the place for you. Pure genius. You don’t always have to opt for such a radical solution. There are lots of different tactics you can use to create a ‘try before you buy’ experience by the back door (or at the very least, a side-door):
  • Give something away: maybe it’s a low-value product that gives the customer an idea of the quality and finish. Maybe it’s a service (e.g. a day’s consulting) that shows them how you operate.
  • Offer a money-back guarantee: they’re not exactly trying before they buy, but they know that if it doesn’t work, or they’re not happy, they can get their money back.
  • Include testimonials: often, the fact that somebody else has tried means that they’ll buy.
But ultimately, nothing beats trying the real thing. So don’t be afraid – let them touch it, taste it, feel it, smell it, drive it. Then they’ll buy it. Find out more: