What to do With a Commodity Product or Service

What’s the right marketing strategy for selling a commodity? You know… when everyone else can sell what you’re selling? Here’s how 90% of America’s car dealerships handle that problem:


It’s a price war, baby. He with the lowest price wins! Or… loses with the lowest profits.

Almost every product or service is a commodity. I will bet you that someone else is selling your product, or offering your service, right now. And they are probably selling it for less than your price tag. Because that’s how commodity products are sold, right? By price. Well… not very well, and not for much profit.

Here’s the rule: When you sell a commodity product or service, don’t sell the commodity product or service. Sell something else that accompanies the product or service. That something else is an experience.

What Selling On Price Does

Let’s use car dealerships as an example. While buying a new car is exciting, the process of buying a new car is not so fun. Customers know that car dealerships try to make up for commodity pricing on cars by squeezing profit on the “back end.” (That’s actually what car dealers call it: the back end. Some think it’s an appropriate term for the metaphor of what car dealers do to you.)

It creates an air of mistrust between customer and business. When you train customers to buy on price, that is the reason they are buying from you. Consequently, they have to wonder: “Am I getting the lowest price?” It makes for an adversarial relationship between customer and business. It also sets the table for buyer’s remorse. “I could have got a lower price somewhere else!”

So if everyone can sell what you are selling, and selling on price is not good for your business, why not try something else? But how do you sell a customer experience? It’s a lot easier than you think. It just takes two items: personality and memories, what I call magic spots in the customer experience.

Selling a Personality-Based Experience

Let’s take auto parts stores for another example. Other than advertising, what’s the difference between Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and NAPA Auto Parts? Who knows…and who cares? Auto parts are a commodity, and these stores are just selling the lowest price with the fastest service. No personality, no magic spots.

What if they just added a dash of personality? I’m not talking about their advertising, I’m talking about the in-store experience with their customers. If they could just stop trying so hard to be an auto parts store for a while and let a personality shine through. That means having some charisma and developing a persona. Instead of their employees being the efficient auto parts clerks, why not let them be Professors of Auto Parts?

That’s just an example, but you get the picture. When you sell what anyone else can sell, sell for the lowest price you feel comfortable with, not the lowest price period. Remove the sterility from your business. You can do this if sell something other than a product or service. Sell your personality and sell the experience.

What’s your personality? What’s your persona? Sell that.

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