Only one type of customer buys magical products, and it’s probably not the one you’re selling to.
A founder I was meeting with was pitching me his startup’s product. His value proposition seemed incredible. According to him, his product would could get users 10x the number of sales leads in their pipeline without any additional marketing spend beyond the cost of the product itself, which was only a couple hundred dollars per month.
The pitch sounded amazing. Who wouldn’t want 10x more sales leads from their existing marketing spend? So I asked to see how the product worked.
The founder happily opened a new browser tab, logged into his company’s web app, and began walking me through their service. He clicked through so many pages, I lost track of the number of forms he submitted, all while he casually narrated each step as though everything was so easy a child could do it.
There was just one problem: I’m not a child. I’m a 40-year-old man, and I’m not so easily fooled. All the things he was showing didn’t seem nearly as magical or easy to use as his narration. To me, the process he described was hard work, and the outcomes he described didn’t seem anywhere near the value he suggested. He wasn’t fooling me. He was selling lots of work disguised as something magical, but only kids buy magic.
To understand the difference between the kinds of products kids want and the kinds of products adults want, let’s consider one of my daughter’s recent birthday presents. For her seventh birthday, she begged me and my wife to buy her a Magic Mixie. A Magic Mixie is a toy cauldron that makes gurgling sounds while your child pours in a pile of colorful, over-price, pre-packaged ingredients. The cauldron bubbles and glows for a few moments until — poof!!! — a stuffed creature called a Mixie “magically” appears.
For my daughter, the Magic Mixie cauldron feels genuinely magical. For example, she thinks the cauldron magically changes colors as she stirs it with her wand. In contrast, I’m an adult and I understand the included “magic” wand has a magnet in the tip that triggers sensors in the cauldron’s base and causes the LED lights to change.
To be clear, I’m not trying to insult the intelligence of my child. She’s supposed to believe in magic because, again, she’s only seven. The company that created the Magic Mixie product understands this, which is why the cauldron includes two different sets of instructions.
The first set of instructions is for my daughter. It’s a pink and purple pamphlet called “the spell book.” It contains mostly large, pretty pictures of all the magical ingredients she’s supposed to drop into the cauldron and in what order.
The other set of instructions is the operator’s manual. The operator’s manual is for the parents. It tells us what we need to do to help make the magical experience “come alive” for our children. It’s 5x thicker than my daughter’s spell book, the writing is 10x smaller, and I probably had a harder time deciphering it than the archaeologists who first tried to understand the Rosetta Stone.
The point is, as magical as the Magic Mixie cauldron seems to my daughter, the promise of the Magic Mixie cauldron is a giant lie. It doesn’t magically make a stuffed animal appear out of thin air. It requires lots of work from the user — i.e. the parent — in order to deliver a magical experience for the child.
While you might think I’m just a frustrated parent venting my grievances about a cheaply made, over-priced kids toy (to some extent, that’s probably true), I’m also a person who’s spent nearly two decades building companies and another decade teaching entrepreneurship. The reason I’m telling you about the Magic Mixie is because lots of entrepreneurs create similar products.
The entrepreneur I described at the beginning of this story offering a 10x increase in lead generation is just one example. The biggest difference between what he was selling and my daughter’s magical cauldron is that the creators of the magic cauldron know it’s not real. I’m pretty sure the entrepreneur pitching me believed he was selling me something genuinely magical.
To anyone with a little bit of experience in marketing or sales — or even a little bit of common sense — his pitch was a lie. If it was possible for a single product to 10x the ROI of a marketing or sales team, don’t you think every major company in the world would already be using it?
Lots of entrepreneurs do the same thing and over-promise the value their products deliver because they think they need to in order to make sales. Then they develop overly-complex products nobody can use and pretend their products will deliver unrealistic value propositions nobody can achieve.
Remember, you’re not selling your product to children. Or rather, most of you reading this article aren’t selling products to children. Sure, if you’re one of the relatively few entrepreneurs building child-focused products, feel free to create magical stories about what your product can accomplish. For everyone else, don’t try to sell magic. Your audience won’t believe you, and they won’t buy.