An Important Question You Must Ask Yourself About the Product You're Selling

There are two kinds of products: need-to-have products and want-to-have products. Knowing which kind you are selling is critically important to your success as a copywriter.

Need-to-have products include houses, furniture, food, water, and electricity. Selling these products is usually a matter of providing good value. The great thing about need-to-have products is that customers keep on buying them. The difficulty is that your client is usually competing against a host of like products – so the pressure to keep rates low is enormous. (Think airline travel. Think coffee.)

Want-to-have products include jewelry, perfume, draperies, and art. To sell these products, you need to create a perceived value for them. You also need to create the desire in your prospects to own them – and that takes a great deal of skill. What’s great about want-to-have products is that they tend to be viewed as being unique. So if you promote them properly, your client can charge a lot of money.

Most products are not clearly one way or the other. In that case, you need to make a decision as to which way you are going to aim your copy.

Take coffee, for example. If you want to sell coffee beans to the need-o-drink market, your client will have to accept very small profit margins. He'll have to cut big deals with major vendors (like supermarkets) and move a ton of beans. But once locked into this market, he may enjoy very good ongoing business and very nice (but small, percentage-wise) profits.

If, on the other hand, you want to position your coffee beans to the want-to-drink market (Starbucks, for example), you will have to come up with a good reason why people should pay a premium price for them – and you’ll have to keep the creative process going to continue to support your argument.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: July 22, 2002

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