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I went to a coffee shop here in San Antonio called Local Coffee a few days ago. It was pretty busy, and a lot of people were there.

After standing in line, I ordered my drink and sat down at one of the very last seats available at the bar. There were plenty of people standing around the bar waiting for their drinks to come out.

As the drinks were coming out, they were calling them out and people would come up and get them.

I was sitting at the bar right behind the espresso machines while they were making the coffee. They were announcing the other drinks and I wasn’t really paying too much attention…

…but when it comes time for my drink, the guy who made it reaches around the espresso machine and sets it right in front of me.

He sets my drink right in front of me as I’m sitting at the bar stool and says, “Here you go, Man,” at conversational level.

All of the other drinks were announced more loudly so people could hear across the room but just for me, he set it right in front of me and spoke at a conversational level.

It’s worth noting this was not the same person that took my order.

Yes, I went there because I wanted coffee, but wanting coffee was simply the point of entrance. My choice in location was made on a subconscious level and I would be remiss to say that it wasn’t in any way based on emotion. It really was based on emotion. The reason I chose this particular coffee shop was because of positioning.

Yes, I can get coffee at Starbucks just like I can at Local Coffee, but in my mind that’s where the similarities end. The positioning is so vastly different between the two.

Why I get Starbucks:
  • I get Starbucks when I’m on a road trip and want something consistent.
  • I get Starbucks when I’m in an airport and it’s 5am.
  • I get Starbucks when I’m in an unfamiliar place and want to be sure I can at least have a certain drink.
Why I go to Local Coffee
  • I go to Local Coffee when I want a weekend brunch date with my wife.
  • I go to Local Coffee when I want to meet someone who’s coming in from out of town.
  • I go to Local Coffee when I want to have a nice cozy place to hang out.
  • I go to Local Coffee when I want an experience.

This got me thinking about products and services in general and how we position them.

If you position yourself like a commodity, you’re thought of as a commodity.

If you’re selling a product itself and not the result, you’re opening yourself to comparison on features and not benefits.

Position Features as Benefits

This is key: you want to position your features as benefits. Customers and clients are not interested in features. They’re interested in benefits.

  • What does this do for me?
  • How does this help me?

Features and benefits aren’t talking about different things. They’re talking about the same things but with different framing.

You want to present features as benefits. It’s a creative thinking exercise.

It’s like my Community: it’s a membership site, it’s a forum, we do monthly video hangouts, but I’ve started to refer to it as a digital watercooler—a place where you can get immediate feedback and critique or encouragement and accountability.

See the difference there? Features vs benefits.

  • What does this person feel?
  • What does this person experience?
  • What does this person become as a result of what you offer?

Playing in a Whole Other Ballpark

There was a recent article featuring a number of ways people could learn hand lettering, and it listed out several courses where people could learn.

When they got to my course, Learn Lettering, they were almost apologetic on how differently it was priced. We’re talking about the difference between $29 and $299.

But they said “If you want to become a professional, then Learn Lettering is what you want.”

The reason mine was treated so differently is not just because of price either. I’m selling benefits instead of features. These other courses and tutorials teach you how to draw letters, and how to do calligraphy, etc., but the big, huge headline you see when you go to is “Make a living as a hand lettering artist.”

That’s very different from “learn to draw letters.” Yes, I do teach that, but I do a lot more than just that. I bridge the gap between technical skills and applying them with the business knowledge you need to succeed.

Now while I was smart enough to do that with Learn Lettering, I hadn’t been as intentional with the Community. Currently, it’s simply described as a community for “entrepreneurs serious about growing their business.”

That’s nice and all, but what do you get out of that? I found myself starting to refer to it as a digital watercooler—because that’s truly what it is! It’s like an online watercooler where there are virtually always people hanging out—not matter what time it is, or what time zone, or what country—there’s people willing to help give you instant feedback or critique and encourage you with your projects.

That’s something I’m working on, is repositioning the value proposition for the Community as not just a list of features but a series of benefits.

You’re hearing me improve on this as I’m recognizing it and iterating in public out of the hopes that it gets you to start thinking about your products and services and how you’re positioning those. Not merely coffee, but an experience. Not just commoditizing or opening yourself to comparison on features, but emphasizing benefits.

That’s going to do it for this mini sabbatical episode. I hope that gave you something to think about!

Ben re-joins me on Friday where we talk about tenacity. Have you ever wondered if maybe you just don’t have what it takes? We discuss whether that’s true or not and two different reactions people have when hearing that.