Larry Brauner
I spoke this morning with a very pleasant chap from the Westchester County Business Journal.

In the course of conversation I had occasion to mention that “nobody buys drills, they buy holes,” an aphorism attributed to Theodore Levitt, the late economist.

A drill is but a means to an end.

Similarly, few people care about social networking sites.

While I’m able to get excited about a minor Facebook tweak,  a juicy little Gwave tidbit, a new Twitter tool, or even the latest Wordpress release, most people using social media care only about friendship, love, wealth, power or fame.

A Drill, Not a HoleIf you’re selling a product or service, people care not about your product but what it can do for them. Your product or service is but a means to an end, a drill, not a hole.

In your marketing, think about the problems potential customers and clients want to solve. Address those problems. Offer to solve them, and let them pay you for your solutions.

Nobody buys drills, they buy holes. Sell them the holes.

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16 Responses to “Nobody Buys Drills, They Buy Holes”

  1. Mark Moore on November 4th, 2009 11:01 pm

    Nice short and simple post. Thanks for reminding me of a great expression. Haven’t heard it since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

  2. Nick Bui on November 5th, 2009 12:42 am

    There are still a lot of guys out there trying to show off about how advanced and unique their products are and think that people should care about that. You may invest how much money you’d like to and afford to make your products or services look innovative and luxurious. However, who cares about your investment? They just care about what your products or services can do for them.

  3. Larry Brauner on November 5th, 2009 1:07 am

    Exactly Nick. They think they can sell features rather that solutions, i.e. real benefits that will be perceived as such by the customer.

  4. WillOaks Studio on November 5th, 2009 1:10 am

    Great saying to help keep in mind a very important idea! I lose track of this as an artist….but now, you’ve reminded me and with an expression that is memorable, too! Thanks!

  5. Larry Brauner on November 5th, 2009 1:17 am

    Thank you Karen. I love your concept of wearable art.

  6. Cheryl H on November 5th, 2009 9:58 am

    Great post! I have never heard that particular quote but it certainly is coffee mug worthy! A very important idea that I believe is lost during the push to have the latest greatest flashy new technology! I think a little more time spent thinking on this could save a lot of awkward silence that generally occurs after someone says “That’s great… but what does it do?”. Thanks Larry!

  7. Larry Brauner on November 5th, 2009 10:06 am

    Thank you Cheryl. I appreciate your wit.

    Let’s take this even one step farther. After “That’s great… but what does it do?” comes “That’s great… but how will that help me?”

    Your company is lucky to have hired you Cheryl!

  8. Debbie Morgan on November 5th, 2009 11:32 am

    Hi Larry,

    I like helping people so this should come easy to me especially when my products help protect life and property. The sad thing is, most people don’t realize they have a problem I can help them solve until it’s too late. Thanks, Larry, for a great post.


  9. Larry Brauner on November 5th, 2009 11:58 am

    Therefore Deb, you can’t begin to sell those people until you educate them.

    Unfortunately, it’s not easy to educate people about this, since people tend to live in denial, and your most likely customers will be people who have already been victimized or who are close to someone who has been victimized.

  10. dhemz on November 5th, 2009 5:14 pm

    Nice title :)

    Came here to visit.

  11. Janet Giacoma on November 5th, 2009 7:00 pm

    Such a great reminder - Marketing 101. Whether writing an article, creating an ad, working on a PPC campaign - those who focus on the solutions to another persons problem will create more value. Terrific post!

  12. Market Segmentation on November 6th, 2009 1:43 am

    Hi Larry,

    Fulfilling a need is the basic reason for any product or service.

    Any one that tries to crack a market by creating a need had better have some deep pockets to launch the product, and then expect to wait for return on the investments.

    Good Job.

    Linda P. Morton

  13. Eli @ Business Sphere on November 7th, 2009 5:49 pm

    What a wonderful post! Brief, concise but to the point.

    Theodore Levitt was more noted as a management thinker and he authored books on management, and not as an economist. But that is not my point here.

    The point is - you drove home the lesson about means to an end, about having an objective, a target, in social marketing. It is true that a product or a service is only a means to meet the needs and wants of the customers, which is an end. Otherwise, no sale is made and the end — profit — is not achieved.

  14. DaisySoapGirl on November 8th, 2009 1:45 am

    That’s a novel way of thinking. Kind of reminds me of college where I was taught that people don’t buy the steak, they buy the sizzle.

  15. Jeff Moriarty on December 28th, 2009 1:52 pm

    I totally agree. We sell our products on Facebook as a solution. We focus these ads on how our product can fix a certain situation…and it works quite well. I have never heard the phrase with the drill, but I love it!

  16. Pia on September 17th, 2010 4:31 pm

    Very well said. Promoters keep on saying non-essential features about their product that they miss the most important thing- why consumers would buy the product.

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