People aren’t buying the drill bit, they’re buying the hole.
This is a an concept I heard in the context of advice to business owners, relating to marketing and sales.
The concept is to know what people are actually buying from you. The drill bit creates the hole in the wall. The idea is that your customer is buying the hole.
The Vehicle vs the Destination
Many sales people make the mistake of marketing the drill bit, not the hole.
In other words, they focus on the vehicle, not the destination.
You’ve perhaps marketing copy that focuses on the details (features) of the “vehicle” and perhaps the benefits of those features. Marketing 101 tells you to focus on the features over the benefits.
Example (from a website selling drill bits):
Patented flute geometry removes dust quicker for faster drilling.
Patented flute geometry = feature
Removes dust quicker, faster drilling = benefits
What this leaves out is any mention of the destination. Why does your customer want faster drilling? What’s this drill bit going to do for your customer?
The concept that “people aren’t buying the drill bit, they’re buying the hole in the wall” is a reminder to focus on selling the thing your buyer really wants: the hole in the wall.
Buyers buy the destination.
Nobody Wants a Hole in the Wall
Here’s where this advice falls short:
Most people do not actually want a hole in the wall. That’s not what your customer is buying. It’s just a necessary step to what your customer really wants.
If you’re going to sell what your customer really wants, you’d better get clear on what that is.
What is the destination?
Full disclosure: I have never sold drill bits or drills. This is an example to make a larger point.
I did own a drill once. And I assure you that I did not walk into the store and say:
Excuse me, sir, can you please recommend a drill bit that will drill a hole in my wall.
Can you even imagine that? The absurdity of it made me laugh out loud so hard that I might put it in my next stand-up comedy set.
What I more likely said at the time was something along the lines of:
I’d like to hang pictures on my plaster wall. What’s a tool that will help me do that?
Maybe it’s just me. Unlikely. (But if I’m wrong — if you buy a drill bit to get a hole, and that’s it — let me know in the comments.)
Unless a consumer is making some sort of statement piece with holes in the wall, what the consumer really wants is to hang something on the wall: a television, picture, hanging baskets, mirrors. Maybe she wants to run wires through the wall so she can install more lighting.
Whatever it is the consumer wants, the hole is simply the first step to that result.
People aren’t buying the hole in the wall; they are buying the ability to hang something on the wall.
Beyond the Destination
Taking it a step further, most people don’t just want to hang something on the wall.
Have you ever mounted something on a wall only to have it fall off? It’s not fun.
Nobody wants their wall-mounted television to fall off the wall.
What a consumer wants is the confidence that the result will last — certainty that the thing mounted on the wall will stay there.
Nobody buys a destination. They buy the feeling they want when they reach the destination.
People aren’t buying the ability to hang something on the wall; they are buying the feeling confidence that what gets mounted on the wall stays there.
Reconsidering What You’re Selling
When you consider these layers of what consumers are really buying from you — what they actually want — you’ll find ways to tailor your marketing language and the information you offer on your products to speak to what they really want.
But wait… there’s more!
Beyond making a shift in your marketing language, getting clear on what your customers actually want — what they are really buying from you — can help you reconsider what you sell.
This opens doors to potential new offerings to make to your customers.
For example, you want to add installation services to your menu of offerings. Why stock hundreds of drill bits if your customers just want someone to drill the holes for them and hang their televisions?
Bonus: hanging televisions and artwork is a higher margin business.
A world of insight and options opens when you think beyond the hole.
What do your customers really want?