Why a Unique Selling Proposition Contradicts Everyday Life

Once upon a time, there was a periodontist who attempted to state benefits instead of features, but he made a critical mistake …

Listen in to find out what it was — and how it affects your business.

In this 16-minute episode, I discuss:

  • How a visit with a periodontist turned into a business lesson about features and benefits
  • The wrong way to write about benefits in your copy (and how to edit them properly)
  • Why people are trained to devalue your online business
  • Why what you need to succeed in business conflicts with (most) everything you’re taught in life

The Show Notes

Why a Unique Selling Proposition Contradicts Everyday Life

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Stefanie Flaxman: Hello there, Editor-in-Chiefs. I’m Stefanie Flaxman, and you are listening to Editor-in-Chief, the weekly audio broadcast that delivers the art of writing, updated for marketing in the digital age so that you can become the Editor-in-Chief of your online business.

How a Visit with a Periodontist Turned into a Business Lesson about Features and Benefits

Imagine with me that you just went to go get a routine dental cleaning. You go every six months, because you take care of your teeth, and you’re told that you have gum recession in one little spot and that you need to go see a periodontist to find out your options.

So far, you know your options are not very pretty. There’s a graft involved where you would have to get a little bit of gum removed from the roof of your mouth and have it cover the gum recession, or there’s a synthetic process that you could do to replace the gum damage. You’re not looking forward to it too much, but you want to take care of your teeth, so you go to a periodontist.

At your appointment, he examines your mouth, and he tells you that you don’t actually have gum recession and that your teeth have shifted. In the one spot where it looks like the gum is receding, you actually just have a long tooth. The technical term is ‘long tooth.’ There’s no gum recession. I don’t want to get into all the technical details, but there’s just more tooth exposed. The gum has not actually receded, so the process of the grafting or the synthetic gum wouldn’t help anything, because there’s not anything there.

Good news for you, right? It is good news, but I’m going to tell you what happens next. What happens next actually happened to me, because all of that happened to me recently. I was super jazzed when I found out that I didn’t actually have gum recession, so I wouldn’t have to go through a process I didn’t want to go through. Then, because of the teeth-shifting aspect of it, I was told that it would probably be better to correct that if I had some orthodontic treatment that would straighten my teeth.

I listened very patiently, but then I was super excited because I was so ready to shoot down anything cosmetic related to my teeth, because that wasn’t why I was going to the periodontist to follow up. I didn’t want a lot of gum recession that would cause a lot of problems later if I didn’t get it treated, but I was totally against anything cosmetic. I was like, “Nope, my teeth look fine to me.” They’re teeth. It’s not something I’m picky about.

It’s not like an Oxford comma. In my world, that’s a big deal. I like using the Oxford comma, but my teeth are teeth. They’re there. I take good care of them. They’re fairly healthy, so I did not like the cosmetic suggestion that I could straighten out this one part that would then pull up my tooth, or straighten my tooth, so that the gum would be pulled up, and then it wouldn’t be as exposed. Also, at the same time he was pitching me this orthodontic treatment, he said it would cause gum recession, so we’d have to do the treatment I didn’t want to have. I’m ready to shoot the guy down.

I guess a disclaimer is that I’m very happy with my dentist and this periodontist that I went to see. I’m not going to tell you their names, but they are very good. What I’m about to say might put them in a negative light. That’s not what I intend, because I think they’re very good at what they do.

So I say to the guy, “No thanks. I don’t care about anything that’s just cosmetic. The way my teeth look, I think my teeth look fine.”

Then he says to me, “Have you noticed your voice sounds weird?” He wasn’t laughing. I laughed as soon as he said that. I said, “Um, uh, I don’t know?” He said, “Do you notice there’s an extra swooshing noise in your mouth when you talk?” I said, “Yeah, I guess I noticed that.” He doesn’t know anything about me, personally or professionally. He said, “Because your mouth has shifted, and your teeth are crooked like this, I think your brain has corrected.”

He’s like, “Say ‘S’ for me,” so I’m like, “S.” He’s like, “Say ‘F.’” I was like, “F.” He told me other letters. I was like, “Okay, I get it. I know what you’re talking about, but I don’t give a shit.” He keeps going and was like, “Don’t you want your voice to sound like everyone else?” and “If you straighten your teeth, your voice will get better.” He really underestimated how much I don’t give a shit about sounding like other people. This is my voice, man. Lay off.

Here’s the business lesson in it.

When he was going for what would happen if he straightened my teeth, that was more of what we would call, in copywriting or when we’re promoting our businesses, a ‘feature.’ It’s, “Okay, I do this treatment. The feature is you have straight teeth.” If you don’t want straight teeth, you really have to go for the benefit that your audience would feel that they would gain if they do what you want them to do.

The Wrong Way to Write about Benefits in Your Copy (And How to Edit Them Properly)

When I wasn’t going for the feature of it all, the straightening of the teeth, he went in with the benefit of something that really would affect me. Then he thought — you know what, I’m projecting what he thought — but I think he was thinking, “If I pitch it to her this way, maybe she’s self-conscious about her voice. If I present it like, ‘Oh, I think your voice will be fixed if we do this,’ that’s more of a benefit.”

I’m not listening to anything he’s saying about what could happen with my voice or my teeth because I know I don’t want to do it. I’m just thinking, “Man, I’m writing this podcast episode in my head because this is so interesting how he’s approaching this to me and how he’s pitching all of these things.”

Again, he was doing his job, and I think he was really good. I loved the exam. He was very meticulous, which I appreciated, but to him, again, these things really matter, and these things aren’t a big deal to me. Again, it’s not like punctuation usage or things that matter in my world.

That was the first lesson that I wanted to get into. When you’re revising your writing, you always want to go for the benefit, right? You want to go for something in which the reader really sees a transformation in his or her life. The tricky thing with that is that you have to know your audience. Once again, he really underestimated how much I don’t give a shit about wanting my voice to sound less swooshy when I say things. It’s not even that consistent, and I don’t really believe it’s because of the teeth, the stuff going on in my mouth.

I grind my teeth, and I clench my jaw a lot. I know I’m probably doing irreparable damage that future Stefanie is going to have to deal with. But I’m doing the best I can. Again, I think this is my voice. This is my voice, guys. This is what I have to work with, and I don’t think — I could be wrong — correcting my teeth is going to do anything about how I say certain words sometimes. He thought he was going for a benefit, but he did not know his audience.

In an episode of Rough Draft — which I will link to in the show notes — with my good friend, Demian Farnworth, he says that you have to paint a clear picture that your prospect can relate to. This was a recent episode that happened after the periodontist trip, but I realized that that’s exactly what was going wrong.

He thought he was painting this clear picture. He probably thought I was younger than I am. Most people do. He was like, “Oh, this young girl probably cares about how she sounds. I’m going to go in for the voice thing. Can’t be different. Can’t have a voice that sounds a little different or a little off sometimes.”

Again, he didn’t know his audience. The only thing he could have said that would have convinced me was if it was a health concern, because the only reason I was there was to find out if there were any health repercussions to not doing anything about what was happening with my gum. I wasn’t going in for a cosmetic thing. I just wanted to make sure nothing was going to be medically unsound down the line with what was currently going on in my mouth.

So that is a little writing lesson for you — to really make sure you know your audience if you want them to take a certain action. Just that little disconnect will get them to tune out. Like I said, I was tuning out. I was writing this podcast episode in my head.

Why People Are Trained to Devalue Your Online Business

Then the second part of the episode that I was writing goes back to an old episode of Editor-in-Chief, which I will also link to in the show notes. It was the proofreading episode — “The Professional Way to Proofread Your Writing When You Don’t Have Time.” Was it that episode? I think it was that episode. It’s where I talked about when I first started working online and having my own business, how people didn’t really get what I was doing. They undermined it a little bit, which you might encounter a lot.

I think it is common, because you’re doing something that really matters to you. You’re taking a lot of risk, and you’re working hard at something that you care about. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable doing that in their own lives. They will try to put it down or diminish it or act like, “Oh, it’s not going to really happen,” because maybe they don’t have something going on in their life that they really care about. It’s easier to pooh-pooh what other people are doing.

Why What You Need to Succeed in Business Conflicts with (Most) Everything You’re Taught in Life

During this conversation, again, he wants my voice to sound like everyone else. He says I have this extra swooshing noise, and “Blah blah blah, don’t you want it to be corrected?” I was thinking that your unique selling proposition — what you make when you’re forming your business, why people go to you and not someone else — completely contradicts what most people are taught growing up and in life.

People are taught, “Be like everyone else. Don’t have your voice have this weird swooshing noise. You should sound like everyone else. You should follow this path because it’s like everyone else.” As much as there’s creative, inspirational quotes out there and everything, we’re still very much taught to fall in line with what other people have done before, because it makes everyone feel comfortable. When people can put you in a box, they feel happier, because they can identify something. If you don’t fit into that, it confuses people.

I have a little sympathy for people that do put down people who are creating their own businesses or treating to live creative lives that they want, because really, what you do every day in business contradicts what you are taught growing up and in life. I got really fascinated with that concept, and realizing that can help block out a lot of the negativity that you might encounter.

I’m not saying it’s all negative. I’m sure you know lovely people who are encouraging and want to help you do the things you want to do in your life and are supportive. I’m sure those people exist, but people who won’t be so on board, you’ll probably have to encounter them, too. That’s probably why and where they’re coming from. They don’t get why you would want to stand out and do something different when you “should” just fall in line.

With the periodontist example, he wasn’t coming from a place where I was not going to want to have a voice without the swooshing noise that sounded like a “normal voice” or “like everyone else.”

I was fascinated with these two business ideas. It’s also that content lessons are everywhere, because they’re intertwined with life. Those are things that people understand, that you can pull from your own experiences and put into your own content when you’re writing.

That is today’s episode. If you have any other thoughts that I didn’t think about or want to contribute at all, you can go over to EditorinChief.FM and find the blog post that goes along with this episode. I was thinking that’s a cool place where, if I ever have afterthoughts that I don’t get to or I don’t complete a thought within the podcast, I might comment and write little addendums to the episode if they pop into my mind.

Why not? We can use all this online stuff creatively. We can push the way that we normally use things, because why not? I might start doing that for little extras or bonuses or whatever you want to call them. We can come up with some name for them. I might be over there writing comments about my own post. If you want to contribute, please feel free.

Then, if you like Editor-in-Chief — I hope you do. I’m really happy when you join me every week and when you send me nice thoughts on Twitter. I really appreciate that. If you want to go over to iTunes and leave a rating or a review there to send more love my way, I would appreciate it.

You guys are awesome. I love doing this show. I hope that you love it, too. If you don’t love it, I’m sorry. I can’t do everything. Have a great week, until I talk to you next week. I’m Stefanie Flaxman. You are listening to Editor-in-Chief.