Jim's Marketing Blog

Marketing ideas to help you grow your business

Marketing Tip: Sell them ideas

The most successful business owners have discovered that you do not sell a product or service: You sell the idea. Today’s post explains why they do it and why YOU should consider doing the same!

sell ideas, features and benefits

Steve Jobs famously said that the iPhone was not a product, it was a lifestyle. Apple marketing went on to sell the idea of owning an iPhone and living the iPhone lifestyle. It was a product that became more than a phone: It became a statement, about those who owned it.

Sell ideas and capture imagination

Over and over, we see that the most successful people in business focus on selling the idea, rather than the product or service.

For example:

  • The most successful web designers do not sell websites. They sell the idea of how a super-effective website will massively increase revenues and profits.
  • The most successful restaurants do not sell food. They sell the idea of enjoying a wonderful, memorable, culinary experience.
  • The most successful lawyers do not sell legal services. They sell the idea of peace of mind, knowing your legal affairs are being expertly handled.
  • The most successful artists do not sell products. They sell the idea of your spirits being lifted, by buying into their art.
  • The most successful alcohol brands do not sell you booze. They sell the idea of the lifestyle they have attached to their booze.

Switching from selling products / services, to selling ideas

What is the idea behind the products or services you provide? If you save people money, save people time, make people more productive or make them more beautiful etc – that’s what you need to market to them.

For example, if you sell accountancy services, don’t just list the services you provide and tell them how much you care, then quote a fee. No! Instead, sell the idea of how it feels to know your financial situation is being looked after by experts, who will ensure you never waste a penny. Sell them peace of mind, not features.

Benefits over features

Those who have studied marketing, will know the value of marketing benefits, rather than features. The concept behind selling ideas is closely linked to selling on benefits. Think of the core benefits behind what you offer and sell that idea.

So, instead of a plumber selling her ’60 minute call-out service’, she would say; ‘By responding to your burst pipe fast, I will quickly stop the water damage and limit disruption – so your home will be back to normal in no time!’

In short: Spend some time thinking about the benefits of what you provide. Then, consider marketing the idea behind those benefits – rather than marketing the core product or service itself.

About Jim Connolly: I help small business owners grow their business, make more sales and boost their profits. To see how I can help you and your business, read this.


  1. Great post, Jim, as always.

    I would love to know how to translate this type of concept into book marketing. Do you, or anyone else here have any thoughts on this? I’m all ears.

    • Hi Thomas. It’s already used in book marketing, where the idea of reading the book is sold – not just the book/data.

      For example:

      They sell “… find yourself lost in a magical world of intrigue” rather than “… This book by Bob Smith is gripping.”

      Not sure if that’s exactly what you mean or not. I hope it helps.

  2. In truth a product has a life cycle but an idea lives for ever. Your posts inspires as always, thanks for the great job, Jim!

  3. Hey Jim,

    I found this post really very helpful.

    Thank you

  4. Shannon Buckland

    May 2, 2013 at 06:04

    I like how you humanize ideas like this.

    I’ve heard the idea of benefits and features selling lots over the years but this is the first time I understood it fully.

    Thanks Jim for all that you do.

  5. Another top drawer post Jim. You have given me food for thought about how to market my products, thanks.

  6. This is a great strategy Jim.. I was doing a job interveiw with a high profile tech company in my country and I discussed this idea with the hiring staff.. they were convinced of it however we discussed the issue of a custumer who is just interested in getting the job done and not interested in much details. not really an issue just sumple fact

  7. Hey Jim..
    For car classfieds website, What would be your suggestion? I mean which slogan would be best fit in the category of selling the idea to visitors to subscribe and post their paid ads?

    • Without giving this a huge amount of thought, I can’t help. Sadly, I lack the time to do that for you. How about you think about what makes YOUR site great, then use that as your slogan? Just a thought.

  8. I agree with the comment by Shannon Buckland. I too have always heard about selling benefits not features, but never quite understood exactly what that meant. You explained it much better. Now I get it. Thanks.

    • That’s great to know, Ruth. When I write a post it’s always my intention to be useful.

      Thanks for taking time out to let me know. I appreciate you.

  9. i have an idea to create a product that can help my job and others who has the same bussiness as i do. i’m doing nails for 15 years experiences, and while im doing this, i come up with an idea to create a product that can speed up the process of doing acrylic nails(30 mins for 2-5 years experienced nail tech) to 10-15 mins. But i’m still stucked at putting all this pieces of idea together. should i look for a group of people who has high-tech to put my ideas to completed product. Please tell me how to do this thanks you

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