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Book Summary – Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

Selling The Invisible - Book summary

If you think you’re selling a product, think again.  Most companies that we see around us – such as McDonalds, Federal Express, American Express, Levi’s – are selling services, not products. Services are inherently more invisible than products, and call for a different sales & marketing approach. In this book, Harry Beckwith offers over 100 tips and insights – for business owners, sales or marketing people – on how to sell service effectively. In this Selling the Invisible summary, we’ll be covering some of these useful tips.

Selling the Invisible: An Overview

Services are more invisible and intangible than products. Unlike products – which you can touch, see, smell, and taste before purchasing – services (e.g. a haircut) must be purchased before customers get to experience it. It is also harder to put a warranty on a service.

Even if you sell a physical product (e.g. software or shoes), you are likely to be competing on service (through customization, delivery, support etc.). Effective services marketing is more about how you think than what you do.

Selling The Invisible summary_service vs product

Getting the Fundamentals Right

Before you start marketing your services, there are some fundamentals that you’d want to first get in place, and we’ll be touching on them briefly here:

1. Fix your Service First

We tend to think we are better than we are – it is better to assume your service is bad, and to benchmark across industries, so you force yourself to improve.

2. Get the Right Focus

Always start at zero, sweat the small stuff, and keep asking “is this still what the customers want?”.

3. Understand the Stages of Service Evolution

 Once you understand the stages of service evolution, you can focus on getting to Stage 3 (where you make the leap to go beyond customers’ expressed needs and expectations). Our full 12-page summary covers the 3 stages of service evolution in greater detail.

Surveying and Research

Why survey? Because people won’t tell you what you are doing wrong – not even your best friends. The only way to find out is to ask. In the book, Beckwith covers tips for surveying and research, including using third-party surveys, oral surveys, and phone interviews.

Marketing is Not a Department

Beckwith elaborates on how marketing needs be an integral part of the entire organization, and offer specific tips on how you can cultivate a marketing mindset  (rather than have a marketing department).

Selling The Invisible summary_marketing is not a dept

Overcoming Planning Fallacies

Executives may get lost trying to develop and follow a business or marketing plan. Beckwith highlights several planning fallacies which are critical in your marketing success. We’ll just zoom in on 3 of these points for this article:

1. We Don’t Always Know What We Want

You can get to your “desired destination”, only to realize it’s not what you really want. Hence:
– Accept the limitations of planning
– Value planning for the process of thinking, not the results
– Don’t plan your future. Plan your people.

2. Strategy isn’t King

Often, tactics drive strategy rather than the other way round. Start doing something/ anything, so you can learn from it and shape your thinking/ strategy.
– Stop trying to build a better mousetrap. Perfect ideas don’t work as well as imperfect ideas delivered passionately.
– Inaction breeds more inaction: keep moving to succeed.
– There’s no perfect solution nor perfect timing. Implement a good idea now. Don’t procrastinate, don’t wait.

3. You can’t Predict the Future

No research or “facts” can accurately calculate and predict human behaviour. Don’t rely on science & data for decisions.

You can get more details from our complete Selling the Invisible summary.

Positioning and Focus

We’ve all heard of brand positioning and business focus.  How do we apply that in practice? Here’s an outline of 2 powerful ideas from the book:

1. Focus on ONE thing

No 2 services are identical – Focus on ONE distinct thing that will give you a competitive advantage, and position that in your prospect’s mind.

2. Use the Halo Effect

Standing for 1 thing doesn’t mean you will lose all other appeal, because people will associate that 1 thing with many other things. Position yourself as the expert at the hardest task in your service. That special skill should imply you also possess other valuable skills, and position you strongly in other areas.

In the book, Beckwith also shares 7 questions that you can ask to establish a clear positioning statement and how to close the gap between your position and positioning statement.

Getting the Most from Selling the Invisible

Ready to learn more of these tips and insights to effectively market your services? Check out our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, a 12-page text summary, and an 18-minute audio summary.

Selling the Invisible summary - book summary bundle

The book covers more than 100 tips, each presented in 1-3 pages, with short, simple examples for most “chapters”. Not all the tips will be relevant or helpful to your organization, but you will almost definitely be able to find useful insights or reminders that you can apply immediately. In his book, Harry Beckwith also covers tips on selling the invisible including : how prospects think, pricing, naming and branding, communicating and selling, nurturing and keeping your clients.  You can purchase the book here or visit for more details.

Want to learn more about sales, marketing and services marketing? Do check out our summary of Winning in Service Markets, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, and To Sell is Human.

About the Author of Selling the Invisible

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing was authored by Harry Beckwith–a lecturer, speaker, author and marketer. He is the founder of Beckwith Partners, a marketing and advertising company located in Minneapolis. He has advised several Fortune 500 companies, and many small and medium-sized service-oriented businesses.

Selling the Invisible Quotes

“Don’t just think better. Think different.”

“The fastest, cheapest, and best way to market your service is through your employees.”

“Most executives are too busy ducking falling trees to see the forest.”

“Never mind what business you are in – what are you good at?”

“Don’t approach planning as a precise science. Planning is an imprecise art.”

“Marginal tactics executed passionately almost always will outperform brilliant tactics executed marginally.”

“Today’s good idea almost always will beat tomorrow’s better one…Do it now.”

“Start failing so you can start succeeding.”

“The more you say, the less people hear.”

“Setting your price is like setting a screw. A little resistance is a good sign.”

Click here to download Selling the Invisible book summary and infographic

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