I Can See Clearly Now

(Listen to this post, here.)

As of this morning, my house is officially on the market. (Please buy it.)

We’ve lived here for nearly 11 years, and with our youngest child due to graduate from high school in June, my wife Linda and I have decided to to something smaller.

As you might imagine, we’ve spent the past several months getting our house “ready,” a term which, unfortunately, correlates highly with “expensive.”

Examples include, granite countertops for the master bath, new front steps, a fancy refrigerator, and the painting of nearly every room.

Still, I can’t say I have any regrets. From all we’ve read and learned about selling a house, these seem to be worthwhile investments.

Which is why when it came down to deciding whether or not to drop a “measly” $250 to have the windows cleaned professionally, inside and out, you’d think it would have been a no-brainer.

But we weren’t sure. It’s not like the windows were visibly dirty, so why bother?

We thought about it for a couple of days and, in the end, decided to go ahead and get it done.

Wow. The difference is extraordinary.

The sun lights up every room (sometimes even at night).

Neighborhood children gather on my front lawn to watch my TV.

The other day, a flock of Canadian geese flew in one end of the house and out the other, and because the windows were so perfectly clean, none of the glass broke.

I may be exaggerating (slightly), but I think you get the picture.

That small investment, in terms of how it makes our house look and feel, was worth as much as some of the other improvements we made which cost ten times more.

And yet, it’s something we nearly didn’t bother with.

Now let’s imagine that you’re in the window cleaning business (congratulations).

You have great testimonials from past customers. Your web site is clear and up-to-date. You’re really, really good at what you do.

And yet, you’ve got one big problem: Lack of demand. Like me, most people don’t think their windows are particularly dirty.

Are they wrong? Please, the geese and I can practically guarantee it.

But when it comes to buying, objective truth doesn’t matter.

Unlike a noisy refrigerator that I hear while I’m eating dinner, or crumbling front steps that I walk up and down every day … windows?? I don’t know, they seem fine to me.

Every sale begins with demand

As a marketer, I’d like to believe that if I stay in touch with the right people, if I clearly explain what I do, if I do good work and offer a high value service, that people are going to hire me.

And they will. If – and only if – they first believe they have a problem that needs fixing.

Which means you’ve got two options:

Option #1: Create demand. Convince people that they have dirty windows and that once cleaned, life will be much better.

Is this a viable option? Sure. In fact that’s what most consumer advertising is based on. You didn’t know you needed that fancy new car or those $300 sneakers until somebody convinced you otherwise.

So yes, it works. But it takes time and money to make people aware of things they haven’t already discovered for themselves.

Which is why I prefer Option #2: Sell solutions to problems people already believe they have.

This doesn’t necessarily mean changing your entire business focus (although it might). It may just be a question of repackaging or tweaking what you offer and how you describe it, so that it lines up with an existing need.

The key is to listen for the pain. What are people already struggling with?

For example, few people are walking around complaining about dirty windows.

On the other hand, everyone with a house for sale is looking for ways to get the house clean and presentable.

Could the window cleaner modify his offering so that it more closely aligns with problems that homeowners already have and recognize?

More to the point, could you do the same for your target clients?

Here’s the bottom line. Without demand, nothing happens.

And whether your expertise is in the field of coaching, consulting, marketing, finance, recruiting or whatever, it’s a lot easier – and faster, and cheaper – to tap into what’s already there than to create something that doesn’t yet exist.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever had wildlife fly through your house? Explain.
  1. Did the title of today’s newsletter make you think of that Johnny Nash song from the seventies? (Watch it here)
  1. What’s the pain that your business satisfies?

Share your comments below!

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15 thoughts on “I Can See Clearly Now

  1. Michelle Morris

    1) No. But the other night my husband gobbled like a turkey and our dog went nuts with barking. It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in awhile. (which probably means I need to get out more). It also means my dog is not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    2) Yes, it did!

    3) I lie awake at night worrying I will end up a bag lady. (Last 2 clients I signed told me this)

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Your #3 is interesting. It’s said kind of as a joke, but it definitely reveals that financial security, among your clients, is a more critical thing to focus on than your knowledge of the comings and goings of the financial market.

  2. Debra Brown

    1) Yes, I have had birds and bats fly through my house. A mother snake once gave birth to a “litter” of baby snakes in my dining room. I wondered as I came down the stairs why my dining room floor seemed to slither. A bear decided to join my dogs at the food bowl one morning. Of course, the bear was given first dibs on the food. The dogs and I gave the bear a respectful distance. Now that I am sharing my wildlife stories, I’m thinking that this may not be a normal number of events. 🙂
    2) Yes. The title did remind me of an oldie but goodie.
    3) Right now my business isn’t solving my pain or anyone else’s. In 2016 I decided to re-invent my business. It feels that I am finally solving the pain. I can create online courses for companies who already have the materials/content, they even have a T & D department—and yet, no one has the time to get the courses completed. I can come in, focus on their programs, and get them up and running in half the time.

  3. Bruce Horwitz

    The most interesting thing about this issue is the phenomenon of paying for “fixing up” the house to sell it… instead of fixing up for YOUR enjoyment. You could have put a granite countertop in the bath years ago (it would still be nice today… that’s what’s nice about granite) and YOU would have had the enjoyment of the countertop for all those years, not just for the short time between now and when you move out.

    Admittedly not everything one does to get the house ready for sale has the same “investment” value as upgrading the countertop, but you get the idea.

    Actually, this is a germ of a service that real estate agents could offer: identifying what investments to make in your property NOW so you can enjoy them while also improving your house’s market value.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’m sure you’re right Bruce. Just as I’m sure my accountant is right when she tells me every year to stop overpaying on taxes during the year just so I can get a hefty refund. Logic is not second nature to us humans!

  4. Harold Waisel

    1. Bats in the attic (reminds me of Aerosmith). Heard a lot of rustling in the ceiling above our bedroom. I thought it was a squirrel. Not that hard to get rid of – put a little cloth net on the outside of the house, they fly out, and can’t get back in. Then seal up the openings.
    2. Yes.
    3. Many companies know ‘what’ they want to do, and most do not know ‘how’ to execute. I help companies create better strategic plans.

    Note to Bruce Horwitz – a few years ago, we asked a realtor what we should do to get the house ready for sale. He walked through the house with us and pointed out a few minor things, but most of the things we thought we should do, he told us not to bother. The buyer will likely change a lot anyway.

  5. Gina Longo

    1) Lots — birds, bugs, the odd snake (yuck!).
    2) Great song! Reminds me of the good ol’ days when everything was much simpler.
    3) God, I wish I knew. It’s beginning to drive me a bit nuts. I know these people need help, but I don’t know exactly how to position myself to help them. *sigh*

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Gina! I hear you on #3. Often easier said than done, but worth pursuing.

      P.S. Those “odd” snakes are the worst….

  6. Andrew Winig

    1. These days mostly ladybugs, though there was a bat in my room when I was 10. My dad stunned it with a tennis racket. Who knew that was the right tool for the job…
    2. Yes, and since my franchise window cleaning business’ motto is “Helping America see clearly” it also made me think about window cleaning (what a pleasant surprise – an actual article about window cleaning!).
    3. I’ve owned my window cleaning business for 15 years, and every time my crew comes to clean my windows I’m always, well, surprised at how clean they are. Even those of us in the business tend to discount how much fun it is having the neighborhood kids watching TV from your front lawn. You’re lucky, actually. We warn people that we make windows disappear. We’ve had people (and wildlife) collide with glass that has just been cleaned because once it’s clean they can’t see it.
    We have many real estate agents who recommend cleaning the windows before a sale because, as you point out, it’s a modest investment for a great payoff on the look and feel of the house.
    Thanks for a great article!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Hi Andy! I had forgotten about your window cleaning biz. Yes, still loving it. And yes, I did see a bird bump it’s head twice while leaving a nearby bush the other day!

  7. Theresa Singleton

    1. I once found a dead bat in a cabinet in an apartment I was moving into. Thankfully, my roommate had the wonderful job of removing the vermin. But I guess this does not count as “flying through.” We’re not even sure if it flew in.

    2. Yes, and I clicked through to listen.

    3. Many of my clients and potential clients have a backlog of data they need to publish. They hire me to sort through it and write manuscripts that will be accepted at biomedical journals.

    I always enjoy your newsletters!


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