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Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

Author: Harry Beckwith
Publisher Warner Books, Incorporated
Publication Date: March 1997

Reviewer:Joel Klebanoff
Joel Klebanoff, is a copywriter and marketing communications consultant specializing in the information technology industry. He is president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc.

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There is no shortage of academic texts, popular books, journals and magazines on marketing. However, most of them address product marketing. There are far fewer choices for services marketing. Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith helps address the scarcity.

Is this book only for companies that provide services? Yes, but ...   As Beckwith points out in the introduction, every product marketer is, to some extent, also a service marketer. Customers don't just buy your product, they buy an augmented product that may include delivery, telephone support, warrantee repairs, efficient correction of billing problems, and so on.

Writing Style

The best way to describe the style of Selling the Invisible is, "nugget writing." The book organizes its advice into several small chunks of wisdom. Each chunk contains a single piece of advice. The book illustrates, explains and enlivens all of its advice with anecdotes, analogies and/or allegories.

When I say several small nuggets, I do mean several. The table of contents lists about 170 items organized into chapters titled:

  • Getting Started
  • Surveying and Research
  • Marketing Is Not a Department
  • Planning: The Eighteen Fallacies
  • Anchors, Warts, and American Express: How Prospects Think
  • The More You Say, the Less People Hear: Positioning and Focus
  • Ugly Cats, Boat Shoes, and Overpriced Jewelry: Pricing
  • Monogram Your Shirts, Not your Company: Naming and Branding
  • How to Save $500,000: Communicating and Selling
  • Holding On to What You've Got: Nurturing and Keeping Clients
  • Quick Fixes
  • Summing Up
It is rare for any one item to take more than two pages and some are only half a page. If that is not concise enough for you, almost all items end by encapsulating its message in one or two sentences printed in a bold and italicized typeface.

As you probably guessed from the chapter titles, this book is not written in an academic style. It reads like a book you would take on your vacation even if you are not a workaholic.

As you read Selling the Invisible, you will likely occasionally catch yourself saying, "Ya, but this stuff is obvious." When you do, pause. Then ask yourself, "If it's so obvious, why is our company making this mistake." (Your company probably is.) Or, "If it's so obvious, why aren't we taking advantage of this opportunity." (Your company probably is not.) Often, advice that appears obvious is only obvious because someone else pointed it out.

Verdict: Worth a read.