Selling the Invisible: A book review by Bob Morris

Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
Harry Beckwith
Business Plus (1997)

This is one of the few books I have read that focuses almost entirely on the marketing and sales of services that are, paradoxically, both “invisible” and experiential. (Bernd Schmitt also has much of great value to say about this in Experiential Marketing as do B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore in The Experience Economy and Michael Wolf in The Entertainment Economy.) Beckwith shares an abundance of information and advice, duly acknowledging various sources from which he has obtained some of the material. I do not damn him with faint praise. His own contributions are first-rate. In “Summing Up”, he provides a brief but precise discussion of various sources that he commends to his reader. This has much greater value than does the standard bibliography. And there is a value-added benefit, his sense of humor, which is indicated by some of the section titles such as “Anchors, Warts, and American Express”, “Ugly Cats, Boat Shoes, and Overpriced Jewelry: Pricing,” and “Monogram Your Shirts, Not Your Company.” Throughout the book, he includes more than 100 of what I characterize as “business nuggets,” all of which are directly relevant (indeed illuminating) within the context in which he inserts them.

Beckwith reveals himself to be an astute observer of human nature. What he suggests can be of substantial value to any organization in which business relationships, including those that are internal, are less than desirable. Everything he suggests combines common sense with a sensitivity to others’ needs and interests. Indeed, almost everyone in almost any organization (regardless of size or nature) must constantly be “selling” various services to others within and beyond that organization. First, they must establish credibility, then trust, and finally obtain agreement to cooperate, if not collaborate. Almost all relationships succeed or fail because of intangibles. Beckwith examines them within a business context but, in process, suggests wide and deep implications relevant to all other areas of human experience. This is an immensely practical as well as thoughtful book.

 

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