The biggest priority at the early stages of a company is to get the product messaging correct. If the message is right, marketing becomes much easier.

After reading a lot about product messaging and talking to a few people, I’ve come to the conclusion that successful companies sell a vision, not a product or service.

Let’s walk through a few examples:

  • Dropbox, “Your Stuff, Anywhere”: If you’re reading this post, chances are that you’ve already heard of Dropbox. I know people who ran Google ads using their Dropbox referral links to get more space. Now that explains how much people loved their product. But what they really liked was the vision; the ability to access files from anywhere on any device.
  • HubSpot, ” Create Marketing People Love”: Yes I may be a bit biased about HubSpot since I’ve worked there previously but they’ve done something extraordinary. While most of the world was too busy buying billboards and TV ads, they sold the vision that Inbound Marketing is the future. No one likes being interrupted but creating educational content is loved. Their product wasn’t the best in the game until last year but they got to serious revenue by selling a vision.
  • Zappos, “Powered By Service”: Zappos was certainly not the first website that sold shoes online neither were they selling anything particularly unique. What they sold was a vision of customer service and positive company culture. Even the founder Tony Hsieh said “Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes.” The fantastic customer service was created because of a great culture that was enforced by the founder from the early stages of the company. This encouraged word-of-mouth and eventually the company was acquired by Amazon.
  • Tesla, “Premium Electric Vehicles”: While most auto makers had killed the electric car for various reasons, Elon Musk sold the vision that mass market electric cars could be stylish and desirable. With that in mind, the Tesla Roadster sold the vision of a sporty electric car for the rich. Then came the Tesla Model S as the sleek looking, family-friendly sedan. They sold like hotcakes even though the visionary mass market electric car had not yet launched.

These were just a few examples. Think of the companies you admire and you will likely find its the vision that’s attractive. It is very easy to hire a few sales people, to cold call and sell. It may work at the beginning but if you really want to become a great and successful company, sell a vision.

Remember to always play the long game.