Honestly "Snake Oil" Gets a Bad Rap!

We all want to find a panacea, a remedy for what ails us. The typical quick fix. Is the product you or your company created and sells snake oil or a miracle cure? Is it really a vaccine for Coviv-19 or the cure for cancer.




I started thinking about this question while riding my bike one weekend in Colorado. In the middle of nowhere, I landed upon a field with a random assortment of knick-knacks meant to depict the old west. There it was, this magnificent old (or made to look old) billboard for "Dr. Bob's Snake Oil, Cures All."


Snake oil gets a bad rap. Sure, the Oxford English Dictionary defines snake oil as "a quack remedy or panacea." But did you know that the original real "snake oil" really works?


The history of snake oil dates back to the 1800s when thousands of Chinese workers arriving in the United States as indentured laborers to work on the Transcontinental Railroad. Among the items, the Chinese railroad workers brought with them to the States were various medicines — including snake oil. Made from the fat of the Chinese water snake, which is rich in the omega-3 acids that help reduce inflammation, snake oil in its original form was useful, mainly when used to treat arthritis and bursitis.


It was only when the locals tried to replicate the treatment and oh, by the way, left out the critical ingredient – the snake oil, the drug did not work. Also, in true American fashion, the marketing was overhyped, and it promised to cure all kinds of things.


Back to my question. Are you selling snake oil to your target customers? Well, to start, let's assume that the product does what your marketing claims it will do. Wait, let me say that it differently. Do you have customers that have successfully used your product and produced the desired result or benefit you claim? Great. If not, get off your ass and get your first customer!

How do you get your first customer?

You may give them the product for free first. But do whatever it takes to prove to the customer, the market, and mostly yourself that this product is the real snake oil – like the kind the Chinese brought over on the boat.


How do you the product is actually helping your customer?

Next, you need to figure out if your snake oil is medicine or vitamin. It's already cliché, "Sell Aspirin, not Vitamins." What the means is that you need to determine if the customer needs your product or is it just a nice to have. It's the Snake Oil will make you taller or blonder, but does it cause my sharp pain in my head to go away. Well, that's easy. Just ask your customers about their problems and pains and see if your product will make them go away.

So, the product works, and it's fixing a pain. That's is still not going to cut it. The real key is knowing the difference between when a customer needs your product and wants it. I may have a splitting migraine headache and need a cure, but I don't want to pay $400 for a particular medicine or sit in a dark room all day. A better example for the times we are living in today with Covid-19 is many folks are postponing needed medical procedures because of the risk of going to a hospital.


The crux of a successful company is finding customers that want what you are building, selling, and delivering. What will make people want your product? All 3 of the qualities are subjective traits, even comprehension. If you're going to believe something will solve a problem, we can usually find a way to gain an understanding of its real or perceived benefits.

1. Comprehension. The customer understands which problems your product will solve.


2. Belief. The customer has decided that you and your company are best qualified to solve that problem and have confidence that you will deliver the goods as promised.


3. Desire. Your customer wants your product now, not next quarter or next year. They see the benefits and value, and it's worth the cost and time to make it happen. How do you create desire? It would help if you to put yourself in your customer's head or shoes. What are their goals, their aspirations, the things you lose sleep over at night?


If you can do all these things you have some perfectly good snake oil.

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