I recently re-encountered one of the best descriptive quotes about marketing. Professor Theodore Levitt of Harvard once noted that people don’t care about a quarter-inch drill. “They want a quarter-inch hole.”

It’s a simple concept, but it’s one that’s lost on far too many marketers in all industries. Instead of thinking about the prospective customer’s ultimate need and desire, they focus on their product’s attributes or what they think is most important.

Because the engineering staff is proud of the double-ended cross-fed fribjit, the product marketing emphasizes its advantages. But the target market never responds, so management assumes that the advertising and other elements of the marketing effort must be flawed. The reality is that the assumptions were flawed. The target market doesn’t care about the fribjit — they just want assurances that their rutabagas will be shaved evenly and in less time.

If you really want to connect with customers, stop thinking about what excites you about your product or service, and start focusing on what it means to them.