Slapping Lipstick On The Pig

As you may recall, I moved house about six weeks back.  We didn’t move far, about 500 metres (or yards) up the road from where we were living.  The owners of the place we were living started behaving like they were going to sell without being straight with us, so we found something else and left.

We’d been talking about moving for a long time as the place we were in had a bunch of problems.  It was damp which led to persistent mould problems and the house itself just needed some work that the owners seemed unwilling to do.  We were paying pretty good rent and we were good tenants, but ultimately, it was an investment for them and they were trying to minimise expenses while keeping costs down – that’s business.

We started hearing the valuations from the some of the realtors that were looking at winning the business to sell their house and the numbers were farcical.  One agent told us that they were suggesting the owners would get $2.1m at auction for the house.

I laughed out loud.

Part of that was because I knew exactly how much work needed to be done to the house and after six years, I knew about all of the problems in exhaustive detail.  The other part was because I know that the market simply won’t bear that price – the two neighbouring houses when for about $1.5m each in the last 18 months.

Oh well, best of luck to them I say.

Today, my wife sent me a link that she found online listing the house for auction.  When I looked at the photos I couldn’t believe it.  My first thought was that they were photoshopped because that wasn’t the house we had lived in for six years.  Then I looked more closely and even with the very selective shots the realtors had put online, you could see many of the big problems – rusting gutters, rotting decks, etc…

They had just gone in, polished the floorboards, painted the place and rented some showroom furniture.  The underlying problems were all still there.

They just slapped some lipstick on the pig.

They’re hoping that at auction, some foreign investors will get into a stupid bidding war with a family trading up to their second or third home.  They want other people’s passion to cloud their judgement and be impressed by the coat of paint and the shiny floors.

I see people do this with their online businesses all the time.  There are fundamental delivery issues or their offer is terrible, but they create a glitzy sales video and a sexy landing page to try and mask the underlying flaws.  They are hoping to hook passionate buyers with the appearance of quality while knowingly selling them an inferior product.

Unfortunately, selling online is not entirely like selling a house.  With a house, you only have to find a single buyer, complete the transaction, get your money and the problem now belongs to the buyer.  Online, you have to find lots of buys and there are things like refunds and reputation to worry about.  Selling a house is a one-time event, building an online business is an ongoing activity.

It’s vital that you get your foundations right.  You need to have solid products or services, you need to be able to deliver them effectively and your offer has to convey the right message to the right people at the right time.

In essence, your marketing has to work harmoniously with your products, your delivery and your offer.  You might get away with making crap look sexy for a while, but eventually, it will come back to haunt you and if you’re looking to build a successful, sustainable business, then you need to be selling more than just a tarted up pig.

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