“The product that sells itself” has become shorthand for a kind of magical product unicorn. But as appealing a notion as it may be, this idea as it's commonly conceived of is grounded in myth. The self-selling product has become a term to describe something so trendy, so hot, so viral, that you don’t have to put any effort into marketing or sales. It’s so crave-able or “cool” or genius that it’ll sell itself. But that’s not what sell-ability is about.

Creating a product that sells itself isn't about dreaming up a product and then sitting back and keeping your fingers crossed, hoping that you have a viral hit on your hands. Instead, it’s about taking the right steps to optimize sell-ability. A product that truly sells itself showcases and maximizes three main areas: the product’s perceived value, user success rates, and pride and sense of agency. This should happen both during the sales process and throughout the user’s life of interacting with your product. Achieve that scenario, and you’ll have a product that sells itself at every stage of adoption, which in turn will drive conversions and retention.

And two of the most effective tools in your arsenal to optimize sell-ability are the effective use of data visualization and microcopy. In a nutshell, data visualization and microcopy:

  • Should clearly communicate to the user what value they’re deriving and why they should care
  • Should provide both insights and actionable data that outlines a clear course of next steps
  • Should offer reinforcements of successes that have been achieved
  • Should make the task at hand easier -- i.e., not only delivering on value perception, but actual concrete delivery of value through success

Here are some ways to strategically employ the powerful data visualization and microcopy duo to optimize your product’s sell-ability in three crucial areas.

Maximizing Perceived Value

If you expect users to switch to your product, you have to clearly convey the value you offer. No matter how amazing or valuable your product is, if users don’t perceive that value, they aren’t going to adopt your product. Data visualization and microcopy can maximize value perception both during the sales process and through successive stages of adoption, helping propel users towards avid usage.

In the sales process, promises of value should be reflected with visual “wow” moments. And one of the best ways to achieve that is through a data visualization that clearly demonstrates how the product can help users achieve success. It’s important to note that pulling this off will require communication between sales and design: Sales is uniquely positioned to understand how to align the language of the sales demo with visual reinforcements, while design should understand how to make that happen within the parameters product’s unique set of design principles.

Going forward, value-loaded keywords from the sales demo should be reflected in the microcopy and data visualizations during usage, so that the value conveyed in the sales demo is reinforced for the user at every stage in the adoption process. This will help drive engagement all the way up through renewal.

Maximizing Success Rates 

While value perception is a crucial component in driving conversion and adoption, you can’t just leave it at that. In order to create an avid, engaged user base, you have to continuously deliver on those promises by facilitating and reinforcing concrete successes for your users. With a solid set of design principles and constraints in place -- principles that showcase your unique value -- data visualization and microcopy can:

  • Encourage the user as they make progress towards success
  • Celebrate and highlight moments of successful value realization
  • Offer guidance to facilitate continued value realization

Maximizing Pride & Sense of Agency 

We’ve talked about the importance of maximizing perceived value and then delivering on that value in the form of successes that are facilitated and reinforced. But it’s not enough for your user to be made aware of the successes they’ve achieved -- they need to feel good about these successes as well. Think of it as the difference between “I completed all of my work tasks” and “The work I completed was meaningful, aligned with my goals, and helped both my coworkers and me succeed.”

Your design principles play an important role here -- they will help set you apart from the competition as long as they align with the unique value you’re providing. You can help your customers feel pride that your product is contributing to their personal goals by:

  • Strategically using microcopy to reinforce and contextualize successes
  • Employing clear data visualizations that help users see the value they've derived at-a-glance

Users also need to feel that they are responsible for the successes they’ve achieved. Think of it like this: If a helpful co-worker surprised you by doing all your extra work for you, would you feel pride in the accomplishment? Chances are, you’d feel a lot better about those accomplishments if you were solely responsible for the results. Microcopy and data visualization can reinforce the customer’s individual role in their accomplishments, as this example from Revel Systems does in this piece of dashboard microcopy: “Sales trends -- your sales this week are up 20% from your average. Keep up the good work.”

Customers also need to achieve a solid feeling of agency in order to feel engaged and motivated enough to keep up their momentum towards avid usage. This can be facilitated by providing them with the ability to make decisions that control the product’s actions. Furthermore, those decisions need to have consequences. And to be able to make decisions with confidence, the product must provide enough information to anticipate what those consequences will be. You can foster this sense of agency in a number of ways:

  • Microcopy can act as a trigger to indicate possible next steps to take in reaching goals and achieving successes
  • Data visualization can play a key role here. Going back to the Revel Systems example, users can easily see their highest selling items, as well as their best and worst sales days. This gives users the tools to make informed decisions and recreate those successes based on the actions they took.

Ultimately, data visualization is about giving users graphical, easy-to-digest data that will reinforce value perception, give them the tools to maximize their successes, and feel a sense of pride, agency, and ownership about their accomplishments. Microcopy can help reinforce these engagement drivers as well. In addition, it can act as a trigger to help contextualize and offer guidance so the user feels they are empowered to make informed decisions. And for these two components to be successful at optimizing your product’s sell-ability, it’s crucial that you have a solid set of design principles in place -- principles that align with your unique value as a product.