Pill vs. Vitamin

A few months ago I was talking with someone about business and marketing and they introduced a concept new to me, but I got the impression that everyone else had already heard of it.

When you are selling/marketing something to someone, do they percieve it as a PILL or a VITAMIN?

The purpose of a PILL is to alleviate a pain (for example, a very bad headache).  The effects should be somewhat immediate. The value of the PILL, at the moment of pain, is really, really high.  I have a PROBLEM and a PILL is an immediate SOLUTION.  You know the perceived value can skyrocket, especially as the problem, or pain, is higher and immediate.

A VITAMIN, on the other hand, is more of a preventative measure.  You don’t take a VITAMIN to get results within 30 minutes…. VITAMINS are a subtle solution to a long-term, non-immediate problem.  The pain is not there, and you might wonder if it will ever come.  It’s easy to feel like it’s a non-essential solution to a problem you might not (or, likely won’t) have.

When I heard this I was perplexed, and I asked, are my offerings (products+services) perceived as PILLs (high value, immediate need) or VITAMINS (nominal value, not sure if really needed)???

Figuring this out, and perhaps even repackaging and repositioning, can help you sell more, make more, and become more valuable.

Or, you can keep trying to sell a solution for a non-problem.

OF COURSE, if you look at Covey’s four quadrants, you know you should spend time in the Important/NotUrgent box… which seems to me to be the VITAMIN mindset… but how many of us (or, our customers) are in the Urgent/____ box?  That’s where the PILL comes in.

How are you positioning YOUR offering?

7 thoughts on “Pill vs. Vitamin

  1. Judah Flum

    Well put. As I’m developing my business, Judah Flum, Community Enterprises is the vitamin. Building better community, searching for solutions which in the future are going to educate and benefit people. I will continue to focus my attention on that perhaps for the rest of my working life. My social networking strategy/training package is the pill. People need it and to get better at it so as to not remain unintentionally branded. A lot of what we have to do to generate income are the pills. What we really want to do to benefit the community at whole is the vitamin. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Steve Spencer


    If you look at why Covey might suggest spending more time in the “Non urgent” space, it is likely because most people are not willing to put up with something being urgent all of the time. If it is, they will make significant changes to fix that.

    Going with you pill/vatamin example:

    If I damage my knee while running, I have an urgent need for something to stop the pain. I will go grab Ibuprofen, as I know it helps with the pain, and lowers the inflamation. I am also aware that I will likely need to take the Ibuprofen for several weeks as more of a preventative measure so that the pain does not come back. If however, I was having pain every day, and things were just not getting better, I would have to get more drastic (surgery.)

    So, to your point, I think that being there for an urgent need, like a pill, is where you want to be. But you also want to be a pill that then keeps things from being urgent (like ibuprofen for the leg, or aspirin to prevent heart attack.) In this way you use the urgency to get you in, and fear of it recurring to keep you in, but you don’t spend your time in the urgent zone all of the time.

  3. Rosemary Mark

    Jason –
    I particularly like your Vitamin analogy to marketing ourselves. Should always be marketing when we’re busiest (or not burning bridges when we have a job), but it’s easy to let slide because we’re not feeling the pain.

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