We humans like to think of ourselves as rational creatures. Intellectual curiosity took us to the moon and back, beat smallpox and polio, and invented the Internet.
But when you come down to it, emotion always wins. The most powerful man in the world can be humbled by a buxom girl in a blue dress. We use our brains, yes, but we’re driven to act by our hearts (and other body parts).
Market to the gut first
If you’re writing to persuade, you have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain. The part that decides “I’ll have that” is emotional. The rational brain usually has to follow along afterwards and ok the decision, but if it doesn’t work emotionally, logic will never get a chance to weigh in.
Most of us know about selling benefits, not features. But you also need to be sure you’re leading with emotional benefits rather than logical ones. I’ll talk about a few of the more effective emotional benefits this week, and then show you how to close the sale with logic next week.
The classics: greed and fear
Crusty old advertising guys will tell you that greed and fear are the two powerhouses of selling. There’s no doubt that they’re effective. I would actually argue that most of the time, greed is fear–fear of not being able to provide for your family, fear of losing everything and living under a bridge somewhere.
Freedom from fear is one of the most powerful benefits you can offer. And the most powerful fear is the fear of losing what you already have.
This makes for an interesting paradox: you can sell more fear to people who have a lot to lose. People who have everything in the world worry a lot about losing it, and can be persuaded with campaigns capitalizing on the full range of human fear and insecurity.
Add in a little pain
Remember when we talked about marketing to pain? Because I’m a goody two-shoes, rather than creating or aggravating fear, my preference is to market by presenting a real solution to a real problem.
However, phantom fear (and its cousins, social isolation and embarrassment) are used by a lot of marketers because they’re effective. Customers often build up imaginary fear-based scenarios to be much more frightening than even a very difficult real problem.
The other advantage of fear is that it tends to linger, which keeps customers coming back for more solutions. So if you prefer not to lean too heavily on a fear-based message, how do you keep those customers coming back for more?
Connection and belonging
I know this sounds impossibly idealistic, but our impulse to connect and belong is just as strong as “fight or flight” is. We are hard-wired for social connection, and the socially fragmented postmodern world only feeds that hunger.
The classic emotional benefit for connection is the “Cheers” effect–a place where everybody knows your name. I think this is one of the reasons the conversation marketing model is so appealing.
Let’s take a blog with a lively commenting community. The blogger acts as a conversation proprietor, greeting commenters by name, welcoming them back, and creating a convivial tavern for his readers to hang out in. That conversation becomes a powerful emotional benefit. It doesn’t actually matter that most readers never post a comment. They still benefit from a sense of belonging to a warm, comfortable community.
You don’t have to have a blog to use the Cheers effect. Look for ways to create better connection with your readers. Try something simple like putting a real return address on bulk email newsletters, and actually replying to questions you get. (I can tell you from experience that this almost always surprises people.)
Membership sites are another powerful (and scalable) tool to capitalize on the desire to belong to something larger. A membership model creates a familiar, trusted resource—a village well that members can all draw from. Most membership sites include a forum or other social component as well, so members can create even more connections with one another.
If you want to get results with your copy, speak to the gut first: use emotional benefits before you follow up with logic.
And if you want to boost your repeat and referral business (which are always more profitable than that first sale), whatever other emotional benefits you might incorporate, include an element of connection. Fear or pain might bring them in the door, but it’s connection that will keep them coming back for more.