Many people (including some sales and marketing coaches) think selling is a matter of manipulating, pushing, or tricking customers. And some selling is just that. Con men and boiler room operations are at the extreme edge of persuasive communication, and they give the rest of it a bad name.
But in the hyper-connected Web 2.0 world, strong-arming customers is a lousy business strategy. (Not to mention making it hard to face yourself in the mirror every morning.) Effective persuasion in the new age of transparency calls on us to take traditional selling “hot buttons” and turn them inside-out.
Instead of figuring out how we can manipulate or push customers, we need to think about how we can meet their basic emotional needs and make buying irresistible.
Here are a few ways to take traditional “push” techniques and turn them around so they pull at the core emotional needs of your readers and customers.
We need connection with a tribe
Human beings are an intensely social creature. Most of us crave connection with a group of like-minded primates.
You might create a forum or training program that allows your customers to connect and share ideas about how to get more from your product. Or you can simply provide testimonials, case studies, compelling stories and photos of customers that let your prospects say, “This is where I belong. There are people like me here.”
Social proof is nothing more or less than the tribe saying, “This is trustworthy and good. The tribe approves of this.”
We need to protect ourselves
Direct marketing guru Dan Kennedy likes to say that most people are wandering around with umbilical cords in their hands, looking for someplace to plug them in.
Kennedy uses it as an insult, but it’s also a valuable insight into your community of customers. If they believe you will protect and care for them, they’ll gratefully reward you with their loyalty and their business.
In rough times more than ever, customers are looking for a magical parent to solve all their problems. Show that you’re strong and wise enough to help. Show that you’re trustworthy and that you care about making their lives better. And then do just that.
Even when times are good, providing a safe harbor will always speak to people’s core needs. And when times are bad, it’s that much more powerful.
We need to feel good
The decision to buy is made in an instant: a split second Yes fueled by desire and emotion. We want the emotional benefits that the product or service will give us.
Without that emotionally-driven Yes, we would only buy logical things like healthy food, modest and adequate shelter, and efficient, inexpensive transportation.
Even in the very worst of times, people will spend money on pleasure, beauty and comfort. No matter how practical your product is, think seriously about how you can communicate the ways it makes your customers feel good.
We also need to rationalize our emotions
On the other hand, even though we make emotional buying decisions, we don’t like to think of ourselves as toddlers with wallets. We’d much rather pretend that we make logical, rational decisions.
That’s why the best emotional promise needs to be backed up with some logical, reasonable facts. Customers need to reassure themselves that there’s a good “reason why” they’ve decided to make this purchase. They’re looking for a plausible because.
Without a logical reason (although “logical” can be a stretch in some cases), customers’ fear of feeling foolish will overcome their desire for the product. Don’t just stoke their emotional desire; satisfy their need for reasonable justification.
Business is not rational
Whether you’re a multibillion-dollar company or a lone freelance copywriter, business is about human feelings. Until our customers are robots or Vulcans, emotions will always be an essential component of business success.
If you need to attract more customers and make more sales (like anyone doesn’t), become a student of core human emotional needs. Speak respectfully to those needs, and keep your words and your actions in line with them. You’ll make more money, you’ll create a stronger bond with your customers, and you’ll enjoy your business more.