It may be awkward to openly acknowledge it, but every sale is a kind of seduction. As marketers, we make introductions, pursue courtships, and hope for consummation—the sale.
And as in any love affair, we know that reason plays a subordinate role to emotion. Logical arguments are insufficient; to win a portion of our prospects' bank accounts, we must win their hearts first.
Obviously, "love" is too strong a word for what we pursue. But make no mistake—without that basic appeal to the prospect's inner harbor of feelings, whether it's in a consumer or business-to-business pitch—you will not make any progress toward the bottom line.
Here, then, are a few thoughts on how to use words—which may be applied to everything from direct mail to Web site content—to make a more compelling appeal to the heart (and via the heart, to the purse).
Show them that you care
Ever see a truly smooth operator in action? They almost always do two things at the initiation of their pursuits:
- They talk about a subject they know that the other person is interested in.
- They acknowledge the other person's feelings about it.
How does that apply to sales and marketing?
Suppose you offer financial planning services. The awkward suitor begins by talking about their services. But the smooth operator opens the conversation by talking about the future and makes the subject personal.
She expresses the hopes of a prosperous future of comfort and security—and the corresponding fears of poverty, deprivation, and loss of comfort. She speaks to issues that interest her prospect and demonstrates an empathetic understanding of the prospect's feelings.
By showing empathy with your prospects' concerns, you earn their ears.
It's not 'me, me, me'
Consider the worst dates in your life. Chances are, they were the ones where your companion for the evening talked endlessly about his ideas, his career, his achievements, and so on. Without leaving you room for a word edgewise.
Now take almost any topic—from apple orchards to zoo maintenance—and do a Web search for vendors in those areas. Go to their home pages—the virtual reception areas of their virtual businesses. And what do you get? Loads of "me, me, me." Visions. Philosophies. Years in business. Awards, honors, degrees.
Waiter, check please!
The alternative? See my first point. Create comfort and attract interest by speaking to areas of common interest and start demonstrating both your grasp of the issues at hand and of the fears, hopes and desires your readers are likely to have.
Make a commitment
Sure, you're a witty conversationalist and have a charming manner, but... before your prospect is ready to make a move, you have to make a commitment.
Specifically, you need to make a guarantee. And make it simple: Your money back, no questions asked. Frankly, most of us don't like risk. That last obstacle before any sale is the customer's nagging fear that he'll be cheated, won't get what he wants, and will look or feel foolish—in addition to being out of his hard-earned cash.
So create an exit door in bright colors that'll make him feel secure. When there's a clear way out, in makes it easier to step into a purchase. Write a clear, simple guarantee and be sure it's prominently displayed in your marketing materials.
Bring the ring
I don't know if a diamond really is forever, but it is a tangible sign of affection. In fact, its very physicality brings reassurance. While love is hard to measure and weigh, you know a diamond's carats with certainty.
Likewise, you want to make your product or service as tangible or as physical as possible. By creating a precise picture, you introduce your product into the prospect's thinking. If you can help your prospects see, feel, taste, smell, or in some way imagine themselves experiencing your product, you're more than halfway to the sale.
That's why the "so juicy you have to eat it with a spoon" copy (Royal Riviera Pears) is so important. Why Coca-Cola's images of frosty, condensation covered soda bottles are so effective. And why, if you sell a service, it's essential that you offer case studies, or at least step-by-step descriptions, that demonstrate your service in action.
Abstraction—big words such as "commitment," "excellence," and "quality"—is death. Use specific, concrete (and, wherever possible, sensual) descriptions to bring your offer to life.
Respect them in the morning
If so much of our profit comes with repeat sales, then why do so many us make so little effort to communicate with our customers after the sale?
Car dealerships do this right. I get regular coupons for oil changes and periodic updates on maintenance issues. By sending me these regular communications, these dealers keep themselves "top of mind" for that inevitable moment when I will need another car.
A simple "thank you" letter is a good place to start. Then, depending on the nature of your business, you may want to consider a newsletter, email updates, a blog, and other tactics with a similar goal: staying in touch, saying you care, keeping your customers in your loop.
Love doesn't have to hurt
It's really not that difficult to build better relationships with customers. Caring, sharing, keeping the lines of communication open—that's the heart of the matter.
Happy Valentine's Day!