In marketing, is persuasion all that it takes to convince a customer to buy?

If that were the case, customers who were swayed by your logic would snap up your goods and services instantly. Yet a persuasive marketing strategy is clearly not enough.

Ask Anna, if you don't believe me. Because Anna was mentally drooling as she scanned the brochure.

She had wanted to study Spanish as long as she could remember. And now, for the first time ever, the stars seemed to be aligned in exactly the right position for her to learn the language.

She had the time. Money was no problemo. She sure had the willingness. But as she scanned the brochure sent to her by the Spanish Institute, her pencil-thin eyebrows furrowed. Her face muscles tightened. Her brain screamed the dreaded “M” word out loud.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

How did a red-hot prospect like Anna turn into a cold fish despite so wanting to buy? What single trigger had forced her to postpone a sure-fire decision?

As a marketer, you must understand this powerful psychological trigger, or you'll be leaving behind whole chunks of almost-guaranteed profits. So what's the secret of the second reason why customers don't buy?

I'm assuming you know the first big reason.

So before we go to the second reason why customers don't buy, let's take a look at the first.

The first reason why customers don't buy is this: they don't believe in you. They don't believe in your product. They don't believe your testimonials. You've got the Great Wall of China standing between you and the customer, and you've got to break that wall down, pronto.

And there are at least ten squillion articles and books that demonstrate the subtle art of persuasion.

But persuasion ain't enough. You see, in Anna's case, the wall had come crumbling down. The persuasion was over and done with. And Anna was already saying hasta la vista when she so wanted to say hola.

It wasn't persuasion that stopped Anna. It was something far simpler and far less complex.

The second reason was simply this: ease of use.

Huh? That's it? Ease of use! What's the big secret in ease of use?

Let me explain.

When you sell either a product or a service, you're very likely to have a reasonable knowledge of what you're selling. You think it's child's play.

The customer, on the other hand, looks at what you're selling as if it were Einstein's theory of relativity in ancient Greek.

The customer is convinced about the quality of your product or service. They're just not convinced about one thing.

The one thing: is it for me?

Let me give you an example. You sit at your computer and you rat-a-tat the letters on your Word program. You zap instant messages to your friends in far-flung countries of the globe. You play around with software that makes complex tasks sheer child's play.

And your grandfather watches you with awe.

He's convinced that you're a bloody genius. He's convinced that the computer is a powerful device. There's zero persuasion involved here, as you can see.

Yet persuasion does not a sale make. Even though Grandpa has the money and sure has the time, he won't buy a computer.

Why? Because he doesn't believe the computer is for him.

Persuasion is clearly not enough.

Your grandfather would rather bungee-jump than operate a computer. Yet once he sees another person his age using it, or sees a child of three playing games, his fear suddenly seems to vanish.

He's ready to take tentative steps into simple word processing. He's willing to send out email. Crikey, now he's even mucking around with instant messaging.

Suddenly Grandpa's smiling like a Cheshire cat. Your grandfather has understood that it's darned easy to use a computer. With a little help, prodding and help from you of course.

And most businesses do no prodding at all.

They show no proof that their product is easy to use. If they're in consulting, they rarely show how easily a consulting project can be rolled out. Instead, most businesses try to make things look more complex.

Which is fine. Let your product be as complex as possible. Just make sure you show the customer that it's easy to use.

Anna would be saying buenos dias to every one on the street if only she knew how the Spanish course would enable her to converse in under four weeks.

Instead, as she looked at the curriculum that seemed to go on forever, Anna's eyes glazed over. She didn't think she'd make it to the end. What if she went to the course for weeks on end and didn't learn too much? She couldn't bear the thought of being a doofus in Spanish.

She froze, pretty much like Grandpa did. And postponed the decision to an unspecified date in the future.

You need sales today... not in the future.

Stop what you're doing right now. Have a good look at the product or service you're selling, and do a simple audit:

  1. Does your product or service have a system where a potential client can literally fill in the blanks and then use? Or is your product/service more of a concept that a client would struggle to implement and finally just give up using? Make your product/services as idiot-proof as you possibly can. Rework them if you need to. Or have a product/service with an instruction guide/workbook/standby help system to make sure the customer gets it.

  2. Use testimonials that show definite proof of easy usage. Your testimonials should demonstrate ease of use and a lack of hard work involved. We live in an instant-gratification world, and people want to see testimonials that prove beyond a doubt that the product or service isn't some “nose to the grindstone” system.

  3. And finally... the obvious: tell your customer how easy it is to operate or implement your product or service. Also tell that customer how you have a backup system in the form of a guide/workbook/standby help that they can call on in case of an emergency. Most businesses have an easy-to-use system, but never tell their customers about it.

Persuasion and ease of use.

Anna. Your grandfather. And millions of customers would be ready to buy today. They're convinced about the product or service. The hard work of persuasion has been done.

It's up to you to give them the second reason to buy: make it easy.

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Sean D'Souza uses age-old psychology, marrying it to modern technology, on his Web site, Can "psychological tactics" make a difference? Go there and find out.