Engaging buyers is a regular theme in sales and marketing conversations these days. Social media marketers are driving participation and encouraging customers to become so engaged with a brand that they own the responsibility of creating content to share their enthusiasm.

Loyalty and relationship marketers are encouraging enrollment in their programs to keep people continually engaged with their brands. Advertisers are trying to break through the clutter to get people to notice their messages. Salespeople are looking for ways to gain attention from prospects so that the prospects will remember how and why their product is worth considering.

Sound interesting? Then read through the following list of "engagement-energy" boosters and think about how you can use them to create more compelling content and communications.

What is engagement energy?

For the purposes of this article, engagement energy refers to activating a person's brain when she is exposed to any form of communication. Imagine having a switch that activates your buyer's brain and gets her to pay attention to what you say. Better yet, what if you could get your buyers to say "yes" to what you're asking them to do?

The following techniques are based on findings from a collection of psychologists and neuroscientists who study ways to stimulate the brain. Here I'm sharing an overview of some action-oriented tools... with just a little of the psychology.

Are you ready to capture your audience's attention and generate laser-focus on your message?

If so, here are 10 ways you can add engagement energy to your sales and marketing communications.

1. Ask questions

Are you asking your audience enough questions? Questions are a powerful brain stimulator. Our natural tendency is to answer a question when it's asked. Asking questions is a technique I use in the marketing classes I teach, and it works to gain the attention of today's multitasking students. Ask skillfully crafted questions that heighten a buyer's need to consider your product.

2. Present problems

What would you do if the fire alarm in your building went off as you were reading this article? The decision-making brain solves problems quickly. Chances are you would have no problem deciding what items to take with you, grabbing them and scooting out the door and building. Activate that reflex in your audience by presenting the problem that your product solves. Hopefully, prospects will view your product as the solution to their problem.

3. Tell stories

People love a good story. Stories are easy to listen to. They add emotion to situations, they develop characters that readers can relate to, and they help people remember complex details and content. When told well, stories allow listeners to jump into a situation and imagine themselves in that situation. What well-crafted brand stories can you tell that will leave a lasting impression with your buyers?

4. Make comparisons

Why would someone's life be better with your product than without it? How is your product better than your competitors'? Can you create a timeline to show people how they will benefit from using your product over time? The decision-making brain is good at making comparisons. Point out key differences and the advantages of using your product. Doing so makes it easier for customers to choose you.

5. Provide proof

Many of these engagement-energy boosters are designed to create an almost-instant reaction or decision from people. (That is why people sometimes say decisions are made irrationally.) Provide proof that the initial arousal of interest a prospect is experiencing about your product is right and the decision can be supported rationally. An aroused buyer wants to know that her decision to buy is a good one.

6. Paint pictures

Parts of the brain respond very quickly to strong visuals. Images are an extremely powerful way of capturing attention and engaging someone's mind. What pictures can you use to highlight the need for your product, demonstrate a key advantage of your product, show your product in use, or highlight the types of people who enjoy your product?

7. Mirror customers

Have you read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie? It, and similar books, stresses the importance of establishing rapport with people quickly. When someone meets a person similar to herself, she thinks, "There's something about this person I like." Mirror your prospects; show them others who are like them in realistic product situations. That establishes rapport and builds trust.

8. Encourage imagination

What if every sales presentation you make were attended by bright-eyed audience members who are enthralled from start to finish. What if every letter or email you write were read from beginning to end. How many more sales do you think you would have made? Create opportunities for people to imagine how their lives will be better with your product. Reflection has powerful persuasion effects.

9. Use props

I learned the power of this tactic early in my career when I sold Maytag appliances to retailers and trained their salespeople to justify a higher price. One of my favorite props was a quarter. I challenged salespeople to chip the top of a Maytag washer or dryer by attacking it with my quarter. They loved using that demonstration with customers and remembered details about the top's high-quality finish.

10. Add WIIFM

The decision-making brain is self-centered; it is constantly scanning the environment, asking, "What's in it for me?" So a powerful way to add engagement energy to your pitches, letters, emails, website content, etc. is to convert every "we" or "I" into "you." That shifts the sense of the message from being all about you to being all about your reader or listener. People really care about themselves.

So, now what?

When I coach brands on applying these psychological principles to skillfully craft stronger sales and marketing messages that capture attention and stay top-of-mind with prospects, we usually start with an audit of a current communication piece.

Then, we look for ways to infuse more engagement energy into the piece, allowing the brands to get a before-and-after look. We do that interactively in workshops. But, if you want to try the same thing, audit a presentation, email, or a page from your website. After reading this article, see whether you can immediately make the piece more effective by applying one or more of these techniques. I'd love to hear how it goes. Will you please make note of my contact information and share your experience?

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If you'd like to read more on the topic, visit my Pinterest board for information on the books that support the ideas noted in this article and serve as the basis for the tools I use and the talks I participate in in my professional life.

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Deb Rapacz offers audits and workshops to help brands and nonprofit organizations create compelling sales and marketing communications that stand out and sink in. Deb can be reached via deb.rapacz@reillyandrapacz.com or by phone via 708-829-6031.