Some small business owners are so confident in their product or service that they don’t consider what makes people buy it – or decide not to.
Unfortunately, that means they’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
There are so many factors at work in every buying decision a consumer makes it’s downright negligent to ignore some of the most significant ones.
Sure, if you lead your category in quality and have reasonable pricing, you’re definitely under consideration from most people looking for what you sell.
However, marketing isn’t about the product. It’s about solving a problem.
If someone doesn’t know why they need your product, if they can’t see what problem you’re going to solve for them, you’re not going to make a sale.
Similarly, if a competitor articulates the value (to the consumer) of their product better than you do, they’ll get the lion’s share of business in your sector.
Tell them about it
This is where it’s important to think like consumers, because it’s their decision whether to make a transaction, or even form a relationship, with your business.
What do people care about? It’s things like looking more attractive, feeling healthier, having an easier life, saving time and money, getting where they need to go, being good at their job, eating tasty food, doing interesting and fun things, and generally being happy.
In order to create a robust marketing message for your business, you must address two main issues in customer behaviour: internal and external problems.
On a surface level, your product can overtly address an external problem; a functional, physical solution that brings a tangible improvement to an existing environment.
But the holy grail is addressing an internal problem, that is bringing satisfaction to customers’ deepest desires, which elicits an emotional response from them.
That’s what the world’s biggest brands thrive in doing. Just think about your “real” motivation in purchasing the latest gadget from Apple, drinking Coke, or driving through McDonald’s.
Take the example of home fitness equipment, which we see advertised all the time. The external problems are convenience and saving time and money by not having to go to a gym. The internal ones are physical health and appearance. I can be fitter and look better.
Your product definitely solves some problems, but you need to articulate that. That’s exactly and entirely what “sales” is about.
Each consumer is asking him or herself “how does this product make my life better?”, so tell them!
Make people feel … something
Unfortunately having a good product that’s good value and solves a problem isn’t enough to make most people hand over their hard-earned money.
If people don’t feel something, they’ll only admire what you’re selling. You need them to crave it. Better yet, you need them to feel like they can’t go another minute without owning it.
That’s appealing to their emotions, because we’re all emotional buyers. Think about your last major purchase and all the reasons you think you made that buying decision. I guarantee that no matter how many factors you considered, it was emotion that sealed the deal.
Even if you’re the sort of person who does a heap of research, you’re doing that to fulfil your emotional position of being analytical. You’re being true to yourself so you can feel a sense of satisfaction that only comes with the belief that you made a reasoned and logical choice.
You may take pride in your ability to research and make sound decisions based on facts, but you also make emotion-based decisions about how much weight those facts should have.
Let’s say you’re buying a car. If you consider its appearance, that’s emotional (aesthetics). If you consider the make, that’s also emotional (badge value). If you consider fuel economy, that’s emotional (saving money). If you consider safety, that’s also satisfying an emotion (reducing risk and anxiety).
So, as a marketer, it doesn’t matter what emotion you’re appealing to. As long as a potential customer has an emotional reaction, they’re moving closer to becoming an actual customer.
So many emotions
Studies have found that advertising that appeals purely to emotion is around twice as effective in persuading someone to buy as ads that are entirely logical and rational.
At the same time, language that speaks directly to and about the consumer is proven (a very emotionally persuasive word) to be more effective than talking about the product or the world in general.
A product that promises to make someone look better appeals to his or her vanity. One that makes someone feel as if they’ll be missing out if they don’t have it leverages envy, jealousy, covetousness or, as we call it these days, FOMO.
You could appeal to pride or trendsetting or leadership – the desire to be seen as having the best or to be the first in your peer group – or guilt, fear, competition, greed, belonging, and a good handful of others.
Perhaps one of the strongest and most important is trust (that’s where “proven” comes in).
Some of the language depends on your market, for example higher-end brands should avoid using the term “free”, as that can be seen to cheapen their offering, while some of it is more likely to be campaign specific.
Then, of course, there’s the imagery. People respond strongly to visual cues, so words aren’t nearly enough to get the emotions running.
Advertisers don’t only use models in ads because they’re nice to look at. People subconsciously make the connection between using the product and looking good, or even being associated with good-looking people.
Celebrity spruikers work the same way. If I use the same product as George Clooney, I’ll be just like him.
Emotions also influence loyalty
While information may help change someone’s emotional state it’s the emotion that matters.
But changing a potential customer’s emotions isn’t enough. To turn that person into an actual customer, you need to elicit an emotion – or a combination of emotions – that makes them pull out their credit card.
In September, the Harvard Business Review published an article identifying 30 “elements of value”, and placing them in a hierarchy pyramid.
They grouped those elements into four categories: functional, emotional, life changing, and social impact.
At the base of the pyramid are the functional elements, things like saving time, reducing effort or costs, simplifying life, and reducing risk.
The next level lists the factors the HBR writers identified as emotional: reducing anxiety, rewards the buyer, attractiveness, wellness, fun, and so on.
Above that were five elements labelled as “life changing” and one as “social impact”.
However, despite the categorising, all of the elements elicit emotions.
You feel something when you save time or money. You feel something when something that used to be hard is now easier. You feel something when you can do something more safely.
Looking at all 30 elements of value, they are all about emotion, even the one sitting atop the pyramid, which they have called “self-transcendence” (things like giving to charity or saving the environment, doing good for someone or something other than yourself).
The conclusion they drew was that the more of these 30 elements of value a business offered, the greater the customer loyalty and the higher the company’s sustained revenue growth.
Sharing is caring
Now let’s practically put that in the context of social media.
Be conscious of the fact that if you appeal to someone’s emotions you’re much further along the path to a sale than if you don’t.
The emotional connection may initially be just that: they “get” you, as a business or brand.
You’ve appealed to a feeling in them that they like feeling, so they like you for making them feel that way.
If you post something on social media, a “like” is a good thing, but a “share” is a lot better, because that shows that you have brought out stronger emotions in that person.
When you share something on social media it indicates that you feel comfortable, even proud, being associated with that post and the person or company that created it.
Much like being an actual shareholder, the social media “share” is a serious commitment.
That’s where trust comes in, once again, because people are more likely to publicly commit to a business or brand they trust, and their trust, in turn, plays a significant role in whether their friends and peers follow their lead.
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