Marketing Training in the Language of Customer Persuasion

In my keynote sessions, marketing training classes and even in past posts for Target Marketing, I’ve asked a critical question of marketers representing all levels of expertise over the past several years: “The 4 Most Powerful Words for Closing Sales?”

marketing training

In my keynote sessions, marketing training classes and even in past posts for Target Marketing, I’ve asked a critical question of marketers representing all levels of expertise over the past several years: “The 4 Most Powerful Words for Closing Sales?”

To-date, no one has gotten this question right. Yet it is the most important concept to understand if you want to write direct marketing, advertising, social media copy and compelling content that sparks downloads from your website, Live Chats, sales inquiries and repeat sales.

If you read one of my posts from a couple years back, you know those four words to which I’m referring: If not, you could guess all day and likely not get it right. It’s because these four words are not associated with creating a sense of urgency, promising instant gratification, promising elevation in social status, beauty contests, coolness scores and many other things we promise in marketing copy. They are simply words that communicate trust, respect, dignity and personal power.

They are simply:

But You Are Free.

In a market where media and marketing experts suggest we are exposed to more than 4,000 advertisements a day, ads and all the strategies to inspire impulsive behavior continue to lose effectiveness.

Consumers are wise. Many know when they are being played, and they know what to believe and what not to believe, and when to walk away. They don’t fall for those empty promises of smarter, better, faster, prettier, richer, if you buy a given product.

What we do fall for are words that make us feel powerful, independent, respected, individual and a little closer to living a purposeful, actualized life than we were before. “But You Are Free (BYAF)” does just this. When a salesperson provides us information to help us make a decision, or provides us with a choice, and then tells us we will still be respected and valued, and offered help in the future, no matter what we chose, we feel many of the things mentioned earlier. And when we feel powerful, respected, wise, we tend to align with those who make us feel that way. This is where persuasion occurs. Not with intimidating, anxiety-enducing statements like, “One seat left at this price,” “Limited Time” and “This offer won’t last long.”

The BYAF concept was discovered through studies first conducted in 2000 by social psychology researchers, Nicolas Gueguen and Alexandre Pascual, who sought to understand what resulted in the greatest compliance for doing a simple task. They asked subjects on a city street to give money to a cause and were only able to get 10 percent of those asked to comply. When they added the phrase, “but you are free to accept or refuse,” nearly 48 percent complied, and in many cases, the amount of the gift donated was greater than before. Subsequently, they found that by using these same words to get people to take a survey, the compliance rate was also substantially higher.

The key here is the simple old adage of, “people like to be told, not sold.”

When we are being told something and then told we are respected for the choice we make, we respond differently than when we are simply being sold. This is where content marketing has taken off so successfully. It is the act of informing and establishing mutually respectful relationships vs. pushing for a sale.

In short, successful marketing, and the language of persuasion, is not the choice of words we make, it is the information shared and choices we provide without consequence to those with whom we are building brand relationships. Words that inform, enlighten, engage, followed by words that support and respect personal choice and empowerment create the greatest language of persuasion.

For more insights on BYAF, refer to my post dated April 2016. You are free to read it or not, and regardless, I’ll still post on this same topic next month!

Author: Jeanette McMurtry

Jeanette McMurtry is a psychology-based marketing expert providing strategy, campaign development, and sales and marketing training to brands in all industries on how to achieve psychological relevance for all aspects of a customer's experience. She is the author of the recently released edition of “Marketing for Dummies” (Fifth Edition, Wiley) and “Big Business Marketing for Small Business Budgets” (McGraw Hill). She is a popular and engaging keynote speaker and workshop instructor on marketing psychology worldwide. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging B2B and B2C purchasers' unconscious minds which drive 90 percent of our thoughts, attitudes and behavior, and provide actionable and affordable tips for upping sales and ROI through emotional selling propositions. Her blog will share insights and tactics for engaging consumers' unconscious minds, which drive 90 percent of our thoughts and purchasing attitudes and behavior. She'll explore how color, images and social influences like scarcity, peer pressure and even religion affect consumers' interest in engaging with your brand, your message and buying from you. Reach her at

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