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?”

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!

How Not to Be a Tone-Deaf Brand

Pepsi is clearly not the only brand to take a wrong turn in their ads or other communications. A few recent examples include Match.com, Nivea, and most recently, United Airlines. The Internet is poised to identify, amplify and vilify brands that make these kinds of mistakes. So, how can a brand avoid being tone deaf?

A lot of news sources have already unpacked and dissected the many missteps in the recent Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. It was live for all of one day, but it will live on in brand infamy forever. Here are a few of the sources covering the cringe-worthy effort, if you want to dig deeper into this example:

Nivea "White Is Purity"
The official Nivea page on Facebook is putting out ‘pro skin whitening’ adverts with the slogan ‘white is purity’
Source: Facebook

Pepsi is clearly not the only brand to take this kind of wrong turn in their ads or other communications. A few recent examples include Match.com’s misguided characterization of red hair, freckles, or eye color as imperfections, as well as Nivea’s portrayal of “White is Purity” that earned immediate online fury. Most recently, United Airlines compounded their operational, planning and basic humanity missteps with a decidedly tone-deaf CEO communication that instead of calming the public outcry further fueled it.

The Internet is poised to identify, amplify and vilify brands that make these kinds of mistakes. Meanwhile consumers marvel at how, in this day and age, brand and creative strategists make the poor decisions that pass the many layers of consideration and reviews of these expensive efforts. It’s a fair question.

So, how can a brand avoid being tone deaf?

The Brief

If your ad vision and subsequent brief’s objective is to tune into recent global trends or to otherwise tack onto complex societal issues, go back to the drawing board. You are not qualified to establish world peace, nor is it your brand mission. You can brag a bit about a sincere and established philanthropic effort or partnership, but that right is only earned after you have had a real world impact. Better yet, promote the effort, rather than the brand, and let the public laud you indirectly. The halo effect is very flattering.

If you have doubts about an approach or messaging platform under consideration, now is the time to trust your gut and voice those doubts. Spend some time and resources testing consumer reaction to get a direct read on how your vision could be perceived.

Direct Mail Fun for the Holidays 

I always like this time of year — not just because of the fun I have at the holidays, but also because of the really fun direct mail pieces I get. If you are not currently creating some fun direct mail pieces to stand out amongst the influx of mailed advertisements this time of year, you are missing out on a great opportunity.

direct mail holiday mailI always like this time of year — not just because of the fun I have at the holidays, but also because of the really fun direct mail pieces I get. If you are not currently creating some fun direct mail pieces to stand out amongst the influx of mailed advertisements this time of year, you are missing out on a great opportunity.

Here are four ideas for creating fun holiday mail:

1. Make It Interactive

Draw attention to your direct mail messaging by making it interactive. Get creative here. Direct mail is tactile — how can you take advantage of that? Endless folds, scratch-and-sniff or coatings can be a great way for people to have fun with your mail. What else can you think of? The idea here is to maximize the qualities that can only be used with direct mail. There is no other marketing channel like direct mail: Command that power in your own creations.

2. Use Mobile

Everyone has their cell phone with them at all times, so how can you make your direct mail fun by getting recipients to use their phones? Sure you can use QR codes and PURLs, but what about going the extra mile and using augmented reality, like Pokémon Go does? How can you do something that people will really like and respond to?

3. Consider Video Mailers

People love to watch videos! Have you considered how you can add them to a direct mailer? This method is not widely used in direct mail yet, so they really help your mail stand out. How can you make this fun? Dress up in holiday costumes and dance around? While that would be funny, how can that wrangle business? Make sure you are not just entertaining, but also selling.

4. Use Die Cuts

Using special die-cut shapes for your mailers is a great way to grab attention. Incorporating a holiday theme with your shape is fun and easy. I have seen some really good ideas with die cuts, so put on your thinking cap. We have even seen mail take on a whole new shape with each unfolded panel as you open it. This is fun for recipients and draws them into the mailer.

You now have some creative juices flowing — don’t let them fizzle out. Write down a couple of ideas right now. Once you have the creative ideas, it’s time to plan out a strategy. What are you trying to accomplish?

Remember that you still need to execute your normal due diligence. Target your mailing list, formulate your message and plan your call to action. Just because you are going to do something fun, does not mean that you get to skip past the drier tasks. Your goal is a higher return on your investment, but a lack of proper planning is just throwing your money away.

Standing out in the mailbox is the best way to get your message not only read, but responded to. Many studies have found that direct mail is a more trusted by consumers than other methods and that a message in direct mail is better remembered than one in email or digital marketing. And yes, millennials like direct mail too — so do not leave them out of your next campaign. Have some fun!