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!

Making Your Website Work With the Rest of Your Digital Marketing and Traditional Marketing

Compelling content, continuity and strong calls to action are the key to a successful hand-off between digital marketing (and traditional marketing) and your website.

A theme has come up in our recent conversations with clients and prospects interested in getting more marketing performance out of their existing websites regardless of whether their primary focus is digital marketing or traditional marketing. Though the sites these marketers have built vary in quality, nearly all have been quite serviceable as marketing tools.

This news makes those marketers happy, of course. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t work left to do to maximize their marketing performance. Because their sites have all bee lacking in one or more of the following critical areas.

Compelling Content

Whether you’re driving traffic to your site intentionally or not, your prospects are going to wind up on your website at some point no matter what. It’s simply part of B2B (and B2C, for that matter) due diligence before making even minor buying decisions.

The trick is less about getting them there (that’s another set of issues entirely) and more about engaging them once they’ve arrived. That requires compelling content — information that provides value to the prospect while at the same time makes it clear that you have expertise relevant to the issue they need to solve.


That content is just the first step. Since we’re talking about how your website can work with your other marketing efforts, it’s important that there be continuity between whatever you are using to invite them to visit your website and the content they find once they arrive.

For example, if you send a targeted direct mail piece to potential clients in a particular field, the website page you direct them to must feature content related to the information in the mailer. Anything else, even if it’s the generalities of your home page, is likely to feel like a bait and switch to the prospect.

Arguments about about how tight the focus needs to be — one topic and one topic only, but there is 100% agreement that every landing page must include a strong call to action.

Calls to Action

Your calls to action will vary depending on the nature of your audience, the product/service you’re marketing, and your sales cycle, but all will seek to move the prospect closer to making a decision. You can’t force that decision; you merely provide more information and evidence that your solution is the right solution. (And that taking no action is an option that is not without costs of its own.)

It can take some testing to get the right mix of content and the right kinds of calls to action, but aiming for continual incremental improvement  — and paying attention to continuity across your marketing efforts — will help ensure that your website supports every other marketing activity you undertake.

How to Create Content That Converts

It’s time to stop creating compelling content and start creating content that converts. The “create compelling content” mantra has failed us. We’re awash in a sea of ineffective, self-centered articles, videos, ebooks and whitepapers that fail to create leads. So follow these three handy success principles to create content that converts.

It’s time to stop creating compelling content and start creating content that converts. The “create compelling content” mantra has failed us. We’re awash in a sea of ineffective, self-centered articles, videos, ebooks and whitepapers that fail to create leads. So follow these three handy success principles to create content that converts.

3 Guiding Principles of Content That Converts
These are the three success principles powering today’s content marketing success stories like HubSpot and a handful of others. Now it’s time for you to apply them and create content that converts for you.

Content that converts does three things. It creates …

  1. Action: Customers cannot resist DOING stuff with it—including signing up to become a lead.
  2. Results: It doesn’t just impart knowledge; it increases the success rate of prospects (for free).
  3. Confidence: Buyers ultimately convert based on trust created by positive results.

Create Confidence
For years we’ve been told “create compelling content!” So we got busy. The goal was clear: get customers to consider, select and buy from us.

But for most of us, videos go unnoticed. Blogs aren’t shortening the sales cycle. Well, you’re not alone in taking your eye off of what works, and that’s confidence.

The difference between content that converts and all the other crap out there is simple: It gives prospects a free sample or “taste” of actual success. Real results.

Content that creates leads and sales uses results to manufacture confidence in buyers.

I know, I know. It isn’t very sexy. We’ve been engaging transparently, branding authentically, telling compelling stories … and let’s not forget the customer advocacy we’re fostering. But the truth is nothing works as well at creating leads as confidence.

Why Customers Will Ask You for the Sale
Let’s say you apply an idea from this blog post and have success with it. Maybe you take action on the three success principles and start getting more (and better) leads with your blog. Because of this experience, you sign up for my free training course where you learn more and experience more success.

Would those positive results be powerful enough to make you crave more? If I helped you change the way you’re blogging (to the degree you started getting more and better leads) would that be powerful enough to make you reach out to me?

Might you write an email to me saying, “Jeff, you’ve helped me see things differently and start to improve how I’m blogging. I’m actually getting leads now. Thanks, Jeff. This is so cool. How can I turn up the volume on this? What’s next?”

In other words, could I somehow convince you, through experiencing a steady stream of my content, to ask ME for the sale a few weeks from now?
Answer: Yes, a significant percentage of people who read this blog post will, likely, convert for me.

Move the Needle
My goal for you, right now, is for you to finish reading this post, apply my tips and experience an increase in success. Period. Forget about you liking me or even sharing my content. That’s not my goal. First I need to get you confident. I need to move your needle.

If I truly deliver results, you’ll share the good news (advocate for me). You’ll likely consider and possibly even buy from me. Why? Because I just proved myself.

This is how you use social media and content marketing to create leads. By creating a little bit of success in people’s lives through what you publish—helpful blogs, ebooks that guide, videos that teach, checklists that speed things up, whitepapers that create curiosity, tutorials that help people learn, etc.

Why Give Away ALL of Your Best Advice
Let’s get real. I’m not getting paid to give you my best tips and advice in this article. So why would I?

Answer: Because I don’t have time to worry about if you are actually my competitor, hoping to steal my material. I’m not losing sleep wondering if you’re going to take these instructions and do it yourself—without ever buying my coaching program. Neither should you.

You need to get customers’ success to increase—because of you. You need to get them confident. You need to get them doing something meaningful with knowledge that is truly new, insightful, powerful.

Because ultimately the knowledge WILL be given to them. They will discover the details of “how to do _______,” which you would prefer to sell them. Some customers will do it themselves because they can’t afford it otherwise.

Others will be able to afford to hire you, try it, fail and return to the market as a highly motivated buyer.

The only thing for you to decide on is who they will return to. Because the most likely selection they’ll make is the business or person who gave them the instructions.

So how did I do? Do you now feel an urge to DO something with what I shared? Because I now want you to do something that moves the needle. I don’t care if you see me as a thought leader or want to follow me. I want to sell something to you if it’s right for you. That’s why I gave you my very best tips and insights. Let me know how I did in comments or shoot me an email?