The Psychology-Based Marketing 2019 Roundup of Top Stories

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

I wrote these pieces in 2019, though you were still reading my columns from previous years. I think, though, that it’s important to look at the thoughts from this year and perhaps take a look at evergreen pieces at a later time.

These posts are listed based on popularity.

No. 1

“Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words” from Jan. 15 interested the largest number of you. Marketers who are used to using “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free” wanted to see what was new.

I wrote:

“Marketing copy strategies that align with ‘feeling good’ address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.”

No. 2

“3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn” on May 7 gets into how good customer experiences are essential to customer retention.

“Without carefully planned and executed employee onboarding programs, employee attrition goes up, and so does corporate waste, as it costs about nine months of an employees’ salary to terminate and start over again.

“This same principle applies to customer loyalty and the very high cost of losing even just one customer. Yet it’s hard to find “onboarding” programs for customers that are as robust as those for employees. Even with the cost of losing a customer being much higher than the loss of a middle management employee. When you lose a customer, you lose not just the cost of acquiring that customer, you lose the next transaction you were counting on, and you lose their entire lifetime value, which can be pretty substantial in the B2B world.”

No. 3

“The 4 Most Critical Steps for Happy Customers, Profits” appeared on March 12 and got into how the face of your brand needs to be happy, too. Sure, customers care about whether your employees are happy and treated well — especially if it affects how those employees treat them. But Target Marketing blogger Jessica Nable recently pointed out that business partners care, too, and will check if you have heavy turnover.

I write:

“With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.”

No. 4

“The Danger of a Single Story for Marketers in the Age of Storytelling” piqued your interest, starting on Oct. 22.

Stories from us are what pull customers in. If they like the experience, they tell good stories about us. Or, I should say, good stories about what we did for them.

As I say in this column, “We marketers today are really the new age of storytellers.”

  • What’s your story?
  • Do your customers know it?

Here’s how we tell it:

“Our websites, white papers, and content marketing are written just like classic novelettes. A teaser to create intrigue, a climax that builds with all of the reasons a customer needs us and needs us now, and a conclusion for how customers can get what they need from us. For a price.”

Back to You

What do you think will be the top psychology-based marketing stories in 2020? Please let me know in the comments section!

WWTT? JPMorgan Chase Opts for AI-Written Marketing Copy

Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had inked a five-year deal with Persado, a company with a product that produces AI-written marketing copy. Copywriters, don’t start hyperventilating … robots haven’t come for your jobs, yet.

Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase announced that it had inked a five-year deal with Persado, a company with a product that produces AI-written marketing copy. Copywriters, don’t start hyperventilating … robots haven’t come for your jobs, yet.

According to a press release from Persado, in 2016 JPMorgan Chase started a pilot program with the company’s Message Machine product. Using the tool, Chase took marketing copy for its Card and Mortgage businesses and reworked it. The end result was a lift in clickthrough rates as high as 450% from AI-written marketing copy created using Persado’s tool, compared to a previous CTR range of 50% to 200%.

AI-written marketing copy from Persado outperforms the control.
Credit: JPMorgan Chase, sourced from Philadelphia Inquirer

Persado’s Message Machine uses a database of over 1 million tagged and scored words and phrases to create the AI-written marketing copy, but that doesn’t mean its use by Chase, and other brands, will render the need for “human touch” obsolete. In an article from The Philadelphia Inquirer, Erich Timmerman, executive director for media relations at JPMorgan’s tech-oriented office in San Francisco was quoted:

“The goal is to get to copy that resonates. Edits and review have always been integral to the process.”

Throughout Persado’s press release, Chase’s CMO Kristin Lemkau is quoted, giving high praise to Persado’s product, and stating: “Machine learning is the path to more humanity in marketing.” While I’m personally not sure where I stand on that last statement made by Lemkau, I also feel like you can’t argue with what is working for the financial services company.

Chase clearly took its time to dedicate itself and its marketing to go through the pilot program, and it liked the results. And to note, the financial services company is not the only major brand working with Persado — the client list also includes Dell, Air Canada, Staples, and more. But, according to an Ad Age article, Chase is the first marketer working with Persado to employ its AI writing across all platforms.

I think this move is an interesting one for Chase, and since it was made following plenty of testing, I think it makes sense. Do I think AI-written marketing copy will always win out? No. But I think we can learn something about copywriting from AI.

And at the end of the day, there are bigger things to stress about  … like French’s partnering with Coolhaus Ice Cream to create yellow mustard flavored ice cream. Worry less about a robot coming for your job, and more about why someone thought this was a good idea.


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!

3 Quick Ways to Bullet-Proof Your Cold Email Messages

No matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects. But starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

Patrick's email blogNo matter what target market my students are calling on when sending cold email messages, I see the same weak spots over-and-over. Unknowingly, sellers are often sabotaging themselves by “blasting” prospects:

  1. long, un-personalized “push” copy (rather than pull)
  2. persuasive marketing prose (rather than copy that embraces rejection)
  3. using words that sabotage (signal “I’m needy” or “I’m a waste of time”)

Let’s say you’re aiming to start a conversation with an executive decision-maker. You sell a product or service that takes time, involves “consultative selling,” probably requires a few yeses. Your biggest enemy is the status quo.

Starting a conversation with email can happen. I’ve seen it.

But increasingly chief executives and top VPs are suffering from inbox saturation, in general. Mostly from SDR/BDRs (sales and business development reps) whose approaches are obnoxious.

Moreover, it’s not effective at starting conversations.

Shorten, Personalize and Pull

Long, non-personalized messages that push meetings using “blasts” that “push on pains” are not good conversation-starters. Yet we see them all the time.

The goal of your cold email is to provoke a reaction — that leads to a short conversation, qualifying a longer one … or not. No is a great answer too.

The goal is not to get referred. It’s not to set a date for a demo or meeting. These are what I mean by pushy.

Before pressing send make sure your email:

  • contains a first paragraph proving you researched the prospect
  • takes 10 seconds or less to read
  • does not ask for a meeting
  • contains a provocation, likely to trigger a reply asking for clarification

Calling on C-suite executives comfortable with the status quo? Generating a conversation with these people takes more than a “blast.” It takes a personalized message that is short (and provocative) enough to attract the prospect.

Don’t push, pull. Attract.

Don’t Need the Sale

Want the sale. Don’t need it. Show your prospect you don’t need it. Shift the tone of your cold email by shifting your mindset. This avoids writing in ways that communicate “I’m desperate for your business.”

Some of my best students avoid these words like the plague:

  • Please
  • Love
  • Looking forward to
  • Hope

Each one of these adds up. Every word counts. The more weak words used the more you help readers feel you need the sale.

The more weak you sound the less attractive you become.

Think about it this way: If a prospect truly believed your solution could double their productivity or increase revenue by 30% would they delete your message?

No. They would immediately hit pause (on what they’re doing) and make time.

Don’t Signal “I’m Wasting Your Time”

When a prospect deletes you they actually mean “This isn’t worth a moment of my time.”

Why? Because you convinced them it wasn’t… often by using weak words.

Time is another element where your words demonstrate lack of respect. Often unknowingly. Do you ever use these phrases?

  • As you probably realize …
  • Again …
  • Obviously …

These are all words that communicate, “I’m about to waste your time” to your reader. I’m about to tell you something you already know. Or I’m about to repeat myself. Or I’m about to tell you something obvious.

People don’t have time for you when you signal “I’m good at wasting it.” Your words are powerful. Keep this in mind.

Stop Persuading

As a sales person, your goal isn’t to convince the prospect to talk with you. That speaking would be smart. The goal is for the prospect to convince themselves that talking is smart … if, in fact, it is.

Stop trying to persuade. Everyone hates strangers who try to persuade them, especially in an email.

Are your cold emails and voicemail messages helping buyers feel an urge to ask for help? Are your follow-ups helping them reach conclusions on their own? That’s different, powerful.

Or are you trying to persuade the prospect you are credible?

I know experts say, “you’ve got to write something convincing them to reply …” and “you’ve got to appear credible to earn the response.”

No you don’t.

You have to be provocative, not credible. Credibility comes later — when a customer is considering doing business with you. You don’t need to have credibility to initiate a short conversation about a longer one.

You need to be provocative.

The problem with using words that posture is… well… you’re posturing. You’re trying to appear credible to someone you don’t know. And that never works in email, nor in general, when you talk about yourself.

When we try to appear credible we actually “signal” to strangers:

  • I have my own agenda
  • I am out to convince/persuade you
  • I know you won’t believe me, so I’ll bring in 3rd parties to prove it (your research report, your Gartner praise, etc.)

Instead, challenge the prospect to challenge you!

Make your claim. Boldly. Let them react to it. Let them label it nonsense or ask you to prove it.

Now you’ve provoked a discussion.

I have many students who do well with CEOs and CIOs using the phrase, “unorthodox but effective” when describing a strategy or tactic … relating to what they sell. This dares the prospect to hit reply and ask, “ok, you’re on. What’s so unorthodox about what you’re asking me to consider?”

What has your experience been?