Is There a Psychological Trick for Marketing?

I was a kid when I first heard about subliminal advertising. Turns out that experiment was bull — they couldn’t replicate the results, and neither has anyone else since — but the idea is still tantalizing. Are there psychological tricks, subliminal or otherwise, that can increase the effectiveness of your marketing by a significant percent?

Flip the brain switch.I was a kid when I first heard about subliminal advertising from some TV infotainment documentary (I was that kind of kid). it was the famous 1950s experiment in a movie theater where they slipped in ads for soda and popcorn so briefly that people weren’t aware of them, yet they bought more soda and popcorn.

Turns out that experiment was bogus — they couldn’t replicate the results, and neither has anyone else since — but the idea is still tantalizing. Is there a psychological trick, subliminal or otherwise, that can increase sales by a significant percent?

Crack the Customer Mind Code ThumbnailThat came back to mind when i was reading Gary Hennerberg’s “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” If you’ve been reading his Reinventing Direct blog, you’ve seen a bit about it. However, what Gary goes into isn’t one or two tricks, but a whole system for walking 12 foundational personas through seven psychological steps that lead to a purchase.

The 12 personas Gary identifies as the ones he’s seen most often are:

  • Trailblazer/Early Adopters
  • My Brand/My Lifestyle/My Growth
  • Money Matters
  • On Financial Edge
  • Right Thing to Do: Taking the High Road
  • Love and Social Relationships
  • Adrenaline Seekers: Opportunists
  • Safe Players
  • Hiding My Compulsion
  • Fifty Plus
  • Business 8 to 5
  • Did I Matter?

The seven steps are:

  • Identify the Person (Persona)
  • Stimulate Emotion
  • Calm the Mind
  • Position/Reposition Your USP
  • Tell a Story
  • Interpret Features and Benefits for Them
  • Gain Permission to Act

Gary goes into how to walk each of those personas through each of those paths. How to message them, what verbs to use, and how to convince them it’s OK to trust you and complete the purchase.

It’s a good, thorough system with specific tips and suggestions on almost every page.

But what it’s not is a trick. In fact, after reading “Crack the Customer Mind Code,” what I came away with was a better understanding of just how complicated marketing really is.

It’s easy to say “You need to stimulate emotion to get attention from your prospects.” It’s a different thing entirely to identify the personas of the prospects you’re targeting and figure out exactly what stimulates emotions for each of them, then reach them with that message, and the next message and on down through the seven steps to purchase.

There’s certainly psychology at work, but it’s no trick.

And as I’ve gotten to understand marketing better over the years, That matches up pretty well with my overall experience. There are no psychological tricks to marketing, but there are plenty of good psychological insights you can apply to make your marketing more effective, once you know how to crack the code.

Persona Marketing Tricks

How does a marketer go about creating the most effective set of personas? The first step is to create the 360-degree customer view out of available data. Personalization must be about the person, not about channel, product or even brand.

Personal.jpgHow does a marketer go about creating the most effective set of personas? The first step is to create the 360-degree customer view out of available data. Personalization must be about the person, not about channel, product or even brand.

For that, all event- and transaction-level data must be rearranged around the target individuals. Often, this data step turns out to be the first major hurdle for the marketers.

Then marketers, along with data scientists, should draw the list of required personas. After all, all analytical work must start with a clear definition of targets, and the targets must be set with clear business goals.

If you could ask for any personas for your marketing efforts, what would they be? Surely, the list would vary greatly depending on the lines of business that you are in. Obvious ones — such as “High-Value Customer,” “Frequent Shopper” or “Online Buyer” could be helpful for all types of retailers.

Going beyond that, marketers must expand their imaginations and think about the list from the customer’s point of view, while keeping a sight on the products and services that are to be offered to them. We must look at this as an ultimate “match-making” exercise between the buyers and the products, way more sophisticated than a rudimentary product-to-product level match (as in “If you purchased product A, you must also be interested in product B”).

The idea is to create personas imagining what you are going to do with them in marketing campaigns. “Frequent Flyer” maybe an obvious choice, but would you need a related but different one called “Frequent Business Traveler”? Would you extend the “Young Family” to “Avid Theme Park Visitors”? Why not both?

For B-to-B applications, we can think of many more along the lines of a “Consumable/Repeat Purchase” persona and “Big Ticket Items,” but the idea is to have both of them on the menu, as one may reveal both types of traits at the same time.

Similarly, if you are in a telecommunication business, what would be a good set of personas for broadband service? What type of personas can explain the “why” part of the equations? Simply for the sales of broadband, we can think of the following set as a starter:

  • Big Family
  • Home Office
  • High-Tech Professional
  • Avid Gamer
  • Avid Movie Downloader
  • Voice-over IP User
  • Frequent International Caller
  • Early Adopter
  • Etc., etc.

The key is matching the propensity of a customer and the product, and showing compelling reasons why they need to purchase a particular product. We all routinely consume all kinds of products and services, but each of us does it for different reasons. Personalizing the message based on known or inferred personal traits is the key to stand out in the age of over-communication.

Once we imagine the list, there are ways to build the personas. I can say that with conviction, as I’ve seen a persona called “NASCAR Fan” being used in an election season. So, don’t be shy and start being creative on your whiteboard today.

Donald Trump Gets the Why Behind the Buy

Ted Cruz still doesn’t know what hit him. Neither do most of the Republican party establishment, and large segments of the non-Republican electorate. But Carolyn Goodman has a pretty good idea: “Trump really understands the why behind the buy.”

Last night, a beleaguered Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after yet another loss to Donald Trump on the Republican primary campaign trail. After another drubbing in a state that was supposed to reject Trump’s big city conservative populism, Cruz said, “It appears that path has been foreclosed.”

Ted Cruz still doesn’t know what hit him. Neither do most of the Republican party establishment, and large segments of the non-Republican electorate. But Carolyn Goodman has a pretty good idea.

“Trump really understands the why behind the buy,” said Carolyn, president and creative director of Goodman Marketing Partners, during yesterday’s webinar on optimizing lead nurturing.

Pain Point Research > Persona Research

Carolyn’s answer was in response to an audience member’s question during the webinar Q&A: “Do Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders demonstrate that emotion drives more than facts?”

And it tied into something Carolyn said earlier in the webinar: Know the why behind the buy.

What that means is, for anyone asking people to choose their brand — whether it’s at the store, in an email or on the campaign trail — understanding why customers are in the market and why they choose your brand over another is the most important factor to turning a lead into a sale.

In fact, she said doing research on the pain points that lead customers to choose you, and marketing to those pain points, is far more important to successful lead nurturing and long-term sales than marketing to personas.

In effect, what you know about why they buy is more important than what you know about their demographics, niche and theoretical wants. And Donald Trump’s campaign is a perfect example of this, according to Goodman.

Donald Trump’s Marketing Epiphany

While the rest of the Republican field developed messaging around the grooved talking points of GOP politics today, Trump identified the why behind the buy (or vote).

This time, many Republican voters are making the buy based on frustration with what they see as stifling political correctness and a coddling bureaucracy that they don’t think can protect the country from a host of threats. And the only thing they want to vote for is change, to get “bought” career politicians out of office.

That’s the why behind their buy, and Donald Trump gets that.

If Trump hears voters saying the other candidates aren’t willing to tell what they see as a “truth” about immigrants, Muslims, tariffs or any other topic, he embraces that “truth” and speaks it as often as he can. If the other candidates say something might not be achievable, or affordable, Trump tells voters it is and he’ll make sure it’s paid for.

If voters are frustrated about politicians not doing something, Trump promises to do it. If they’re frustrated that something’s not being said, he says it.

Trump’s not over-analyzing the demographics or overthinking the personas of his voters. Instead he’s just listening to his likely voters’ pain points and addressing them.

Trump gets the why behind his customers’ buys.

Do you get the why behind yours?

Laser-Focused Direct Mail With Personas

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

The best way to increase your chances of great response is to mail to people who are interested in your product or service. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most effective is to create personas.

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Many marketers are familiar with personas in their inbound or digital marketing, but for some reason have not applied them to their direct mail campaigns.

Benefits of Buyer Personas:

  1. Ability to target the right people for each message — send them only offers that they are interested in.
  2. Increase response — better offers equal a better response rate.
  3. Ability to find more prospects like your current customers — when you profile other people you can match them accurately to your current customers.

By creating buyer personas, you can identify who your ideal customers are, where they are and what they want. When you combine this with variable data direct mail you can laser focus your message to each individual based on that person’s persona while getting the benefits of postal discounts for mailing a larger quantity rather than doing a separate mailing for each persona.

We get asked many times, how can we create personas? Here are a few ways you can start researching:

  • Interview or survey current customers — create questions that answer what you need to know in order to build your personas.
  • Review LinkedIn profiles — try to find the common themes between each of your customers.
  • Ask questions on social media — this can give you a larger pool than just your customers, but be careful to fully vet each person responding before you add their input to your research.

After your research there are some best practices for building your personas:

  1. Focus on motives not behavior. Why are they doing what they are doing?
  2. Keep them fictional, but be as realistic as possible. Do not base them off of your most important customer, this can give you a skewed result.
  3. Choose one primary persona, this should be the group of people that will make you the most money.
  4. Create a story for each persona that is explained in five segments:
    • What is their job and demographics?
    • What does a day in their life look like?
    • What are their challenges or pain points?
    • How do they search for information?
    • What are their common objections to your product or service?

There are two big benefits to adding personas to your direct mail. The first is that you can save money on services and postage — and since direct mail’s biggest expense is postage, you can save a lot by not mailing to people who are not interested in what you are offering. The second is by getting more people to respond because they are interested in your offer. So, while you are saving money you are also making more money. It is a win-win situation!

Have you tried using personas in your direct mail? How has it worked for you?

It’s OK to Hate Data

There’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers. If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

A little secret about Target Marketing: Our data content gets less traffic than just about any other topic we regularly cover.

Clearly, that doesn’t stop us from covering the data-driven side of marketing. In fact, I think some of our best contributors write about data. But there’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers.

If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

Good Good ... Let the Data flow through you.Big data, small data, first-party data, third-party data … it can take the people element out of marketing.

I was at Ad:Tech New York last week and caught the session “Your Data Might Be Crap, But Is It Fertilizer?” Mark Donatelli from Ogilvy moderated a conversation with data-driven marketing experts from the NFL, Gap Inc., Domo and Beckon.

Aidan Lyons, VP of fan experience for the NFL, had a great line: “They’re not users, they’re fans.”

What he meant was, they’re not just users, they’re not just data. Every one of those records is a real, breathing person. A fan of the NFL. Sift and sort what you know about them, and you begin to spot groups with things in common. These are niches in your market who you can target with messaging and experiences.

Most of our readers can get into that. Once you have people to talk to, you’re back in the game most marketers signed up to play.

But not everyone can see those people in the numbers, the data, even at a persona level.

And that’s OK, because not everyone has to. There are a multitude of tools, agencies, consultants and data scientists who can help boil the data down to something marketers can work with.