Excerpt from Sex & Marketing
How to Create an Experience That Seduces Buyers
Mandy looked at the picture and thought, “Well, why not?” She clicked the message button and wrote a quick note. “Thank you for your message on Match, John. You seem like an interesting guy. I also prefer to meet face-to-face. I think it is a lot easier to see what the person is really like that way. So, sure, coffee at the Starbucks you suggested would be fine. Saturday about 10? BTW, would you please tell me your last name? I’d like to see your social media pages.” She did not give her last name and hoped he would not ask. Safety first.
Mandy didn’t take a lot of time to get ready on Saturday. She had been on too many of these dates to get excited, most of them were pleasant at best and led nowhere. She had a few regular dates, but she longed for a relationship then marriage.
She wore nice jeans, low boots and a soft white sweater to meet John. When she got out of her Accord, she immediately saw him sitting at an outdoor table. He was bigger than she had thought, but just as cute in a slightly rugged way that she immediately liked. And he did have a great smile. He saw her and immediately stood up. He put out his hand, giving her a real handshake, not a namby-pamby finger shake some guys did that drove her crazy, like she was too delicate for a proper grip.
“Hi, Mandy,” he said in a nice baritone voice. “I’m really glad to meet you. Honestly, I’ve thought about this date a lot. You look lovely this morning.”
“Thank you, John,” she said, smiling. “I’m glad to meet you.” He did have such warm eyes, she thought as they sat down.
They spent two hours talking about many things, some she had never even discussed with her regular dates. He was very easy to talk to, and best of all, he actually listened to her. The highlight, she thought driving back to her apartment, was about bugs. When she asked him what he had done that morning, he said without a hint of embarrassment that he had been rescuing bugs from his pool. “They fly in for a drink of water and get trapped, floating helplessly until they drown. I know it sounds silly, or maybe not manly,” he had said, “but I feel guilty that my pool is their grave, so I get the net and rescue them if they’re still alive.” She had known then that John was a kind soul with enormous compassion who would also care about the feelings of others, too. It showed a lot more emotional maturity than most of her steady dates.
They had made a lunch date for the following Saturday. She found herself excited about a date for the first time in months. She picked a pretty summer dress that showed off her figure, and spent more time on her makeup. They met at an Indian restaurant with high booths that insured some privacy.
She mentioned his Facebook page. “It looks like you enjoy outdoor things like skydiving. I wouldn’t have the courage to do that,” she said.
“The first time is really scary,” he admitted. “I was terrified. But my instructor locked arms with me and we jumped out together. And you know what? In about 30 seconds I wasn’t scared at all, it was too amazing. So I can sure appreciate your being afraid.”
“Afraid doesn’t cover it,” she said. “Abject terror is closer.” But she did smile.
“If you wanted to try it, we could go in tandem, I think that’s less terrifying,” he said. “But there are a lot of other adventurous things we could do, too. How about waterskiing? Or rock climbing with a harness? Or trying an exotic restaurant with different kinds of food?”
“Now you’re talking,” she laughed. “Thanks for not making me feel like a loser because I don’t want to skydive. But the other things sound like fun.” And they were.
After a few dates Mandy realized that John had passed every “test” she had set up for him. She laughed at his silly, personal stories about mistakes he had made, although he never made fun of others. She had glowed when he not only supported her idea of starting a graphic design business, but volunteered to help her with marketing. And she was amazed that he had never declared any topic in his life off-limits or seemed less than honest about them, including his own responsibility in the failure of past relationships. She had come to trust him, believed that he trusted her, and that they now had a genuine friendship.
And so one night they slept together. They were both considerate and a little awkward, realizing this was not a one-night stand but a new step in their relationship. It wasn’t perfect, but it was sure nice.
Afterwards they lay in each other’s arms and just talked about any goofy thing that came to mind. And it was then that Mandy realized that she was happier than she had been in years. If they could both maintain their openness, honesty and friendship, she might just be walking down the aisle soon-er than she ever expected. “Please, God, let it be so,” she thought. She had no idea John had made the same prayer.
THE LESSON BEHIND THE STORY
The Guide finished telling his story to Luke and Allison, two former students of his who were now marketing directors for two mid-sized companies, and took a sip of his drink. Then he said, “This story is filled with metaphors about marketing, isn’t it?”
Allison, whose eyes glittered with excitement when she talked about marketing, said, “I went to a leadership seminar last month. The speaker used baseball stories throughout his speech to illustrate specific qualities of a good leader. This is the same style.”
The Guide said, “You’ve got to look below the surface to discover what marketing principles are being used; that is the whole point of using stories as parables. So, what were the market-ing principles that convinced Mandy that John was her True Love?”
Luke, whose deep voice and handsome face always seemed to command attention even back when he’d been in the same marketing classes with Allison, said, “Both Mandy and John fell in love because of the experiences they had together. And those experiences for Mandy were better than ones she had with competing guys who were like competing brands. In the same way, customers have experiences with your brand in your store, or online at your business website. It is not just a place showing the products or services you sell. For each visitor you have, it is always an EXPERIENCE – good, bad, or most often just indifferent. Sites and stores that provide a great experience get repeat visitors. Just like John got repeat dates.”
Allison added, “I’d love to meet someone like John! He hit all the right notes, and did it honestly. He wasn’t playing psychological games to get Mandy in bed. Same for business owners. They must create a good emotional experience for visitors so they don’t leave unhappy or frustrated or doubtful. Stores or websites that don’t provide a good experience will be quickly forgotten, there is just too much competition. John was probably not aware of the tests than Mandy gave him, but he passed because that is who he was.”
“So how does that relate to business?” asked the Guide.
“In any interaction, your job is to make the customer want to stay,” answered Allison. “Like Mandy soon wanted to stay with John, and likely dropped all her other dates. Treat them like you would if they were your only customer – because to them they are, especially online. As you design your site or store’s experience for visitors, ask yourself, How would I treat a customer if paying my light bill depended solely on this customer buying something? What would I say to them and do for them? How would I have improved my shop if I knew they would be dropping in?”
“Mandy had a set of expectations about whoever she dated,” said Luke. “Things like honesty, responsibility, and trust – the same things buyers want. As she had more experiences with John, she became more certain about who he was, and believed he was honest. In other words, she trusted John’s ‘brand’ based on all her experiences with him.”
“Good point, Luke,” said the Guide. “She ‘bought’ John based on those experiences. The better the total experience with a brand, the more loyal the customer and the bigger the lifetime sales.”
Allison said, “That’s easy to see in the story, but you can also feel the truth of it as you see John through Mandy’s eyes. I really like the way you’re presenting these marketing lessons, prof. I can relate to the people and situations, and ideas stick with you because of how visual and emotional the story is.”
“Thank you, Allison,” said the Guide. “Stories create a movie in your mind that you can later replay to recall the important marketing points they make. They’re a great visual memory organizer.”
“That’s why many stories stick with you, they’re emotionally memorable,” said Luke. “And they carry the marketing lessons along with them into memory like a package. I try to use stories in our marketing campaigns for that very reason, and it almost always works because people just like good stories.”
“That’s a great strategy, Luke,” said the Guide. “Of course, the story lesson idea is as old as Socrates, or older. We’ve never found any group on earth that didn’t tell stories. To me the four most engaging words in the English language are “Once Upon a Time . . .”
Both Luke and Allison nodded, laughing at their own memories of so many childhood stories that began that way.
“There are a couple more ideas I want you to consider,” said the Guide. “First is the importance of making the customer feel Special. I’m sure you agree that both Mandy and John made the other feel special.”
“I remember back in class you said that making the customer feel Special was one of the most important goals for good marketing,” said Luke.
Allison added, “Like he used to say, ‘we buy on emotion and justify it with logic.’ While there were some logical factors in their budding relationship, the vast majority was based on emotion, on their feelings.”
“Exactly,” said the Guide. “And feeling Special is a powerful emotion people want. The second point is that Mandy didn’t want John.”
“She wanted the feelings he could give her,” interrupted Luke.
“Yes,” said the Guide. “Exactly right. And John was the same way. Both wanted to feel loved, cared for, and respected by the other. You heard me say it a hundred times, ‘The first rule of marketing psychology is that people don’t want what you are selling, . . .”
“They want to buy SATISFACTIONS,” shouted Luke and Allison, laughing. “And,” said Luke, “It was more like a million times.”
The Guide laughed and lifted his glass. “That’s why you remembered it. It’s why I repeat some ideas over and over in different contexts through these stories. Psychologists know the most lasting memories are the result of dis-tributed or spaced-out repetition. And now here are your Reminder Cards for this lesson” said the Guide, handing them each a card, “so you can review these and many more related ideas back at your offices.”
YOUR CHAPTER REMINDER CARD: See this chapter’s reminder card in the Appendix (You'll find an excerpt of them below) for many more helpful marketing ideas for you from this chapter. Don’t miss this VERY IMPORTANT section to improve your marketing!
Later the Guide sent both Luke and Allison an e-mail.
Dear Allison and Luke,
It was great to see you again. I enjoyed our conversation.
Perhaps you might consider the few final thoughts about our discussion today on creating persuasive experiences for customers, especially the emotional factors, Fears and Desires.
First, about Desire. We may believe we make decisions based solely on logic, but in truth both Fear and Desire emotions play a leading role.
In his book Alchemy, marketer Rory Sutherland tells a marvelous story about soap. Regular bathing is a relatively new behavior, even after it was known that it prevented diseases from spreading. That would be the logical reason to use it. But only after soap manufacturers started to add attractive scents to the soap did sales take off. Why? Because using scented soap made people smell good. Others complimented them. Men and women were more attracted to those who smelled good, leaving the unwashed the choice of using soap or being left behind in the dating world. That’s why Hope is a key element of Desire motivations. Consider that carefully. Our habit of good hygiene is thanks to an irrational decision to make soap smell good.
Next to Fears. We all have fears when we buy – will it work? Will it give me the satisfaction I want? Will it break? What other satisfactions can it give me? Can I return it? Can I afford it now? Am I paying too much? Is it really a good value for the money? What will other people think if I buy it? Will I be embarrassed or praised? Very often customers walk out or abandon shopping carts at the last minute because they have unresolved fears.
How do you reduce these and other fears? First, a simple guarantee --- you don’t like it, you get your money back. Second, build trust on your website by offering a lot of content marketing pieces – articles that show the buyer how to get the most out of the product, answer common questions, show videos of the product being happily used by others, show awards and video testimonials from satisfied customers, and so on. This makes you seem like a giving, trustworthy expert.
That’s why Third-Party Validation is so important, and especially Word of Mouth (WOM) recommendations from friends. Some new research from Nielsen found that 92% of buyers trust recommendations from friends, and a whopping 88% trust ideas from people they don’t even know who have left customer reviews online. Ads are trusted far less than reviews.
Here’s a story you can probably relate to. Think of all the booths, shop windows, and sidewalk vendors you’ve walked by without stopping. They were all displaying their merchandise to you. Now imagine that one enterprising vendor also had a sign that said, “Guaranteed to Make Your Friends Smile! They’ll love a unique water globe, not a lousy t-shirt!”
This vendor caught your attention because he knew many tourists would buy take-home gifts; didn’t want to waste money on an unappreciated gift; feared that the t-shirt they had in mind could be considered “lousy;” and desired a gift that would really be enjoyed. The sign also offered a meaningless “guarantee” that has one purpose – to create in the buyer’s mind an idea that other people were happy with this purchase.
This one sign with 16 words is MAGIC! It turned the PERCEPTION of the buyer from looking at the product to imagining the happiness of people back home who received his gift, and how gratified he would feel for making them happy! Notice the EMOTION in play – fear of buying the wrong gift, disappointing the recipient, and the desire to feel good by making others happy.
The more PERCEIVED value you can pile up on one side of the scale, the smaller the cost on the other side will look relative to that value. And if the value is not just logical but emotional, then the cost itself may be a minor consideration. We buy on the basis of emotion and justify it with logic. Who knows if water globes are a better gift than a t-shirt? But the sign makes buyers fear t-shirts and like globes for totally emotional reasons.
Most companies need to use a stronger emotional “sell” based on feelings buyers want from their interaction (experience) with your product or service. A good marketing website should be like a friendly hotel with 24-hour room service and a personal butler who anticipates your every need – everything you want and more is at your fingertips, with a smile. If it is friendly, fast and easy, they will come back – as Amazon has proven. You can best look at any store, website, or office in a similar way – through the eyes of a first-time visitor who hopes to have a good experience there.
Hope to see you again soon,
P.S. Remember, the "Value" of any product is in the mind of the consumer, what they THINK and FEEL it is worth TO THEM. It may or may not reflect the objective value of the product. We buy on Perceived Value. The value of a bottle of water depends on need and scarcity.
CHAPTER REMINDER CARD (dozens of marketing ideas from this chanter and even more, ready to use.)
1. Forget any idea that a customer’s visit is just an interaction with the product and a clerk, it is far more than that – it is an OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO SHINE BY CREATING A GREAT EXPERIENCE.
2. You should design an entire experience for any visitor to your store or website. The better the experience, the more they will buy, the more they will return, and the more they will sing your praises to others. [See the Rossman book in Resources for more on this.]
3. Your experience strategy must include both logical and emotional components. The experience is FELT through emotions. All these components must fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
4. Use the experience to make your customers feel special, like a valued person, not a number, a nobody, or a nuisance. You don’t like feeling like that, and neither do they!
5. People do not want what you are selling. They are buying Satisfactions, both logical and emotional. Find out their desired Satisfactions, then sell them what they want. This isn’t rocket science – but it sure is brain science!
6. While the experience is critical, having something to sell that will bring them satisfaction is the sine qua non. You cannot expect it to sell itself, you need to . . .
(Note: There are 17 additional marketing ideas just in this chapter.)