It's All About Emotion

By Ron Rosenberg

Man with cardboard box on his head and terrified look skethedIn an environment where businesses confuse "features" and "benefits," it's sometimes helpful to remember a very important equation: effective marketing is typically 50 percent behavioral psychology and 50 percent math.

The "math" part refers to understanding the key marketing metrics that will help you understand your return on investment and using them to make intelligent and informed decisions on where to invest your marketing budget. We talk about this subject in many of our webinars, expert interviews, and special reports.

The "behavioral psychology" component, though, is critically important, because if you don't have a handle on this, there might not be any results to even measure!

Intellect vs. Emotion

We'd like to think that we make important decisions in a deliberate, methodical way. We actually make a point of recommending that our members and clients make decisions based on facts and data rather than feeling and conjecture.

But, in all honesty, this is an extremely difficult thing to do successfully, and it takes constant effort and deliberate focus. Fortunately for us, because we understand this, we can use it to our advantage.

Here are some things to consider as you develop your general marketing strategies and specific marketing materials.

Decide...Then Justify

In fact, the way most people make decisions - important or casual ones - is that they decide based on emotion, and then justify it based on intellect.

At the heart of it, we are emotional beings, and respond to fill our basic psychological needs: to feel accepted, loved, respected, fulfilled, happy, safe, secure, and appreciated.

If your marketing takes this into account, your message will connect better with your market, and you'll get better results.

Features vs. Benefits

The best place to address this is when you're communicating your offer to your prospects, whether in person, on a website, or in a letter, postcard, brochure, or e-mail.

For example, in 2013, we decided to sell our large house on the golf course and downsize to a smaller home. Since both of our kids were out of the house and on their own,  it made sense to find a place that would require less maintenance and allow us to spend less and travel more.

We found a place we liked and decided to buy it, but there was the small issue of selling our current home. If you remember, back then, the housing market was not in great shape, and the average length of time a house stayed on the market was over 180 days.

We ran the numbers and determined we could manage it, but my wife said not to worry and she stated, quite confidently, that our house would sell within 30 days. Part of her reasoning was that we knew marketing; we knew how to play to people's emotions, and we understood the difference between features and benefits.

You see, most home-sale materials show photos of the house, followed by a "feature puke" consisting of a bullet list of the characteristics of the house, including number of rooms, total square feet, lot size, and other features.

But when buying a home - as with most purchases - it's not only the actual house you're concerned about but also how you're going to feel when you come home each day from work. You want to walk in the door, plop down on the couch, and say, "Ahhhhhh...."

Wakefield_Home_BrochureSo we put together a list using on our own copywriting criteria, and taking full advantage of a formula we teach: feature so you can benefit. (You can click here to view a larger copy.)

Instead of saying, "wooded backyard" we said, "Wooded backyard attracts beautiful birds including  bluebirds, cardinals, and woodpeckers."

Where it might have said simply "wine room," we wrote, "Beautifully designed wine room off the kitchen – great for unwinding after a hard day’s work."

You get the idea. Combine this with the smart use of "subheads" and you have a marketing piece that gets prospective buyers emotionally involved in the house by helping them experience what it will be like to live there instead of merely describing the features of the structure and the property.

Scarcity and Urgency

Another emotional hook is that people want what they can't have. We've been conditioned to want more: a bigger house, a faster car, a higher-paying job. Envy is such a big part of our culture that it drives us to want things we probably can't afford, and sometimes don't even need.

We see this in social situations where people seem to be afflicted with "FOMO" - fear of missing out. They're so concerned about being invited to every event, party, and social gathering that it's almost comical.

Fortunately for us, we can use this in our marketing efforts to get people to respond immediately instead of taking their time, and in all likelihood, forgetting about your offer.

You can see examples of this everywhere you look, from the "impulse buy" item at the supermarket checkout lane to the late-night infomercial that offers to "double your order...if you order before midnight tonight!"

You'll find this technique in play on websites when your airline search reveals that there are "only 2 tickets remaining at this price" or "only 1 left in stock" on Amazon.com.

Fear of Loss vs. Opportunity for Gain

We can also look at the different impulses that motivate people: fear of loss and opportunity for gain. You might think that the second one has more pull; but in fact, it's just the opposite, and this is generally borne out by split testing different offers, copy points, and headlines.

For example, "Don't be the last on your block to have..." normally outperforms "Be the first on your block to have..."

It's Tough to Sell Prevention

One final area we should consider is that people are motivated more by immediate needs than by long-term desires. Just look at young adults living on the financial edge without setting aside money for retirement...or even for basic emergencies! The desire to lose weight and get into shape is often trumped by the ice cream sundae and the fact that exercise is, well, hard!

It's for this very reason that people aren't interested in home-security systems until their house is broken into. Funeral prearrangement is a tough sell because, from an emotional perspective, people don't want to accept their own mortality.

So to the extent you can, try to recognize, understand, and incorporate emotional hooks into your marketing. You'll get people's attention, you'll connect more effectively, and you'll increase your revenue while still providing a valuable product or service.

November Interview

Richard Beswick

BMS Marketing Research

Strategic Marketing to Grow Your Business

As with almost everything, marketing exists on a continuum. On one hand there's operational marketing which is where we spend most of our time on. On the other hand, there is what we call strategic marketing and this is a bit different. In this interview, Richard Beswick, a consultant and university professor, will show you how you can identify new markets and opportunities. You'll discover:

You'll discover:

  • The difference between operational and strategic marketing
  • Different tools that can help you analyze opportunities
  • How to convert market opportunities to new business

Click here to find out how to use this article in your newsletter, magazine, or website.

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