You Should-Be Customers Say “No” Because… (Pt. 1)

marketing message

Who is the hero of your marketing message?

It is a common mistake for businesses to promote themselves by…promoting themselves:

“Quality Service and Affordable Prices”
“Over 40 Years of Excellence”
“Nobody Does XYZ Better Than Us”

Each of these statements has some degree of meaning. They’re fairly generic, though, and almost completely focused on the leadership’s opinion about the business itself (or how they hope to be seen by potential customers).

Marketing claims like these are not very persuasive, are they? Why not? Because consumers do not care about businesses; they care about themselves. They care about fixing their problems and getting the various things they want in life.

That is the key to connecting with customers. When a business is the main character in its marketing messages, it sacrifices a large part of its persuasive power.

The Reality: People are Self-Interested

The late David Wallace Foster, a renowned writer and professor, made the following remark in his commencement speech to Kenyon College in 2005:

“…everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth.”

I’m not saying it’s right. It’s just true.

Customers owe no loyalty to a business that doesn’t make their life better in some way. If that life-improving potential isn’t communicated in customer-centric ways, the business will probably be ignored.

People are self-interested. Businesses are self-interested, too.

Something wonderful happens when a potential customer hears exactly how buying a product will make his life better — in clear, specific, compelling language. He buys! That kind of message can penetrate the inward focus that dominates the customer’s worldview.

Emphasizing a prospect’s self-interest is in the business’ best interest.

how sales persuasion happens

“Results — Nothing Less.” Drayton Bird tells potential clients that they’re not paying for marketing or consulting (which they don’t care about). They’re buying the results they want.

“Income On Demand: The Simple Secret to Unlimited Stock Market Payouts.” Who doesn’t want income on demand? Rather than saying “Great Stock Market Tips,” Agora Financial adds emotional punch and begins telling you how easy it is to reach your objective: making lots of money on the stock market.

“Is Cancer a Fungus? Can It Be Prevented? Learn How To Help Your Body Destroy the Candida Fungus, Get Your Energy and Your Life Back” Specific, surprising and all about the reader.

Now, who is the hero of your marketing message? Remember, your should-be customers are not thinking about you. They’re looking out for their own best interest, not yours. (And rightly so!) They care about you only insofar as they can benefit from doing business with you.

It is in your best interest to show potential customers that you’re looking out for them and you’re uniquely equipped to help them achieve the results they want.

Check out Part 2!


Isn’t Selling to the ‘Lizard Brain’ the Goal?

In The Art of Planting Ideas, we talked about how the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the human brain goes dormant while watching movies on the big screen, television shows and sometimes even marketing videos.

Understanding people, how they think and why they do what they do is the foundation of marketing. Knowing why certain tactics and triggers work makes you much more effective at applying the what and how of selling and marketing.

Why does the relative inactivity of the PFC even matter? Don’t people always buy based on emotion? Isn’t the goal to sell to the “lizard brain” anyway? First, let me say that I find the term “lizard” or “reptilian brain” ridiculous (although the phrase itself is both visual and visceral, making it a great use of language). This part of the brain – the limbic system – is not some genetic hand-me-down of an evolutionary process. (In fact, the “three-brain theory” has been largely rejected by modern neuroscience. Most marketing educators are clinging to old, invalidated information.)  I find that the radical self-interest of the human race can be traced back to choices Adam made back in Eden. The more I learn about psychology and neurology, the more clearly I can explain why marketing works from a Biblical perspective. (Maybe we’ll talk about that another time.)

I prefer the term “old brain” instead of “lizard brain“?

Back to the point…

The desires that drive our decision-making, including purchasing decisions, do come from the old brain. They’re more emotional than intellectual. That’s why we focus on appealing to the emotions in sales and marketing.

But the prefrontal cortex is still in control of the executive function, i.e. the ability to guide thought and action in accordance with internal goals. We aren’t lizards! Desires still have to make it past the PFC, which processes the logical outcomes of acting on that desire. This is the reason why “reason why” advertising works.  Marketers have to provide the necessary ammunition to rationalize the purchase. Check out Simon Sinek’s 2009 TEDx presentation explaining why “why” matters. (I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, but it’s still worth watching.)

Ultimately, desires are rooted deeper than logic and rationality, but the PFC almost always has the final authority.

Have you ever wanted to punch someone right in the mouth? Have you seen yourself do it in your mind’s eye? Most of us have. But most of us don’t act on that desire. That’s the executive function at work, overriding emotion.

That means you sell to the emotions, but you can’t neglect the intellect in the process.

So, is the PFC-paralyzing power of video good or bad? It is inherently neutral. It can be used for evil purposes, e.g. the Nazi propaganda film “The Triumph of the Will.” It can also be used for good. In either case, it’s effective.

A good story can have a similar effect on the brain. When you’re engrossed in narrative, the brain makes its own mental movie to watch the story unfold. Robert Collier said it well: “The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the reader’s mind by your words is worth a thousand drawings, for the reader colors that picture with his own imagination, which is more potent than all the brushes of all the world’s artists.”