Essays about marketing without manipulation, and other blasphemous musings.
Greetings, fellow marketers.
What I am about to espouse may seem like blasphemy to some marketers. If that’s you, feel free to read a more gratuitous article.
I’m here to provide some unvarnished opinion, based on decades of observation, and some plain old common sense.
An awful lot of marketing these days seems to depend on some sort of psychological manipulation to convince people to buy things.
Take scarcity for instance. As in, you need to buy this RIGHT NOW, because “…an offer like this won’t last very long. See that countdown timer below? When it hits zero, the sale is over, and we will likely never offer a price this low EVER AGAIN.”
We both know that’s a load of you know what.
Or, offering free “valuable bonuses,” but only if you act right now. This again plays on scarcity. And usually, the bonuses aren’t really all that valuable after all. Except to the marketer trying to manipulate more people to buy now. I love it when marketers arbitrarily assign some value to a bonus, such as “a $297 value…free with your purchase if you buy today.”
Or how about FOMO – “Fear Of Missing Out.” As in, what if you DON’T get this product and never realize the potential the marketer is promising because you passed on this offer? Especially when there are so many testimonials by people who just LOVE what this product did for them, with no reservations. Don’t you want to be part of THAT crowd?
Speaking of testimonials, have you ever seen a marketing web page or promotional email feature a testimonial that was even the slightest bit negative or tentative?
Me neither. You’re only seeing the cherry-picked, partially-quoted, displayed-out-of-context testimonials that might as well have been made up (and in many cases, are).
That’s not to say there aren’t some legitimate testimonials out there. They’re just far less commonly used, because they’re harder to come by legitimately.
Here’s the blasphemy part.
I would like to posit that marketers don’t need to employ ANY of the myriad possible psychologically manipulative tricks that have been scientifically proven to get people to buy stuff they don’t really need.
How about offering genuine value instead?
Seriously, if you have to resort to tricks to get people to buy your product, then how valuable is your product, really?
Is it a product you’d buy yourself?
Did you create it to solve a real need, or to create a business?
A genuinely valuable product, designed to solve a real need for real people, will sell itself.
All you have to do is get people to know about it. That’s it.
You won’t need to give them a hard sales pitch about how their life will be filled with rainbows, unicorns, and unimaginable wealth and freedom, or whatever claptrap so many marketers seem to be selling these days, if only folks buy their products (and all the attendant upgrades and ancillary products being offered too, of course).
BUT WHAT IF THEY JUST DON’T KNOW THEY REALLY NEED YOUR PRODUCT?
We didn’t know we needed copy machines…until the copy machine was introduced.
We didn’t know we needed smart phones…until the iPhone was introduced.
We didn’t know we needed the Internet…or selfie-sticks. Or Bluetooth connectivity. Rearview cameras in cars. Social media. Dating websites. Wikipedia. YouTube. Baby monitors. Resealable food storage bags. GPS. Purse hooks in public places. Hand sanitizer. Personal computers. Word processors. Texting. Email. The Dyson Airblade (which actually dries your hands without doubling the time you spend in the restroom).
I’m sure you can come with many more examples.
For a truly groundbreaking product like this, you’ll have to come up with a compelling, REAL demonstration that clearly and truthfully conveys the problem solved and the benefit gained from this unconventional offering.
THAT is what marketing is really all about — effectively articulating VALUE to people who will genuinely benefit from a particular product or service.
Is THAT so hard to do?
If you have to resort to trade puffery, hyperbole, stretched truths, fake scarcity, FOMO, disingenuous testimonials, or outright lying to boost your sales, you’re likely trying to sell a product that doesn’t really do much for anyone.
Instead, rethink what you’re selling.
Don’t market products to make money.
Market products to help people.
To serve people. To entertain people. To solve real problems. To eliminate real pain. To genuinely make life easier.
Then, communicate honestly about how this product does what you say it does. Back it up with facts. Show real people using the product. Let people try it out for themselves. Offer a satisfaction guarantee and stick to it.
Don’t apply any sales pressure.
The rest will take care of itself.
P.S. This is the way I prefer to market because I build brands for a living. Brands are built on relationships. Relationships are built on trust. And trust is built on both delivering real value and never trying to manipulate. That’s how you not only gain customers, but keep them. Common sense, right?