This Works Marketing: The Proven System Generating Billions in Sales for Brands and Every Size Business
This Works Marketing:
The Proven System Generating Billions in Sales for Brands and Every Size Business
By Ken Kerry with Michael Ashley
SECTION ONE: THE FIVE MARKETING ESSENTIALS (SECRETS APPLICABLE TO ANY BUSINESS)
Chapter One: You Need to Grab Attention. Fast
Overcoming Limited Attention Spans
Chapter Two: Connect with Your Customer
Empathy: The Capacity for Vicarious Understanding 24 Projecting Vulnerability Puts Us on the Same Level
Harness Emotional Appeal
Chapter Three: Keep It Simple
Be Direct, Be Clear
It’s Hard to Be Direct
A Simplistic Sales Process
Simple Messaging in Action
Chapter Four: Obtain Expert Status
We Now Live in a Review-Based Economy
The Top Down vs. Bottom Up Gatekeeper Approach
Establish Authority Status
Promoting and Gaining Customer Trust
Become an Influencer Now
Chapter Five: Tell A Story
Why Tell a Story?
Narrative Done Right
Show, Don’t Tell
The Story Behind the Story, Part 1
The Story Behind the Story, Part 2
SECTION TWO: THE MARKETING RESULTS PROCESS
Chapter Six: Identify the Problem
Solving Problems, B2C or B2B
Someone Else’s Problem
On the Ground Reality
People Like to Talk About Their Problems
Fine-Tuning the Listening Process
Chapter Seven: Provide Your Unique Solution
Your Promise to Customers
Paying Our Dues
The Rise of Infomercials & Our First Product
The Human Ken & Barbi
What’s Unique About Script to Screen
Do You Have a Unique Solution?
Chapter Eight: Give Them A Reason to Believe
The Power of Demonstration
Prove Your Product Works
People Must Wrap Their Heads Around Your Message
Wow! The Beauty of First-Time Reactions
Chapter Nine: Offer Testimonials
Why Do You Need Testimonials?
Generate a Winning Testimonial Today
Content in Context
How to Encourage Customers to Give You (The Right)
Chapter Ten: Counter Objections
Our Fear of “No”
Readiness is All
Unpacking Common Objections
The Psychology of Selling
Demonstrate the Objection
Chapter Eleven: Offer Expert Validation
Succeed with Third Party Corroboration
The Science of Business
Finding Your Expert
Employing the Expert
Chapter Twelve: Give Them the Offer
Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Right
A Discussion of Value
How to Make an Irresistible Psychological Offer
Additional Tips for Presenting the Offer
Putting It All Together
SECTION THREE: FINESSING THE CLOSING
Chapter Thirteen: Provide an Authentic Message
Authentic Public Relations in the 21st Century
A Lie Is Not a Fix
Chapter Fourteen: Encourage Social Proof
Our Herdlike Mentality
The Psychology Behind Social Proof
Chapter Fifteen: Provide A Sense Of Value
It All Comes Down to Value
For What It’s Worth
Reframing the Value Conversation
Changing People’s Minds, One Customer at a Time . 221 Make it Good
Going Beyond Surface-Level Value
Chapter Sixteen: Provide A Call To Action And A Sense Of Urgency
Results Are What Matters
What We Have Learned
Make it Painless to Buy from You
Creating Your Call to Action
My fondest dedication to my father-in-law
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had the biggest mentor in my life be my father-in-law. His wisdom, experience, love, and belief in me have been a gift I will always cherish. A lot of what I speak about in this book is a direct reflection of what I either learned from him or what I formulated through our countless hours of discussing business, creating opportunities, and tackling challenges. My wish is that in some way you are inspired by the way he inspired me.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate the transformational value of this book is to share a personal story. This is the story of how the expertise behind the techniques in this book contributed immeasurably to the marketing success of a major enterprise.
At the Oreck Corporation, we were on the cusp of a new era. With our renowned and iconic Oreck 8lb upright vacuum, the company was poised to expand our direct-to- consumer model. The marketing goal: create an infomercial and direct-to-consumer campaign on television to introduce the industry-changing Oreck upright vacuum.
Huddled around a conference table at Oreck’s New Orleans headquarters was a phalanx of our marketing executives, along with our direct-response agency Script to Screen from California. Ken Kerry led the agency contingent. Oreck’s marketing team had done its homework on Script to Screen, determining that this was the agency to lead the charge of our sales juggernaut on television. We couldn’t have anticipated that, with each passing moment in the company of Ken and his team of marketing experts, our confidence in having made the right agency choice would grow exponentially.
Even though I’d been selling my vacuum for many years, Ken immediately earned my trust with his passion. In animated fashion, he preached that the best way to sell is to SHOW, not TELL. The beautiful simplicity of this philosophy was my guiding principle way back in my early days as the New York sales manager for RCA. There was no doubt that Ken and Oreck were on the right page.
Over the next six years, we collaborated on more than half a dozen rewarding direct-response campaigns for Oreck. It was an immensely lucrative partnership that generated record-setting sales for our company and launched us into new product categories.
Of course, true mettle and ingenuity are tested in times of adversity. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was unquestionably one such trial. An unprecedented event for both New Orleans and Oreck, the majority of our workforce was pummeled by the hurricane, as was our headquarters. It was a precarious time for the company. We were in a growth phase as our direct- response campaigns were beginning to gain traction, emerging as a significant element of our marketing mix. Promising future plans were on the drawing board. I remember thinking how important it was that Oreck keep advancing with our vision, notwithstanding the fact that Katrina’s merciless winds knocked the wind out of us but didn’t knock us out.
Ken and his committed team of professionals at Script to Screen showed their mettle and ingenuity when Oreck was rebounding from Katrina. This agency steered us through the tough times with an unflinching commitment to our business. Ken’s engagement and professionalism showed us that in business, as in life, relationships are what matter most.
From an emergency office in Dallas, we kept the Oreck wheels turning in a modest conference room. Oreck executives coordinated our next direct response campaign success with Ken and his team present over the phone. We stayed the course, applying the strategies and tactics that this very book details. Determination and commitment to the process with precise execution that Ken and Script to Screen laid out is what helped catapult us to marketing victory when we were up against the wall.
The take away here is that anyone who reads this book can change the fortunes of their company. Whether you are big or small, regardless of what you sell and where you sell it, this book is a roadmap to effective marketing that can transform your sales dramatically.
With the same commitment shown to Oreck over the years, Ken has laid out in detail how you can create a compelling message for your products and services. More importantly, he shares easy-to-follow techniques along with behind-the-scenes execution of some of the most stellar successes in the direct-to-consumer, direct- response field. This book represents rare wisdom from one of the best in the business. It should be required reading for every company and marketing professional keen to rocket-propel sales and boost customer acquisition.
Reading the results-oriented prescriptions in this book, though, are only valuable if you execute them. Ken has taken the guesswork out of your sales and marketing messages. The structured, proven methods are all laid out in this tremendous resource. All you need to do is absorb the information and apply it to your business or profession. Do yourself a favor; read it more than once and then formulate a plan to use Ken’s principles to earn the success that’s yours for the taking.
Consumer behavior is evolving every day. The key to adaptation is learning how to tell a compelling story and attract your customers, selling to them with authenticity and credibility. Learn how to SHOW not TELL with a proper framework that delivers.
You already have the book; what you need is the tenacity to see it through. Ken has shared the pearls of marketing wisdom to put you out front. It’s no less than what he has done for some of the most recognizable brands in the world.
All that’s left for you is put into practice Ken’s fundamentals; they have made Oreck, among many others, a resounding success.
Founder of the Oreck Corporation WW II Air Force Veteran
“Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into
some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it,
die for it, and you will find happiness that you had
thought could never be yours.””
~Dale Carnegie, American Author and Salesman
This book is about results. For over thirty years, my wife, Barbi, and I (yes, we really are named Ken and Barbi — I’ll tell the story later) developed billion-dollar marketing strategies for big brands with our infomercial agency, Script to Screen. No doubt you have heard of our clients: Comcast, Bose, Pfizer, Nescafe, Jenny Craig, Rubbermaid, Kraft, Nutrisystem, Estee Lauder, and AAA, to name a few. I don’t offer these names to brag. I’m providing them because doing so demonstrates one of the secrets I will soon share: perception matters, and one of the quickest and best ways to project expertise is to be associated with trusted authorities.
But back to Barbi and me. My wife and I weren’t always so successful. We had to learn everything we want to teach you through failures, setbacks, hard work, and flat-out figuring it out. Our story began in a modest office, with one computer, one phone, and our six-month-old daughter. With such a young child and little to fall back on, it was do-or-die crunch time. We left our TV network careers and went all in. If we were not successful, we were going to be in serious financial trouble.
It may sound crazy, but even though we desperately needed the money, we only wanted to work with companies wishing to bring good into the world. We wanted to sell products that improved the quality of people’s lives. Our risk paid off. Whether it was selling products to teach literacy or overcome health obstacles, Script to Screen has created marketing campaigns for companies desiring to help others. In spite of what crass materialists might tell you, the American Dream needn’t be a selfish one. Our loftiest aspirations, our greatest ambitions — can have a deeper purpose. Though avowed capitalists, Barbi and I have found a surprising truth: Business succeeds best when it uplifts lives, when it solves others’ problems.
If you picked up this book, you’ve no doubt found your purpose. It’s now up to us to deliver you a promise. It’s the same promise we offer to our clients. It’s no accident we picked the company tagline: the results agency. Long ago, Barbi and I realized talk is common. Too common, especially in the sales world. What’s exceptional is results. Throughout the following pages, we promise to provide you actionable insight, tactics, and tips to bring you the incredible successes of our clients. Of course, we got into business to make money and it helps to work with big name brands, but we don’t believe in merely servicing industry leaders. Why should they reap all the rewards of our knowledge? This guide is for everyone, regardless if you have no budget or immense capital. Whether you’re a CEO of a multi-million-dollar conglomerate or the entrepreneurial owner of a yoga studio, this material will expand your knowledge base, giving you crucial tools to bring you the results you crave.
Just like our process, our promise is simple. If you follow our suggestions and challenge yourself to implement what we know to bring results, you too can earn more revenue and live the life of your dreams. This book is designed to increase your sales, attract life-long customers, and grow your reputation. Our selling process is logical and results-driven. We teach you how your customer thinks and feels. This last part is crucial. As author Dale Carnegie once said, “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. We teach you how to utilize the elements of advertising that speak to these emotions.
Our system contains three major components, each of which logically builds upon the prior fundamental. Section One, Marketing Essentials, provides a ground floor of knowledge. Once you understand this basis, you will be ready to implement the tools of Section Two: The Marketing Results Process. Section Three: Finessing the Closing provides polishing tips to augment your marketing efforts to greatest success.
Barbi and I built our business by listening and learning from the best. We adapted to market conditions while sticking to the core of what we know works. Whether it involved selling K-Cups for Keurig, vacuums for Oreck, or home gyms for Crossbow, each commercial we produced offered us an instructional opportunity. In ways we will explore later, direct response marketing is perhaps the purest form of marketing. Much like, say, door-to-door sales, you have to get to your point quickly or your opportunity will be over and the customer will ask you to leave.
Media has vastly changed since we began in the marketing business. Nowadays, there are hundreds of channels and different platforms all competing for eyeballs and thousands — if not millions — of dollars. Over the years, we have had to devise an unassailable step-by-step approach to marketing that permits no digressions and no wasted time to close deals to keep up. If we didn’t achieve results for our clients, there was no next time. We had no choice with so much at stake. The upshot? Correctly utilizing our playbook will ensure your marketing efforts consistently work too, bringing your desired results.
Our world is rapidly transforming every day right before our eyes. Unprecedented technological wonders wow us with breakthroughs on a myriad of devices: personal computers, smartphones, tablets, and more. To be alive in this moment is exhilarating — and sometimes overwhelming. Though the tools and instruments we use are evolving daily, what hasn’t changed are the human motivations, desires, and fears compelling each of us. No matter what incredible vistas will open up tomorrow, no matter what new gadgets and platforms shall arise, the core ways in which we understand the world and ourselves will remain unchanged. Following this book’s prescriptions will elevate your business, allowing you to stay relevant no matter what the future brings.
Bombarded by endless information, we are the most media-savvy culture to ever exist. So much information threatens to numb us, forcing our BS-meter into overdrive. For younger generations in particular, a kind of content fatigue threatens to overwhelm decision-making abilities. As marketers in the digital and television space, we are aware of this challenge and therefore insist on a results-based approach grounded in engendering trust. Trust is what sells. Trust is what needs to be won time and again from your customers.
It’s no accident that Fortune 500 companies and big corporations are killing it. They already know what we wish to teach you. How do we know? Because we help them do it every single day. You may never know the names of these unsung heroes, but you witness the results of their ideas in the commercials you watch and the products you buy. The same holds true for our marketing agency. Perhaps you haven’t heard of Ken and Barbi, or Script to Screen, but undoubtedly, you’ve seen and felt the results of our work in the products we helped sell. After many years behind the scenes strategizing ways to make our clients successful, we are now offering bigger audiences our hard-earned wisdom to make them just as prosperous.
Ultimately, Barbi and I subscribe to the Simon Sinek approach to teaching. To us, the Why matters more than the How and the What. We certainly will provide you this
information, too, but more importantly, we will help you understand why you need to do all of the things we suggest. By reading this book, you will thoroughly understand why the marketing approaches we suggest work. More than anyone, we know a customer can’t trust a product until you show them it works, so we are going to do the same for you. Let us show you how our results process has brought billions of dollars in prosperity to businesses worldwide, and how it can work for your business too. Most of all we encourage you to take action. All the expertise and experience we share in this book can only bring you results if you roll up your sleeves and do the hard work.
I am beyond confident that what we will share with you in this book is not theory. Every lesson we impart is something we have either done for ourselves or for our clients. We are practitioners, not theorists. We don’t offer advice we think will be effective. I spend every minute of my working day executing successful strategies and tactics to continue to rise in our ever-changing world.
What we will share with you is as much of a psychological process as it is an emotional one. As consumers, we need to be shown step-by-step how a product can help us with our problems and desires. Broken down, selling and marketing is a logical process, but you must understand the nuances: This is the difference between success and failure. We titled this book, This Works Marketing, because our long-term clients who have reaped the benefits of our services, repeatedly have said to us, “Thank you … this really works!” Not only will you find practical advice in these pages, but you can also find more exercises, bonus material, and additional information at www.scripttoscreen.com/twmbook so you can continue receiving practical advice every step of the way. It’s incredibly rewarding to hear success stories tied to the content provided and I can’t wait to hear yours after reading this book.
As author Carroll Bryant has observed, there are three kinds of people in the world: People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who wonder what the hell happened. Which are you going to be?
THE FIVE MARKETING ESSENTIALS (SECRETS APPLICABLE TO ANY BUSINESS)
Chapter One: You Need to Grab Attention. Fast.
“Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.” ~ Seth Godin, Marketer
Overcoming Limited Attention Spans
Imagine your customers sitting in front of the TV with phone in hand. Between channel flipping and intermittently watching a show, they browse social media feeds and check e-mail. When they do glance up from their personal virtual world, they spend three to five seconds deciding if the TV content is interesting. If it doesn’t capture their attention, they have another ready distraction. On the other hand, if you can manage to grab their attention, they may just use their phone to call your onscreen number (or enter your URL and go straight to your website to investigate).
Of course, you may not engage (potential) customers via TV advertising. For instance, you may market your services via Facebook, Instagram, or numerous other channels. However, no matter your platform, you need to understand what the above phenomenon illustrates: human attention spans are dwindling. Blame streaming video. Blame social media. Blame the plurality of competing stimuli vying for our concentration. No matter the culprits, the consequences are the same. According to a 2015 study commissioned by Microsoft, people generally lose attention after eight seconds. Seriously. Even more disturbing, that’s one second less than a goldfish. After surveying brain activity of participants using electroencephalograms (EEGs), Canadian researchers determined that since the year 2000, the average attention span has markedly decreased. This conclusion has crucial implications no matter how we choose to market ourselves.
You know your business provides value. You love your products and know customers will too, if given the chance to discover them. But how can you get a potential customer to look up long enough to start the sales process? Begin with the awareness that attention- grabbing happens in mere seconds. To better assess this phenomenon, let’s return to TV. Again, though you may be reaching customers via other means, such as billboard advertising, it literally pays to understand how today’s audiences consume information. More than ever before, viewers schedule their days to watch a specific program at a specific time rather than plop in front of a television to catch whatever is on.
Knowing how precious attention is as a commodity, marketers will inundate viewers with ads during TV blocks. They aren’t about to let an opportunity slip. In fact, the whole time a program plays, promos for other shows will pop up in the right-hand corner. Why? It’s the same reason malls place sales placards in store windows to catch our wandering glance as we stroll along. Territorial guarding keeps captive audiences focused long enough to “get them in the tent.” Though this metaphor may sound antiquated — it refers to how carnival barkers used to entice passersby into their circus to see captivating spectacles, like Lionel the Lion-Faced Man — the idea still holds. Whether it is Aldo’s Shoes luring us in with promises of discounted footwear, or some silver-tongued orator convincing us to shell out our hard-earned pennies to see what’s inside the tent, the idea is the same: effective marketing converts when it successfully grabs customers’ attention.
What’s different from the olden days of marketing is the sheer number of competing stimuli, and the significant ways in which consumers’ attention spans have waned, a challenge to any advertiser. According to E-Marketer, nearly 75% of adults simultaneously use their phone while watching TV. If potential customers are texting and scrolling while engaging in an activity that formerly commanded total immersion, just imagine how distracted people are in all walks of life. In fact, a recent survey by Deloitte reported 81% of Americans spend time looking at their phones while dining out in restaurants.
Though phones certainly monopolize our attention, they are but one distraction. It’s important to realize that a whole host of diversions compete for coveted mind space at any given moment, including the weather, stresses, other people, traffic signals — the list goes on and on. The point is, your customer is being pulled in many directions at any time. Successful attention-grabbing, therefore, needs to happen quickly, otherwise potential customers will move on to the next thing, forgetting all about you.
To illustrate what to do to capture attention, let’s consider several Script to Screen marketing campaigns. Our client, Bose, specializes in high-end headphones and speakers for great listening experiences. Initially, Bose’s team came to us convinced that the best way to promote their speakers was to demonstrate their prowess through technical information. They wanted to explain the science behind their speakers using jargon only a handful of experts and musical aficionados might appreciate. While all of the information was true, it wasn’t compelling. Such specifics could serve as helpful behind-the-scenes fodder for a long-form magazine article, but it wouldn’t grab the attention of the average consumer flipping through channels, waiting for their NFL game to return.
At the time, Barbi and I knew we needed an instant attention-grabber for Bose’s demographic. We didn’t want to be another advertiser talking at viewers; we wanted them to engage and interact with people they recognized: people just like them. People who love Bose’s speakers. Setting up what we called an Experience Trailer, we invited strangers on the street to check out Bose products. Remembering how important it is to get customers into the tent (aka grab their attention) we convinced passersby to hear the magic inside.
The visual impact on listeners was undeniable. We caught reactions onscreen of them being blown away by the sound. Such authentic emotions intrigued TV viewers, making them pause before heading back to their game. Seeing stunned expressions on listeners coming out of the Experience Trailers, viewers had to know: how are these people so suddenly happy and impressed? What can I buy to experience this? Seeking answers to their questions, they kept watching. On the flip side, there’s no way these same viewers would have stuck around to watch our infomercial if we had led with scientific facts.
Speaking of science, let’s review another product initially marketed via technical evidence. Not long ago, Script to Screen was commissioned to promote a well- known, international skincare line. They possessed the #1 dermatology skin care brand in Europe and wanted to lead with an art gallery of faces in the opening of the commercial, which did not address the customer’s pain point.
When they suggested their idea, we told them we didn’t agree with the approach. Such a set-up was indeed impressive, but it didn’t belong at the top of the commercial; it was too generic and esoteric. The fact is consumers need to see how something benefits them within seconds. Similar to presenting Bose’s technical specs, we knew it would be better to deliver such information, not as an attention-grabber, but instead later in the commercial as an added benefit.
This time the client didn’t listen to us. This company was determined to do things their way, but we were determined, too. In fact, we were so certain we were right, we said, “Please allow us to create our own version to demonstrate our method can work more effectively.” The team from the beauty brand was game.
What happened? Their version was not as effective as they had hoped. It didn’t work for the exact reason we suggested. Afterward, the client came back to us, this time willing to try our version. Just like our experience with Bose, we knew we had to instantly grab attention on a visceral level. Just as importantly, we had to achieve such impact with powerful visuals. Instead of opening with an art gallery, we showed, not told, the results of the product. We began our commercial with reaction shots of users amazed at using the beauty products with before-and- after videos. Why this worked? We captured excited users loving how good it made them look. “Oh my gosh!” They gushed. “This is my face? This is the best thing ever!”
I am happy to report our ad performed better, not because it was a vindication of our approach, but because it happily led to success levels above the client’s expectations. As previously mentioned, people’s guards are always up, especially the younger generation’s. Millennials grew up with the Internet and YouTube, watching countless versions of commercials. They have been saturated with content. They don’t want to be sold to with facts and figures because they know those things can be easily manipulated. Instead, when something honest
and powerful grabs their attention on a core level, they gravitate toward it — as opposed to something long- winded and confusingly technical.
Here’s another example of an instructive attention- grabber technique we employed. This one also involved demonstrating dramatic before-and-after visuals. We used this approach in our advertisement for a product called the Perfecter Fusion Styler: a revolutionary hair tool for women delivering fullness to thin, frizzy, and lifeless hair using ionic technology developed by hair styling expert Maria McCool. Most importantly, when introducing our client’s product breakthrough, we compared it with traditional hair tools. Right away, we demonstrated how the Perfecter instantly created body and shine in a model’s hair; comparatively, traditional tools left hair dull and listless. Visually, the comparison was dramatic, and we executed it with razor-sharp intent.
As with Bose and the beauty brand, we could’ve easily used our airtime to explain how the product functioned, but this would not have been as effective. Remembering audience’s limited attention spans and desire for tangible, observable results to engender trust, we avoided leading with technical evidence. To get our customers in the tent, we knew we had to make a single point within the first pivotal seconds. If you can’t get them in the tent, you have almost no chance of making a sale.
Along similar lines, another example is found in our promotion of a new anti-frizz treatment called Absolute Frizz Control. We led by highlighting the fact that the product contained no chemicals. That was an important point because it’s common for people to believe chemicals make effective ingredients for a hair styling product. Yet, once we explained the benefits of an all-natural, chemical free product, as well as showed the undeniable results, we earned trust in the eyes of the consumer. As with all of these examples, it’s vital to avoid making too many technical points when first attempting to engage an audience. No matter what your platform when marketing, focus on ways to lead with emotionally-grabbing content, appealing to hearts over minds.
When devising your next advertisement, analyze your own viewing habits. What makes you stop channel surfing and listen for more than eight seconds to any person onscreen? Ask yourself: Is it because they appeal to your emotions? As we will soon discuss at length, the best products exist to solve a problem. Customers buying the anti-frizz product or beauty products gravitated to what we marketed because they couldn’t solve their frizzy hair problem or create their own skincare products. Seek out the root of your customer’s problem, then strategize how to show them the positive, emotional side effect of fixing it. Prove you’re the one who can solve their issue for them.
Create your attention-grabbing hook. When formulating your messaging, keep in mind the reasons you created your product. Ask yourself: How will this help people? Start your advertisement with those reasons. Most importantly, show these reasons. Think of all the ways you can visually demonstrate what you supply to help others, whether that is before-and-after photos, videos, or crowd- sourced images. Marry these visual aids with an intriguing statement or a question to hook audiences. For example, touch on a potential insecurity: “Tired of dull, frizzy hair?” If their answer is “yes,” they may keep watching. Of course, once you have hooked your audience, be sure you provide a well-thought-out solution, demonstrating usefulness through emotional appeals instead of technical explanations. (The latter can and should appear in the later portions of your messaging. First, you must get them in the tent — you must grab hold of that eight-second span and never let go.)
It’s vital to realize marketing is as integral to your business as the offered product or service itself. At the end of the day, we business owners are marketers. A reluctance to embrace marketing will doom any entrepreneurial endeavor no matter how great whatever it is you are offering. Individuals, like carnival barkers and sleazy marketers, may have tainted the perception of marketing for some, but it’s crucial to understand its need. Bottom line: without proper marketing, no one will buy your products and services. Not only must we embrace such a pragmatic mindset, but we also must be cognizant of our customers’ shrinking attention spans and structure our message accordingly.
It’s no good to hope people will wait around to hear our cleverness. If we don’t quickly hook audiences, they will go elsewhere, their valuable attention appropriated by the next distraction. Finally, if you are a business owner or a CMO, it’s key to understand 21st century marketing implications. Though you may not currently utilize TV advertising, perhaps due to budgetary concerns, it pays to be aware of video’s increasing prominence as an effective advertising medium. With the ubiquitous expansion of online and video technology, 80% of online content will soon exist in video format. If you are only marketing your business through text, be forewarned: You are marketing with one hand tied behind your back. One of the best ways to turn heads and garner attention is with a powerful burst of video. Utilized correctly, those crucial first three to five seconds could make all of the difference in achieving your desired marketing results.
EXERCISE: CREATE YOUR ATTENTION-GRABBER
You’ve learned how important it is to grab a customer’s attention as fast as possible. We also showed you how we used specific attention grabbers in our campaigns. Now it’s time for you to create your own.
Step 1: Sometimes you need to step back from your own product. Find someone who had a positive experience with what you’re selling. Ask them how they felt after using the product. Specifically, ask them questions relating to their emotional responses.
Step 2: Use their answers to craft the first line of your script. Implement a cause-and-effect relationship. How did they feel before using your product versus afterward? Use the former to start the advertisement. Then tell your audience how they can achieve the positive effect.
Step 3: Use visuals. Collect any pictures you have of consumers using the service or product. Use ones that chronicle a customer’s frustration transformed into a positive reaction. These will attract audiences with the same insecurities and problems; they will keep watching to learn how you can resolve them.
Chapter Two: Connect with Your Customer
“If there is one secret of success, it is the ability to get another person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.” ~Henry Ford, Industry Captain
Empathy: The Capacity for Vicarious Understanding
Human beings possess a special gift called empathy. Not only can we sense our own feelings, but we also can detect other people’s emotions. Empathy is at the core of all great art. The crux of any book or film is an attempt by the artist to tell the story of another individual’s experience. Witnessing the ups and downs of the characters, we feel their same emotions as the various events occur. In a sense, we vicariously go on the same journey as a character due to our emotional connection. Here’s a simple example: when a sympathetic character, such as Bambi, loses his mom, we feel sad for him. Similarly, when villains, such as Voldemort, prey upon the innocent in the Harry Potter books, we feel pity for the victims.
Understanding others’ feelings has allowed our civilization to flourish. It may seem so obvious it goes unnoticed, but nearly every aspect of our lives is constructed around our ability to recognize how others feel, whether it be doctors providing care to the sick, or restaurateurs feeding hungry patrons. Though some
marketing experts will suggest self-confidence will push through any sale, the truth is that discerning the way our customers feel will open more doors. Why this works? Businesses are in the trade of solving problems. When we understand what ails our customers we can better serve them, earning us more revenue.
Recognizing this fact, personal stories conveying authentic emotions are ideal to reach audiences. In a later chapter, we will delve into the mechanics of story-telling; for now, let’s explore why the personal story works. Principally, narratives allow customers a personal connection to a product or service. Being cognizant of this fact, Script to Screen tries to utilize a celebrity possessing an authentic story connected to the product we’re selling whenever possible. The reasoning behind this is two-fold.
First, in a world of short attention spans, a familiar face can grab attention quickly. Second, we believe a high- profile person sharing their personal story offers a positive association with a product. Why else would they put their reputation on the line? The same benefits apply to product developers and company founders. In some cases, which we will discuss later, the familiar face and the company developer are the same. These can be just as helpful as utilizing celebrity names because they imply a positive association: both are risking their reputation by putting their name stamp on an item. This kind of transparency earns customer trust.
However you might feel about celebrities and high- profile business names, they possess social cache and often elicit strong reactions. When we can find a way to show they were once in our customer’s shoes, struggling with the same problem, it helps connect a brand with an audience. Having someone with a known name say in effect, “I am just like you” reduces the divide between the message and the messenger. In the following stories, we’ll offer you instances of this empathy-producing phenomenon in effect. Certainly, you needn’t hire a celebrity for your own marketing. Having someone famous pitching your product or service is by no means a prerequisite for eliciting empathy. What’s always needed, however, is a person’s genuine problem and their genuine reaction to the solution.
Projecting Vulnerability Puts Us on the Same Level
Exhibiting vulnerability can feel risky and scary, even for celebrities used to having their personal lives dissected on TMZ. For the rest of us unaccustomed to the spotlight, admitting our weaknesses can be downright traumatizing. We wonder what people might say if they knew our dark secrets. Would they shun us? Would they want nothing to do with us? Surprisingly, offering such disclosures can actually bring the opposite effect of what we fear. Instead of pushing others away, it brings us closer. Often, the very people we worry about offending or disappointing with our vulnerability are touched by our courage. By declaring difficult truths, we are recognized as being honest and therefore trustworthy.
When it comes to seeking vulnerability in spokespeople, you needn’t be pushy or overzealous in your requests. Often, if this individual has a personal connection to your product or service, they will gladly share their experience to help others benefit from the solution. We refer to this as genuine reciprocity. Such openness, often occurring spontaneously, can work more effectively than the most polished script. For example, we maximized this concept when marketing Joan Rivers’ Great Hair Day. She did not want a random actor to demonstrate her hair product. Instead, she wished to
show others how it personally changed her life. Rather than delve into technical details, she bent down, revealing her own thinning hair. Being vulnerable enough to offer this “before” image instantly endeared her to potential customers. Similar to her raw standup routine, Rivers held nothing back, earning trust through her sincerity.
A different client, Jake Steinfeld, of Body by Jake did something similar with the infomercial we produced. Rather than telling audiences how fantastic his fitness equipment was, he talked about how it changed his life. Again, by using a personal story, he revealed how he knew what it was like to be “overweight, out of shape, and lacking confidence.” Vulnerably admitting this won over potential customers. Though Steinfeld may have captured viewers’ attention with his celebrity status, he earned their goodwill by proving he wasn’t just born with a magnificent body. He showed his audience he was just like them: someone who had to work for his image in the same way they could using his product.
Empathy works both ways. Many of Jake’s TV viewers could see themselves in how he described himself. Out of shape, overweight, self-conscious, or simply unfit, they glimpsed themselves in him and who they might be if they purchased and consistently used a Body by Jake machine. From the viewers’ point of view, understanding how Jake triumphed over his circumstances bolstered their resolve to change their own lives. Witnessing the results of Jake’s efforts convinced them they could achieve such success too because Jake already proved he was just like them.
In the same vein, Chuck Norris connected with audiences by divulging his personal story. Though most people associate Norris with his action star persona from the TV show, Texas Ranger, and movies, like Delta Force, he went against character when he opened up in the Total Gym infomercial we were hired to breathe life into. We shot and edited this infomercial to procure better results for our client.
Returning to the way others thought of Norris, he wisely realized he had the opportunity to smash people’s preconceptions by revealing his own challenges. Widely seen as an accomplished martial arts athlete, he flipped the narrative by telling his truth. Middle-age had caught up with Norris and he suffered a shoulder injury, preventing him from working out the way he used to and participating in sports. Onscreen, Norris revealed how he was forced to rehab and strengthen his shoulder to get back into shape and how Total Gym allowed him to stay active in a way that wouldn’t exacerbate his medical problem.
Like Steinfeld and Rivers, Norris’ willingness to reveal his truth earned him the audience’s trust. Other middle- aged men, especially former athletes, knew exactly what he was talking about when he opened up about his health issues. In fact, many of them had experienced something similar, whether it was blowing out a knee playing pick- up basketball or spraining an ankle during racquetball. Many guys in the same life stage suffering physical setbacks saw their own struggle in Norris’ story, making them more inclined to purchase Total Gym. A regular exercise regime meant the beginning of weight loss, muscle building, and a recapturing of their confidence. I am proud to report cultivating such empathy led to hundreds of millions of dollars in product sales.
To be sure, in all of these commercials Script to Screen didn’t merely rely on divulging personal stories from celebrities to win audience favor. We also utilized many of the other marketing elements we will discuss in the following chapters, including perceived experts and in- person demonstrations. However, it’s important not to understate the value of connecting with hearts and minds.
As the above examples demonstrate, authentic storytelling can close the gap between marketer and customer.
When it comes to advertising your own product/service, consider being vulnerable to similarly earn customer trust. Perhaps you are a dietician who found your calling because of your own weight struggle. Maybe you are a lawyer specializing in trusts because your own family suffered through a probate court nightmare. As the above examples illustrate, such firsthand experiences don’t merely suggest your product or service can do what you state, they prove it via your own personal narrative. If you don’t have such story, consider relating the narratives of your customers whose problems you solved. True-to-life success stories demonstrating vulnerability provide the best marketing results when they put the messenger in the audience’s shoes.
Harness Emotional Appeal
As previously stated by Dale Carnegie, emotion often overrides logic. Or as painter Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” Several centuries after the Enlightenment, most people like to think rationality guides their decision-making process. Instead of relying on intuition or gut feelings, we choose to believe facts and logic inform our choices.
In actuality, scientific evidence does not support this belief. In the 1970s, psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered cognitive biases demonstrating that humans often act in ways which defy logic. “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of the evidence but of the coherence of the story the mind has managed to construct,” wrote Kahneman. As Kahneman suggests, humans are hard-wired to understand life through stories. As the above examples illustrate, stories eliciting strong emotions work best when convincing people to know, like, and trust you.
Keeping this understanding in mind, it’s helpful to frame all of your marketing efforts through the prism of the emotional appeal instead of the rational one. As you will recall, we first examined this phenomenon with the beauty brand’s infomercial. Witnessing before-and-after pictures proved way more powerful than a commercial beginning with an art gallery. Now that we have observed the results of personal stories revealing vulnerability, let’s consider some of our successful campaigns built on eliciting strong emotions.
In the 1990s, Barney Adams was a custom club maker at a small public golf course in McKinney, Texas. People would come to the golf course where he owned his shop and he would custom fit them for clubs. Designing custom clubs on a one-to-one basis was somewhat profitable, but Barney wasn’t exactly killing it. Then, one day he had an inspired idea to solve his customers’ biggest golf problem: how to consistently and efficiently hit a ball with a long iron.
Until Barney invented his Tight Lies Fairway Wood, only advanced golfers were successful with a long iron because they were so difficult to use. A regular fairway wood requires perfect execution because the club’s design allows for only a small surface area for the ball to make contact. (This forces the golfer to hit it with perfect contact.) Knowing the average golfer doesn’t possess this level of skill, Barney ingeniously crafted a fairway wood with an upside-down design that increased the clubface’s surface area. The result? Barney’s invention was a godsend to beginning golfers.
Suddenly, even novices were improving their chances of making perfect contact with the ball, thus dramatically
improving their shots. Understandably, Barney’s customers loved his product. When enough of them said he had something special, he listened. He decided to directly sell his patented club through an infomercial we produced that told his story and the stories of exuberant golfers everywhere.
At the time, his major competition, Calloway and TaylorMade, were embroiled in a war for market share. Since they both manufactured their own equipment, each marketed the benefits of their clubs according to their own beliefs. Their respective marketing strategies largely consisted of explaining how they were technically different from their competition. But those efforts often lacked emotional appeal, namely why people should desire to own their clubs.
Golf is an emotional game, one revolving around that incredible feeling you get when you hit the perfect shot — one that lingers with you until the next time you play. If you can’t capture that emotion when selling, you’re making your job much more difficult on yourself. Our question to Barney when he met with us was: Where is the emotional driver? (No pun intended.) This was answered by the hundreds of golfers who wrote, emailed, and personally told Barney how his club enhanced their enjoyment of the game.
With Barney’s approval, we created an ad based on emotional appeal. We took golfers out to the driving range and let them try out his patented club. Capitalizing on showing rather than telling, we presented frustrated golfers (our target customers) suddenly excelling in their game with Barney’s club. Audiences at home could easily relate to the annoyed golfers performing badly before receiving access to the Tight Lies Fairway Wood. They were hooked by the ad because they too had been in the exact shoes of those golfers. They saw firsthand how much they stood to gain by purchasing Barney’s product.
Importantly, we limited science, fancy statistics, and esoteric jargon in our marketing efforts, using only what would validate a point. Though Barney’s product did involve a new technology, our commercial didn’t dwell on the details — it appealed to the emotional side of our customer, demonstrating how this club could bring them happiness. Bottom line: It promised to make golfers satisfied with their golf game. No wonder they bought the clubs in the millions.
On the other side of the emotional spectrum is sadness. When it comes to marketing results, there also is value to be had from eliciting this emotion. You can achieve a lot when taking someone from tears to cheers. Doing so establishes huge amounts of empathy, encouraging customers to know, like, and trust you. Barbi and I experienced this phenomenon firsthand with our first major client. In the mid-’90s we connected with Hooked on Phonics, a special organization with a worthy mission: teaching people of all ages how to read. We loved their objective and wanted to solve their marketing challenge: How do you make an effective commercial enticing people to read?
Back then, before Yelp, when the Internet was in its infancy, Barbi and I could see something other people couldn’t: the beginnings of a review-based economy. This epiphany became the cornerstone of the marketing philosophy we still use today. You can witness the review- based economy in action when you go on Yelp to learn the ranking of a business. A review-based economy suggests customers make their buying decisions based on trust. Treat someone well and your message will reach future customers. Similarly, if you show potential buyers the results of satisfied customers, they will be inclined to purchase from you. So, when it came to marketing Hooked
on Phonics, instead of doing the obvious thing — trying to convince people to buy this product — we took a different tactic. We went directly to Hooked on Phonics’ satisfied customers, the people whose lives it changed. We asked them why they bought it and what it did for them.
In doing so, we met Richard Martinek. Aged 57, Richard was a county tree trimmer. What no one knew back then—not even Richard’s close friends, not even Richard’s own children—was that Richard was illiterate. Being unable to read had shamed him for years. While our cameras were rolling, Richard told us his story. His whole life he had covered up the fact he couldn’t read. Only his wife knew his deepest secret. Just weeks before, on his birthday, he pretended to be too preoccupied to read a birthday card from his kids just so he wouldn’t be humiliated. Sensing Richard’s pending embarrassment, his wife grabbed the card and read aloud the note his children had written.
Richard revealed to us how illiteracy had compromised his life choices, limiting his dreams beyond tree-trimming. He and his wife began tearing up on camera as Richard divulged his truth. As Richard recounted this story, not only were he and his wife crying, but Barbi and I were, too. Then he told us how he had used Hooked on Phonics and for the first time could finally read. Tears of sadness changed to tears of joy for Richard as he told of his amazing experience.
This powerful moment taught Barbi and me something important. We realized the true value of emotional storytelling. Viewers, especially those suffering from problems reading — or those who knew someone with such a challenge — responded the same way we did. They were moved. Why this worked? Instead of trying to tell an audience all of the practical reasons they should buy Hooked on Phonics, we shared a touching story echoing their reality or the reality of someone they knew. To this day, helping people learn to read, from children to adults, has been one of our most gratifying selling experiences. Happily, Hooked on Phonics went on to become a #1 seller, selling millions of units.
Here’s another example of an emotionally powerful story affecting sales. Several years ago, Script to Script was involved with marketing a blender called the HealthMaster by Jack LaLanne. Unfortunately, LaLanne was known to the public as the “juice guy.” Though he was responsible for generating hundreds of millions of dollars promoting juicers, he did not have an emotional connection to this blender. Consequently, sales remained flat. The truth is customers can often detect when a big name is being used as just a big name. To sell the kinds of units Hooked on Phonics achieved with their campaign, we knew the person representing the brand needed to better connect with audiences. Viewers need to believe a spokesperson is just like them, experiencing a similar problem.
It just so happened that while I was on another commercial shoot, I met famed talk show host Montel Williams. While Montel and I chatted in his trailer, I happened to notice he carried a cold bag with four thermoses of green drinks inside. Curious, I asked about these. Montel is a wonderful man who can’t help but wear his emotions on his sleeve and he immediately got choked up telling me he was using them to naturally fight multiple sclerosis. Montel opened up, confessing he used to go to the gym twice a day but now could barely exercise. Though I had just met Montel, here he was bravely sharing his story. When tears came to his eyes, I couldn’t help but be affected too. Montel had vulnerably explained what this disease was doing to him — how it was impacting his life, and I was taken aback. Since the HealthMaster by Jack LaLanne was on my mind a lot in those days, I told him
about it, thinking the blender might offer him help in his fight against MS. He liked the idea and asked his nutritionist to implement the product into his routine.
Within no time, Montel received wonderful results from the product and could see how it could help others in the same situation. In fact, after that first meeting, Montel and I met in New York with the owner of HealthMaster by Jack LaLanne. Montel told both of us how much he believed in this product — how it had improved his life. His personal story was so powerful that the parent company of HealthMaster by Jack LaLanne recognized it would be better to have Montel become the new spokesperson. With Montel as the centerpiece of the new marketing campaign, the product was rebranded as simply HealthMaster and it went on to sell over a hundred million dollars in just a couple of years.
One personal connection and an authentic story turned a product on its last leg into a huge success. This is proof that emotion is a powerful selling tool. If you don’t use it, your competition will. However, you will always remain one step ahead of others when you choose to relate to people’s emotions, allowing you to better connect with them.
Empathizing and connecting with customers is already part of your natural skill set as a human being. Challenges arise when a customer becomes weary of you, not as a person, but as a salesperson. They may not want to share their problems with you if they think you’re only going to use their emotions to nab a profit. As we have already seen, if customers don’t share their problems or fears — if they aren’t willing to display vulnerability — you have fewer chances of genuinely connecting.
To avoid falling into this trap, make earning the sale your step two. First, you need to listen. Then you need to share your own story or someone else’s whom you helped. Offering this information can create a reciprocal relationship of vulnerability and empathy. When it comes to creating a commercial, begin with an emotional story: How can your product or service help someone on a personal level? Similarly, if you’re talking with someone one-on-one, ask them about their favorite products: How did these products help with their personal struggles? Do they still have some unresolved issue you can help fix? Whether it’s onscreen or face-to-face, you should be the one to open up first. Why did you have to make this product? Offer your own vulnerability to build trust. Securing this trust will lead to the monetary results you seek.
As human beings, we are endowed with the capacity to sense others’ feelings. Regardless of your budget, you can achieve great marketing results by capitalizing on empathy and finding ways to connect with your customer. Seeking to understand their problems and concerns from their perspective is ideal for offering them your solution, whether it be products or services. It can also be very helpful to relate your personal story or employ a spokesperson to convey theirs as long as it helps customers (and potential customers) feel as if you have been in their shoes.
Don’t be afraid of exhibiting vulnerability. Most often truthful declarations don’t push others away; instead, they build trust and trust is what lead to results,
especially in our review-based economy. On the whole, people tend to react more favorably to emotional appeals than to facts meant to convince the rational mind. When trying to determine what may be the best way to connect with an audience, consider Richard Martinek from the Hooked on Phonics story. Here is an example of a hugely successful commercial built on building trust through the power of an emotionally authentic narrative. Viewers became customers because we did the hard work of empathizing. We put ourselves in their shoes to consider what mattered to them. In the next chapter, we will build on this knowledge while also teaching you to distill your message to its most simplistic and potent form.
EXERCISE: CONNECT WITH YOUR CUSTOMER
To empathize with someone, you must first know what’s ailing them. Fortunately, in the virtual age, you can easily reach a large audience and gain feedback quickly.
Step 1: Take advantage of social media. Set aside one day each week to pose a question to your customers. If you’re selling a tool, ask your customers what irks them the most while working in their garages. Similarly, if you’re selling kitchenware, ask them what they use and why they love it (or hate it).
Step 2: Post the answers to your queries across all the platforms you can think of: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
Step 3: Interact with your customers. Thank them for sharing their responses, then ask them further questions if you receive especially interesting feedback. Now that you’re receiving customer stories, you have something to empathize with and build upon.
Step 4: If there’s a common thread to the types of problems you receive and you know a solution, offer it. If you don’t already have an e-mail newsletter, start one or write a blog with your own quick tips and tricks. All of this helpful info can drive traffic to your site and/or social media channels, boosting your sales.
Chapter Three: Keep It Simple
“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” ~Steve Jobs, Entrepreneur
Be Direct, Be Clear
If you confuse your customer, you lose your customer. While you may be an expert on what you’re selling, your customer is not. Often, when we are an authority on a topic, especially if we have been in an industry for a long time, we mistakenly believe others will understand the same complex jargon. This is a mistake. Instead of impressing customers, it can confuse them. Confusion thwarts sales, leading to customer paralysis and stagnant conversions.
In Chapter One, we discussed the new societal norm when it comes to receiving massive amounts of stimuli all the time. The reality of 21st century life is that we are continually bombarded with information. To illustrate this, think about your typical morning. If you are like most people, especially plugged-in business owners or working professionals, you sleep with your phone beside your bed. Upon waking, before actually talking to another human being, one of the first things you may do —even before getting out of bed — is check your phone for updates. Most likely, you will check for texts and emails, scroll through Facebook, and scan the morning headlines. Whether you also turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or both, as you go about your day, you are the recipient of a tremendous amount of data. The onslaught of so much content all the time can be overwhelming, leading to confusion and inaction.
Coupled with this phenomenon is the fact that more than ever, people possess complicated and fast-paced lives. To navigate through such complexity, it’s necessary to receive distilled information. Recognizing this fact, it’s easy to see that a simple message will save your busy customers precious time, leading to sales. This truth is at the core of all direct response marketing. In fact, our campaigns have been most successful when streamlining our message so customers could take quick, decisive action.
It’s Hard to Be Direct
Ironically, creating simple messaging can be a complex feat. The best marketers only make it seem like their messaging came easily. Here are just a few deceptively simple taglines that resonated in a big way with consumers throughout the last few decades:
Just do it. (Nike, 1988)
Can you hear me now? (Verizon, 2002)
Have it your way. (Burger King, 1993)
Got milk? (California Milk Processor Board, 1993)
Be All You Can Be (US Army, 1981)
As you can see, each of these messages contains few
words. The shortest tagline, “Got milk,” is a mere two words. Yet this phrase was the cornerstone of a powerful 20-year advertising campaign. Interviewed in Inc. Magazine, San Diego State University Marketing professor, George Belch, attributed the campaign’s success to its “dead simple” but galvanizing wording. “The message is: always have milk around,” Belch said. He also
pointed out the campaign’s actionable appeal. “It’s a question, and it has a motivational element to it. [Ad agency Gotby, Silverstein & Partners] knew that to make this thing work, they had to do something that was really focused on changing people’s behavior.”
Beyond the slogan’s brevity and emphasis on catalyzing action, it employs humor to great effect. Celebrities, from the tennis-playing Williams sisters to model Kate Moss, showed off their milk mustaches in television, billboard, and print ads. If the campaign had launched in the past 10 years, it’s easy to imagine it spawning user-generated memes of smiling people with their own milk mustache. Of course, not every simplistic ad needs to be funny. However, if an opportunity exists to utilize comedy, it can help a campaign garner traction. “Where’s the beef?” Wendy’s 1984 burger campaign is another example of a simple but comedic slogan that blew up after actress Clara Pellar said it in a TV ad.
Script to Screen may not employ humor in its marketing, but we understand the importance of creating succinct messaging. When advising campaigns for clients, Script to Screen often begins the conversation by explaining the need to write for an audience with a fifth- grade education level. This is not meant to be condescending in the slightest. I am not suggesting you dumb down your words or ideas to reach the general public. What I mean is that the most effective campaigns are built on sound bites and slogans that can be quickly understood and remembered by the widest slice of the population, no matter their background, experience, or knowledge. Conversely, fanciful and needlessly complex marketing language can result in barriers toward cognition, preventing audiences from grasping your value proposition and buying into your brand.
Throughout my 30-plus years in the marketing business, I have witnessed hundreds of presentations from product investors, developers, and advertising teams. Ready to hit the market, marketing teams often come supplied with a detailed analysis of their products’ functions and benefits. Whether via a PowerPoint demonstration or a prospectus, they infuse their literature with lengthy descriptions of features, processes, ingredients, mechanics, and other factors to demonstrate their offering’s uniqueness.
The cold reality is that no one cares. Not unless they have to. According to consumer psychologist Bart Schutz, we are slaves to our “reptilian brain.” Composed of the brain stem and cerebellum, our reptilian brains evolved to make snap decisions on survival and reproduction. Motivated by fear and avoidance of pain, neuroscience suggests our decision-making centers find value in what immediately promises to solve our problems. The way to influence the reptilian brain is not through complex analytics, but by evoking emotions. Bottom line: Technical information may be helpful in a general sense, but it doesn’t lead to action. Motivated by self-preservation, your customer wants to quickly know the precise information that will directly affect them now.
Along these same lines, my father-in-law, one of my greatest mentors, gave me advice on simplistic messaging that shaped my thinking.
A home developer and contractor, he made his living thinking like his customers, putting himself in their shoes. When it came to marketing, he advised me to never fall so in love with my own messaging that I forgot about my customer. Here’s how he put it in real estate terms: “If you build a house you like, the customer will recognize it and let you keep it.”
What he meant by this statement is that it’s imperative to get out of your own way when communicating. The last chapter was all about fostering empathy with your customers for a better connection. When creating your message, it’s also key to zero in on what most matters to them. Perhaps you own a lending agency offering low- interest mortgages to qualified borrowers. Does your potential clientele need you to demonstrate your deep knowledge of asset documentation and loan-to-value determinations in your ad? Probably not. What my father- in-law was suggesting is the importance of directing your marketing statement to the customer’s needs. Instead of showing off your knowledge with technical explanations, simplify your messaging so it unambiguously promises to solve their problem.
Not only should your messaging be simple, so should your company name and branding. We named our company Script to Screen because the title is self- explanatory; we produce commercials via scripts that will appear on every kind of screen customers can see. Similarly, our tagline is The Results Agency so we can unequivocally convey our value proposition to clients. Much thought went into creating both of these items. It was crucial for Barbi and me to create the shortest, most simplistic branding that helped people understand what we do and how we can help them.
Remember, ambiguity is the enemy of effective messaging. Since your company name and tagline will only involve a few words, it’s worth spending the time to get it right. Also, when creating your company name and/or tagline, focus on the benefits your company provides to customers — how you solve their problems. Be brief and to the point. If your current marketing efforts aren’t bringing you the results you desire, it may have something to do with your messaging and branding. If that’s the case, consider updating them. These will serve as the lead-in for your sales message, which needs to be just as simple and benefit-driven.
A Simplistic Sales Process
Let’s return to Total Gym to better understand how simplistic messaging can lead to big sales results. While Chuck Norris’ and model Christie Brinkley’s empathetic stories drove the commercial’s narrative for this product, the manner in which we presented the necessary information also propelled the high conversions. Based on a simple message, Total Gym’s ad ran for a whopping 15 years and the work we did added life to the campaign for the last two. Topping that, Total Gym sells for around $1,500, making it the longest-running infomercial for one of the highest-valued products in history. If you have seen the Total Gym, you know it is impressive machinery. Composed of chromed steel with a large sliding bench and multiple cables and pulleys, it folds up for easy storage.
Such a device can appear very complicated to the average consumer. So how did we make it simple? By informing the customer how it could benefit them, instead of explaining how it works. Here’s how we described it: “You work out using only your own body weight.” That was it. Now, imagine if we instead explained the angles, exercise options, ability levels, and body weight percentages. Our potential customer would have moved on to something simpler. With gym equipment, most consumers are only looking for an answer to this question: will this help me lose weight, build muscle, and/or tone my body? Answering this simply will assuage any reptilian
brain concerns. Essentially, the right message will simply state your solution to their problem.
As previously mentioned, we are constantly inundated with information. To obtain optimal results, follow this simplistic sales process:
1) Grab attention (by understanding a customer’s problem).
2) Get them in the door (with a simple message).
3) Get them out of the door (with a sale).
Simple Messaging in Action
The Oreck Corporation had been selling vacuums for 50 years before venturing into the air purifier game. At the time, Honeywell and other big-name brands dominated the market. Explaining how their product worked in a simple way continued to be a challenge for each company, yet this was key to sales. When Oreck CEO David Oreck, told us he was ready to compete with industry leaders for a market share of the air purifier market, we jumped at the chance, flying to Louisiana to meet with him and his marketing team. At the time, Oreck’s competitors utilized one of two kinds of technology: electrostatic or HEPA filters. Most consumers didn’t know what these terms meant, or the differences between them, and we were determined to cut through the confusion to deliver a potent message.
For hours, Script to Screen and Oreck’s team sat in front of a chalkboard, brainstorming ways to separate ourselves from our competition. To put ourselves into the mindset of our customer, we asked ourselves this question: What happens when the product is used? Then, we tried to understand the fundamentals of air purifying. Why do you circulate air? The reason is that if you move air through a cleaning mechanism, the mechanism will clean it. Recognizing this fact, we tried to distill this message into a short but meaningful phrase. The result was this tagline: “You have to move the air to clean the air.” We succeeded in condensing a complex scientific process into just seven words which even a fifth-grader could understand. Our breakthrough resulted in well over 75 million dollars in sales. Within one year, Oreck’s air purifier became the #1 selling purifier on TV.
Script to Screen cannot take all the credit for this profitable simplification, though. Much of the credit belongs to David Oreck, one of the kindest and most brilliant people I’ve ever met. Each time I have been in the room with him, I have been blown away by his wisdom and expertise. As lifelong learners, Barbi and I have been privileged to watch him in action. Once, in a vacuum selling strategy session, dozens of experts weighed in on ways to enhance his message. One by one, national sales executives, PR agents, and telemarketing experts pitched ideas, spouting facts, figures, and research.
Throughout it all, Mr. Oreck politely listened to everyone’s ideas, thoughtfully acknowledging them. At the end of the meeting, every feature and benefit of the vacuum had been addressed: it only weighed 8 pounds, it had incredible suction power, it had a flat design so it could go under furniture, it was hypo-allergenic, and the dust bag captured dust particles down to .08 microns.
At last, Mr. Oreck cleared his throat and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking. I created a vacuum that will make an unpopular chore easy, so the household head can get onto doing more important things, like taking care of her family.” After hours of discussing various marketing terms, mixed in with scientific points, Mr. Oreck had summarized his product’s benefit in one sentence. This experience was hugely instructive to Barbi and me. Here was a marketer who didn’t waste time boring people with
extensive features or long-winded claims. Instead, he helped his customers understand how his vacuum made their lives easier. Though there were lots of quality vacuums on the market with many more bells and whistles, this simple message of making cleaning easy with a lightweight 8lb vacuum, and one with superior suction power, resonated with the household decision- maker. It outsold the other vacuums on TV, proving your product doesn’t always have to be better if it’s attached to a simple, motivating message.
Our first task when discussing strategy with a new client is determining the simplest yet most powerful message. When it came to promoting Adams Golf, Script to Screen could have said: “This golf club possesses technology so advanced it will improve your shots by creating more velocity over a greater distance.” Instead, we streamlined the benefits. Our concise taglines were: “Longer, Straighter, Farther,” and “The most effective club from 185 yards you’ll ever swing.”
WeatherTec is another company we similarly helped with a simple message. Known for producing rubber mats for cars, this company wanted to enter the pet industry. Consequently, they invented a dog bowl with antibacterial components instead of the typical bacteria-ridden aluminum. When they asked for our input, we told them not to dwell on the technical. Instead of offering an educational lecture on germs, we suggested they direct their message toward their customers’ reptilian brains, focusing on emotional appeal. In a nutshell, their value proposition is protecting beloved pets. I know many pet owners who would gladly pay good money to keep their dogs disease-free. Therefore, we suggested simplifying the message to safeguarding your dog’s health. This, we knew, would get pet owners listening.
Another client, Meyer Corporation (and the makers of the Circulon Symmetry brand of cookware), chose their product name because the patented symmetrical, circular design made it easier to pick up food while cooking, scrub it off during cleaning, and speed up the cooking process. When the marketing team first sat down with us to strategize their approach, we asked them to describe their target customer. “Mothers,” they said. Mothers predominantly make the household decisions, cook for their families, and buy their products. Next, we asked what problem their product solved. They told us 365 days a year, three times a day: mothers have the same problem. They need to find ways to easily provide meals for their families. As soon as my team and I heard this, we were struck by the perfect name conveying their value proposition: The Circulon Solution. The company loved it because it simply explained what they offered: help to moms wishing to feed their loved ones.
Now it’s your turn. Write down the single most important point your customer should take away from your messaging. Think about the examples we discussed. Are you improving the quality of people’s lives by providing non-traditional gym equipment or helping customers perform a dreaded chore? Write down all your ideas. If you have a marketing team working for you, encourage everyone to get involved. When Script to Screen brainstorms, we ask our entire team to write down their ideas on a board in a think-tank space we jokingly call Area 51. It’s a secluded room with whiteboards on every
wall, bright colors, inspirational photos, competitors’ products, and a whole lot of energy.
Encourage a similarly fun atmosphere and set a cap for one hour of strategizing. You’ll be surprised what can result from collaboration and free-flow thinking. Once we’ve arrived at the top suggestions, our team tries to come to unanimous consent on the best one before sharing it with the client. You too should try to formulate powerful messaging your team buys into. Quick tip: Your new strong but simple messaging needs to be repeated continuously throughout your advertisement, and again and again, whenever possible.
When it comes to our business, an infomercial is repetitive by design to reinforce the message no matter when a person sees it. Don’t be afraid to use this proven structure. Repetition is ideal for generating brand awareness. Remember “Got Milk?” These simple two words, combined with supporting visuals, reinforced the campaign in audience’s minds for nearly 20 years.
In addition to finding ways to reiterate your messaging, it’s helpful to micro-target your ideal customer using the 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto Principle or the Law of the Vital Few. Roughly speaking, this idea suggests 80% of results derive from 20% of the causes. What this means for your business is that you should market the bulk of your marketing efforts toward those individuals or companies providing you the most revenue.
Here’s an example in action. My colleague owns a fitness center whose main source of clientele comes from corporate contracts. Only 10% to 20% of his customers are random people wanting to work out. Following this rule, he should, therefore, focus his messaging toward the corporations that earn him the most revenue. As opposed to producing commercials for individual gym memberships, it would behoove him to design ads centered around signing up corporate groups.
Accordingly, your next action step is to compose a list of customers or clients who earn you the most money. Look for a pattern indicating why these are your prized targets. For instance, if you are a partner at a law firm deriving most of your income assisting with mechanics’ liens, try to understand why this is. Perhaps it’s because you have a continual referral source; maybe it’s because this work comes most naturally to you and you can be more productive in this area. Once you have established the reason, refine your simplistic messaging so it addresses your prime demographic, offering unique ways in which you can solve your customers’ problems.
A simple marketing message cuts through the endless information we are exposed to every day. As discussed in the previous chapter, the most effective marketing succeeds through utilizing empathy: thinking like your customers and attempting to understand their needs. Once you have determined these needs, it’s important to sharpen your message so it explains why you can offer a value proposition to solve their problems. Though we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, the previous chapter illustrated that most humans are unduly affected by emotions. Consequently, the best way to reach customers is through messaging that appeals to their reptilian brain — solutions that make their lives easier.
Certainly, every product contains numerous positive features, but it is important to present the ones most beneficial to your main selling point. Keep your list of features short and repeat them in different, yet compelling ways throughout your advertising, whether that be through TV, radio, online, print, billboard, or some other medium. Now that we better understand the importance of simplistic, yet powerful messaging, it’s time to move onto the next chapter on obtaining and exuding expert status.
EXERCISE: CRAFT A SIMPLE, YET POWERFUL BRAND MESSAGE
It’s so important to be clear and direct with your messaging. The following exercise is meant to distill your company and its value proposition to its essentials. When you are done, you will have a better understanding of what to say to better connect with customers.
Step 1: Make a list of your five ideal customers. For instance, if you own a plumbing company, your ideal customer could be homeowners.
Step 2: Write five to ten sentences about what your company offers those ideal customers. (Feel free to be as long-winded and exhaustive with your explanations in this part.)
Step 3: Distill your answers into five power statements (the fewer words the better) that compellingly explain what you do and who you help.
Step 4: Last, condense the best aspects of your five power statements into one strong, concise tagline or slogan.
Chapter Four: Obtain Expert Status
“Perception is everything.” ~Lee Atwater, Political Consultant
We Now Live in a Review-Based Economy
People make their buying decisions based on knowing, liking, and trusting businesses. In today’s virtual business world, to “know” a business is to scroll through a website, to like it is to “like” it on social media sites, and to “trust” it is to read positive reviews and believe they are warranted. Welcome to the review-based economy. Now more than ever, consumers make decisions based on the thoughts, insights, and opinions of others revealed through online information vetted by the cyber community. For instance, a popular Facebook post with more likes attracts more readers, convincing people the content is worth their time.
Similarly, multiple Amazon 5-star reviews can earn the trust of a potential buyer. The thinking goes: If many others have already used this product and liked the experience, surely it’s wiser to heed their recommendations (or warnings, as the case may be), before making my own buying decisions. Why is this the case? As social creatures, human beings tend to follow the herd. Such mentality goes back to when our ancestors lived in the wild. If a predator, such as a lion, came upon a band of humans, stepping out of the pack — doing something independent and risky — could lead to injury or death. Nowadays, most of us don’t face such dire risks, yet the mentality persists. Monetary decisions, in particular, tend to lead to group conformity for the same reason our ancestors were reluctant to go it alone: Doing so can lead to mistakes and harm. Additionally, when it comes to money, the stakes are always high. Sure, they may not be as major as getting an arm chewed off by a hungry lion, but they can have grave implications. The fact is, no one likes to make a bad purchase and lose money. The more money on the line, the more this is true. Bottom line: Reviews minimize a customer’s fear of making the wrong decision.
Another aspect of the review-based economy has to do with empathy, a topic covered previously. Relying on someone else’s experience has much to do with our natural human impulse to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else. Doing so simplifies the decision-making process. Observing someone in similar circumstances decide something is a path worth pursuing gives us the trust to emulate their actions. Popular websites, like Yelp, utilize this mentality as the basis for their business model, spreading the Yelp-ization of every product or service worldwide. That means anything on the market can be reviewed and accordingly categorized based on its merits.
The elegant simplicity of Yelp is that it streamlines the review-based process by offering a forum for uncensored reviews. Whether positive or negative, consumers using a business’ services can rank their experience, allowing others to understand what they may encounter if they choose to work with them. Of course, Yelp and similar sites, such as Angie’s List, allow users to do much more than rank their experience with stars. It’s also possible to leave detailed comments and upload photos. These insights can be a gold mine for potential customers, allowing them to explore different facets of a business, determining whether they align with the experience they’re seeking. Does the restaurant’s ambiance match my aesthetic desire? Will the kitchen’s menu accommodate my dietary needs? Is the wait staff attentive or lacking? Reviews from past patrons offer “objective” crowd-sourced info on the businesses’ best or worst selling points.
The word “objective” in the previous sentence is worth examining. It seems to fly in the face of Yelp’s whole model that a reviewer would offer anything less than a subjective opinion. In a sense, this is true. Users are leaving their opinions. However, review-based sites, such as Yelp, work so well because of their presumed objectivity. Though not executed perfectly by any means, the crowd-sourced element behind these reviews is that regular people, with no skin in the game, offer unbiased reviews about their experience to others who may be considering using a potential business’ services. Unlike a company representative incentivized to convince you to buy their product or service, the idea is that this “person on the street” is giving you the truth. How this occurs in reality is muddy; however, the idea that users offer opinions without a financial stake in a company has earned the public’s trust in the review-based economy model. And as we have seen throughout this book, trust is the key to sales.
The Top Down vs. Bottom Up Gatekeeper Approach
Why have online reviews become so crucial to the consumer experience? To start, our culture has slowly undergone a change in who we trust. Before online reviews, we relied on cultural gatekeepers to educate us on a product’s worth. Editors of magazines, such as JD Powers, advertisements on television, and of course, celebrity endorsements, sought to convince us something was valuable based on their perceived expert status. These influencers told us what to think. This could be likened to a top-down approach.
Nowadays, with the rise of user-generated content, a bottom-up approach has flourished. Democratized reviews from actual users have supplanted the old guard. Instead of “elites” telling us what we should purchase, more often our peers influence our buying decisions. Such reviews can be your best or worst sales associate, depending on the tide of opinion. Serial entrepreneur Chris Campbell, in Entrepreneur magazine, explains that online reviews are the new social proof, which he describes as the “psychological phenomenon in which people follow the actions of others in an effort to reflect what is considered correct behavior for any given situation.” With this amount of influence, it’s important for business owners to understand reviews’ potential impact on customers and how they can rise above such noise.
Speaking of rising above the noise, it is important to understand reviews (and public feedback in general) have been embraced by the market and our culture because they foster trust. As stated, everyone wants to feel like they have made an informed buying decision. While it may seem odd to accomplish such a feat by turning to strangers online, more people are coming to the same conclusion: strangers have little to lose or gain by sharing their honest experience. The decline of so-called elite experts, coupled with the rise of user-generated peer critics, has ushered in a new phenomenon. Nowadays, it’s easier and easier to be perceived as an expert. If, as we have been saying all along, trust is paramount to obtaining sales, and customers trust experts, it logically follows that one of the best things you can do to achieve the results you seek is to be perceived as an expert.
Let’s review what we just learned about the review- based economy model. We tend to trust the opinions of virtual strangers because when enough of them collectively weigh in on a product/service we feel they must be right. The horde’s opinion in this instance may be likened to expertise. Why? Because when a group of people have used an item for sale and provided individual feedback to a forum, their collective thoughts may be thought of as “expert.” Yes, on a one-to-one basis, we may not put much stock into what a fellow consumer has to say. Lumped together, though, collective feedback can provide a general pattern, evoking trust.
Remembering that people are social creatures finding safety, or trust, in numbers, it follows that customers would rely on such metrics to make their buying decisions. With so much available information nowadays, we want an expert to guide us toward the smartest way to spend our hard-earned money, even if by “expert,” we mean the collective opinions of many users. Importantly, you, too, can (and should) achieve expert status, whether or not you sell products or services on the web or in real life. Over the years, even before the Internet came to prominence, Script to Screen recognized the supreme value of creating such a perception for our clients to help them earn more revenue. We recommend you also go after this coveted status for maximum results.
Let me give you two examples demonstrating how we utilized the review-based economy model. First, we employed the phrase, “5-star recommendation” when we marketed the Shark Ninja Vacuum several years ago. Nowadays it’s common to see this wording on everything from Amazon to Goodreads, however, back then no one else was using 5-star reviews as part of their social proof campaign.
The next example has to do with the beauty brand we discussed earlier. As you will recall, we at Script to Screen discouraged the company from opening the ad with an art gallery scene that didn’t address their customer’s problems. Of course, we later used this in the commercial, paired with a dermatologist recommendation. We knew this endorsement had value and heavily featured the message later on in their ad. Dermatologists are trained experts in the skincare field. Everyone knows they’ve studied for years to learn the optimal ways to maintain glowing, healthy skin. If medically trained professionals universally recommend such a product to their patients, it goes without saying it must indeed be special. Establishing amazing customer trust, this seal of approval confers major expert status, differentiating the beauty brand from its competition by leaps and bounds, leading to high volume sales. To get the best results for your own business, you, too, need to be considered an expert in your industry. Gaining such trust will open doors, exploding your income.
So how do you go about doing this?
Establish Authority Status
What if you don’t have the approval of an influential contingent of professionals? Whether you’re just starting out and don’t have others to vouch for you, or you haven’t yet attained the desired perception for your company, it’s possible to obtain expert status, swaying people’s opinions toward your brand. There are different ways to achieve expert status, but the quickest is to align yourself with an existing expert in your field. The key is to be associated with a respected person or known organization. Like the dermatologists who lined up behind the beauty brand, such an affiliation will confer trustworthy status upon you.
Let’s try this out with a hypothetical scenario. Imagine you are the owner of a yoga studio and you wish to cultivate an expert status. How might you go about doing so? Remembering what we already learned about empathy: First, put yourself in the shoes of your customers. Seek to understand what problems they might have that would draw them to your yoga classes. Perhaps it’s stress. In that case, determine how your yoga studio could solve this challenge. You happen to know that a consistent yoga practice can lower chronic pain and reduce tension. You learned such information by following experts in your field. The best way to gain the trust of potential yoga clients then, would be to associate yourself with the same highly regarded experts who gave you this knowledge.
Right away, you could include quotes from the American Osteopathic Association. Attributing evidence from their website to yours could bolster your health assertions. For instance, you could include the following statement from Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician. “The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.” Showcasing the link between an authority’s knowledge and the services you provide could help convince potential customers why you should be trusted to solve their problems.
Another one of our clients, Sowerwine Golf Solutions, knew they needed to instill the kind of trust we have been talking about in an infomercial for their new product, The Inside Approach Golf Training Aid. Though Sowerwine was already well known, this was a product no one had heard of, designed to improve a golfer’s swing and performance. Sowerwine knew the fastest way to cultivate the trust they needed to market it was to associate themselves with a golf expert. Therefore, we tapped Jack Nicklaus. For many people, even those unfamiliar with the sport, Nicklaus’ name is often the first that comes to mind. Nicklaus is widely perceived as one of the best players of all time, which, of course, means he has a great swing. Our thinking went: If someone like him believed in this product, so might the consumer.
However, you can’t just hire a spokesperson to tout your product, especially when their name is on the line. Trust, in this case, was a three-way street. Nicklaus had to use the product first and trust in Sowerwine’s promise. Nicklaus also had to trust Script to Screen would showcase him in a well-presented commercial. Over the years, our agency has earned an expert status of our own when it comes to marketing golf products, such as advertising for Adams Golf, Spalding, and TaylorMade. Therefore, Nicklaus did feel comfortable working with us. Holding up our end of the bargain, Script to Screen expertly filmed him testing the product with his legendary swing and declaring it worth it. What was the result of our shared expertise? Consumers trusted the commercial, Nicklaus, and The Inside Approach Golf Swing Trainer so much it sold hundreds of thousands of units.
Promoting and Gaining Customer Trust
Another way to promote expert trust is to portray people with related stories, even if they’re not a certified “expert.” Montel Williams, for example, is not a doctor but still was seen as a health and fitness expert in the Healthmaster campaign. Additionally, because of his personal experience fighting MS, he became our expert on how to live with a life-changing disease. Another version of a trusted “expert” could be an individual who has put in the time to develop insights based on their personal experience and/or hard work.
Our client, Joe Cross was just this person. Joe made the harrowing documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead when he weighed nearly 300 pounds. He filmed his transformation from a morbidly obese, disease-stricken man to a healthy and happy individual, drinking nothing but freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice. His audience devoured it all, no pun intended, and he earned their respect due to his hard work and perseverance on his weight loss journey. Though not a doctor or certified nutritionist, his personal narrative imbued Joe with authority status. After the documentary aired, a fleet of juicer companies lobbied to work with Joe, begging him to represent their product. After all, he was the authority on juicing—he had just lost 100 pounds.
With the advent of social media, influencers don’t necessarily need to be doctors or award-winning documentarians like Cross. In fact, the modern definition of a social media influencer is a specialized thought leader. These influencers set themselves apart by emphasizing communication with their followers, often through interacting on Facebook, Instagram, or some other digital medium. Whether or not these influencers are authors, coaches, professionals, or experts in some regard, they regularly provide a tangible relationship between the consumer and brand. For example, the company Boxed Water easily could have tapped a familiar celebrity to represent its product. Instead, the company devoted its resources to potential social media influencers, such as the National Forest Foundation, and other organizations aligned with its environmental conservation values. Boxed Water campaigned with images of forests and quotes from the foundation, sharing the hashtag #Retree via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, with the promise to plant to 1,000,000 trees by 2020.
While Boxed Water isn’t necessarily all about planting trees, the company combined its mission to save the world with the National Forest Foundation’s expert knowledge of tree-planting to spark a broader conversation, gaining a cross-section of new followers with environmentalist and outdoorsy interests. Cosmetics companies use similar tactics by sending beauty products to YouTube’s most popular beauty vloggers, such as Michelle Phan, for reviews or tutorials. At the expense of only a few free samples, it’s possible to earn similar influencers’ followings and expert perception from readymade audiences when it comes to your own business.
Ultimately, associating with someone who has a reputation of knowledge and authority in your field can be a tremendous asset to your credibility. Often, experts have undergone challenges, earned credentials, and tested products in their own lives. Their personal journeys have won the trust and respect of the masses, and the masses are much more likely to listen when they have something to say. Hopefully, that something will be a recommendation of your product or services.
Become an Influencer Now
While associating with industry leaders and experts is a fast way to earn consumer trust, you can go much further. Why not become an expert yourself? Yes, you too, can become an authority, a person whose opinions consumers value. Throughout this book, it may have sounded like I was tooting my own horn, but I have actually been demonstrating my experience in marketing.
These stories both showcase the importance of expert perception and boost my own standing as a thought- leader.
To become a thought leader, too, you must again begin with empathy. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, dreaming up ideas that will bring them value. Brainstorm what you are knowledgeable about, what products/services you can offer, then consider ways to share this information with others. In Marketing Land, influencer and blogger John Lincoln outlines a step-by- step process to become an influencer. He instructs: “Start with the basics of your focus area and master them by researching, theorizing, and experimenting.”
To witness this process in action, let’s revisit our yoga studio owner example. As you will recall, I suggested you align with experts, such as the American Osteopathic Association, to gain authority status at first. However, you could gain even more followers by mastering and broadcasting your own message. To be perceived as an expert, it’s ideal to pick one interest worth exploring, then offer ideas and advice. Imagine you picked chronic back pain as your subject and came up with a unique pain- reduction theory based on your knowledge and experience—in this case, years of practicing yoga. Following Lincoln’s advice, it would behoove you to research medical journals and other health experts for authorities to back up your assertions. Once you determined what you wanted to say and had evidence to support your idea, a great way to share your advice would be to write a book (such as the one you are reading now), or blogs. Such original content could provide excellent value for your potential customers. By passing along knowledge, audiences would begin to trust you more. As we have seen, the more customers trust you, the more likely they would be to sign up for your yoga classes.
Now that you understand how our review-based economy can dramatically affect the perception of your business, particularly online, it would be extremely helpful to familiarize yourself with sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, to build your expert reputation. If you haven’t already established a business page on one of these platforms, do so now to control the conversation.
Contact satisfied customers to request they leave favorable testimonials about their experience with your product or service. Remember, the overall feedback about a business online will confer a certain reputation, either positive or negative. You want to make sure it’s positive. Next, dive deep into the value proposition you provide to your customers. Once you know how you solve their problems, dream up innovative ways in which you could be viewed as an authority, either by aligning with experts in your field or by breaking out as a thought-leader in your own right.
With more than 30 years of direct response marketing experience, I have worked with multi-million-dollar organizations, yielding billions in sales. Recently, a pharmaceutical company contacted Script to Screen, requesting a consultation on how to better market their brand. I informed them our typical consultation fee included a $25,000 deposit to begin a campaign. How did they respond? Did they turn me down because my number was too high? No. Their reps arrived at my office with a check to learn from my experience. I could hardly imagine such a profitable result at the start of my career. However, thanks to the numerous examples I have shared of successful marketing campaigns for some of the biggest companies in the world, the pharmaceutical company was willing to pay.
You, too, can establish that level of credibility and charge a premium for your knowledge. If and when you do so, articles may cite you and businesses may pay you for consultations. It all cycles back to our review-based economy. If strangers who have paid to pick your brain have found success, then others are more likely to believe in your expertise and pay for it, too.
A word of caution is in order, though. It’s crucial to not fake your expertise. Do not exaggerate. Do not deceive your audience. In our brave new world, customers can fact-check your words with a few keystrokes. Deceiving is the single most dangerous thing you could do. It will undermine your customers’ trust in you forever. Instead, put in the effort, real effort, to earn your customers’ trust by offering them true and valuable knowledge. Solve problems for them, empowering them to make informed decisions based on your advice. They will thank you by remaining your loyal customers.
EXERCISE: SHOWCASE YOUR EXPERTISE
In addition to the principle of association, here are six methods you can use to wow your audience with what you know:
Step 1: Build a presence on social media. (In addition to utilizing Facebook and LinkedIn, consider posting in forums, such as Quora, where you can demonstrate expertise through a question-and-answer forum).
Step 2: Start and host a blog (excellent for creating brief, how-to guides on varied topics.)
Step 3: Post videos on multimedia sites, including YouTube and Vimeo.
Step 4: Conduct public-speaking sessions throughout your community. Think church, networking and professional groups, volunteering organizations, and so forth. (Be sure to also video your speaking engagements, editing for brevity, and post on sites like those discussed in #3.)
Step 5: Teach classes and workshops at your local community college or center. (Similar to the public-speaking sessions, video these to upload on social media).
Step 6: Form alliances by gathering testimonials and endorsements from reputable establishments and professionals (think of our American Osteopathic Association example).
Chapter Five: Tell A Story
“Storytelling is the game. It’s what we all do. It’s why Apple is Apple, it’s why Walt Disney built Disneyworld and it’s why Vince McMahon makes a billion dollars.” ~Gary Vaynerchuk, American Entrepreneur
Why Tell a Story?
I’ve already told you how important it is to grab a customer’s attention. The next step is keeping it. The best way to do this is through storytelling. We can sit through two hours in a theater because all of the different images and scenes fit within the puzzle of a narrative. If it’s a good movie, the pieces will fit well and we will understand the final image. If, however, the film consists of random talking heads without connecting scenes, seats are going to be empty. Unless we’re talking about French New Wave films, people don’t usually pay to see something they don’t understand. For reasons scientists cannot yet explain, our brains process information better when experiencing sequences of events that form a narrative pattern. It’s no wonder we tell nursery rhymes to children to help them make sense of the world. Not only do humans absorb meaning better this way, but it’s also easier to remember information when presented in story format.
From the Bible to daily newspaper headlines, the most effective transmission of ideas occurs when presented in a dramatic form involving characters, conflict, and resolution. Throughout the history of marketing, brands recognizing this fact have influenced customers in memorable campaigns. AT&T’s “Reach Out” commercials featured heart-warming stories of loved ones connecting long-distance. The Weight Watchers’ “Awaken Your Incredible” campaign offered stories tapping into the underlying reasons people diet. As evidenced by these memorable ads, audiences can better remember your brand if you take them on a narrative journey.
Though this may all sound touchy-feely, storytelling is grounded in scientific principles. Rachel Gillett of Fast Company explains: “A story activates parts in the brain that allow the listener to turn the story into their own ideas and experiences thanks to a process called neural coupling.” In addition, Gillett explains, the hormone, dopamine, is released during emotionally-charged experiences. When well-executed, stories can cause an emotional reaction in the viewer, leading to action. Of course, action is exactly what we want when marketing. Inducing action is key to getting customers into the tent.
Narrative Done Right
Super Bowl commercials often offer excellent examples of powerful story-based marketing. As everyone knows, this coveted airtime is expensive since this annual event draws in so many viewers. With stakes so high, companies must bring their “A game” to make a lasting impression. Time and again, the savvier ones use clever storytelling to capture attention. The best ads stand on their own, becoming highly-viewed YouTube videos long after the Super Bowl is over. In 2014, Budweiser produced a spot featuring a Clydesdale horse and a Golden Retriever puppy who grew up on a farm together and would do anything to be with each other, even running away from a new owner when the puppy gets adopted.
As discussed in Chapter Two, whenever possible, empathy should be used to connect with audiences. Commercials, such as Budweiser’s, that tap into core emotions, have a better chance of moving people. This campaign proved effective because of its commitment to story. At its core, this ad portrays an unlikely friendship. Budweiser bucked the typical beer commercial trend. Instead of showing a bunch of dudes hanging around a barbecue grille and drinking beer as we have seen so often, Budweiser conceived of a heartwarming story they (rightly) figured would get people talking with the #BestBuds hashtag.
Some marketers might criticize the ad’s subtlety. It’s a story about a dog and horse? What does that have to do with beer they might ask. To those naysayers, I ask in return, what is more memorable? Another ad about some beer’s low caloric count or a sweet tale starring animal pals? Besides, Budweiser’s creative team still managed to connect their brand at the end by using “Bud” as in beer, and “bud” as in friends. Additionally, by turning their tagline into a hashtag, they started a vibrant social media campaign. Followers made #BestBuds trend, commenting on the adorable commercial via Instagram and Twitter. Such user-generated content is helpful for many reasons, especially because it gets customers talking about the brand for free over and over again.
If you’re weary of commercials without explicit brand name recognition or product placement, you can still learn much from Coca-Cola. In the 2017, “Share a Coke Icebreaker” ad, the company also utilizes the power of story. The commercial begins on a sunny beach. A young guy nervously approaches a girl with two Cokes. Just as he approaches, a crowd of young guys (with more muscles and confidence) run up to the girl. One of them smiles as he hugs her. Embarrassed, our hero turns around, then stuffs the bottles in the sand beside a pair of unsuspecting beachgoers.
There’s a quick shot of the girl seeing this, then her male friends go back to their surfboards. The girl then approaches the bar where the original guy works to ask for two Cokes. He grabs them with a disappointed look on his face, thinking they’re meant for her and her “friend.” Instead, she hands one back to him, motioning for him to drink. They both smile as they take a sip. The ad ends with an overlay of text: “Share an Ice-Cold Coke.” They walk off into the sunset as she gives him a flirtatious nudge.
Why this works? Again, the heart of the ad’s story is something we can all connect with: unrequited love. Coke doesn’t hit the audience over the head with advertisement slogans or product features. Instead, we receive a simple story and a product image. We aren’t being sold on Coke; we’re being sold on the story. As a tagline, “Sharing a Coke” doesn’t so much suggest you should buy their drink. Instead, through an emotion-laden tale, it offers the promise of friendship and young love. On its face, this explanation may seem far-fetched, but it’s not. The marketers behind Coke know what they are doing. As any neurologist will attest, taking the time to create a story triggering an emotional reaction helps audiences better retain the message.
As these examples illustrate, your brand stands to benefit by using narrative in your marketing. Not only do stories captivate our attention, they keep us invested in learning information. After all, who doesn’t like a good story? With this in mind, let’s discuss our process for finding the story within the ad for one of our clients, Rubbermaid.
As we have learned, any good business exists to solve customers’ problems. Similarly, any good story contains a problem that needs to be solved by the protagonist. When Script to Screen was considering how to create a narrative for Rubbermaid, we sought to understand the product they wished to market: the FastTrack Organization System. When designing your own narrative, it’s a good idea to ask yourself the below questions. Knowing answers to the following can better equip you to offer your value proposition. Below are some typical questions and answers to give you an idea of what this process might entail using our experience with Rubbermaid as an example.
Question One: What problem do your target customers face?
Rubbermaid’s Answer: They lack garage space. Like so many of us, their garage does not just contain a vehicle or vehicles; it is crammed with everything, from children’s art projects to holiday decorations, to sporting goods, and gardening tools. Over the years, as a family accumulates things, they wind up in the garage. This mountain of possessions can take up so much space, it can be a headache to find anything, much less reach the car.
When answering this question for your target customer, put yourself in their shoes. Understanding what ails the people you seek to serve will allow you to not only create the best product or service, but it will help you understand how to position your messaging.
Question Two: What’s unique about your solution?
Rubbermaid’s Answer: We offer an organizational system that simplifies our customers’ lives. We know they can’t just knock down walls to create more space to put stuff. Instead, we provide a product that works using their walls. Our easy-to-use system de-clutters their garages by repurposing unused or misused space so everything can neatly fit. Not only that, it can support a range of household items, from one to 300 pounds, or one inch to 10 feet.
As David Oreck explained so succinctly in our meeting, messaging needn’t be complicated. Often the simpler the answer, the better. In this case, Rubbermaid’s solution makes people’s lives easier. Knowing it would be unaffordable or unfeasible for customers to expand their garage, they offered a product to transform their space for optimal storage capacity. When contemplating your own solution, it pays to think in similar terms. Ask yourself: how can I make people’s lives better? Again, the simpler the answer, the better.
Question Three: What will happen for the customer if I solve their problem?
Rubbermaid’s Answer: The FastTrack Organization System removes the clutter in our customers’ garages in a non-invasive way. Neither technicians nor a remodeling crew is needed to redesign the area to fit their storage needs. Easily installed and adaptable, our product is a one-time fix that continues to provide organization.
Again, it’s helpful to put yourself in place of your customer, imagining what life will look like upon utilizing your product or service. When it comes to storytelling,
presenting a positive future scenario is effective for visualization. For instance, imagining a clean, clutter-free garage might feel like a godsend to a frustrated mom who must climb over boxes to reach her car every morning.
Question Four: What would the resolution be if the customer bought your product?
Rubbermaid’s Answer: Buying and installing our product will lead to a simpler life. The before-and-after images of our happy customers say it all. Not only can they find items easily and store even more stuff than they thought possible, their garage looks nicer, reducing their stress and making them proud to show off a part of their house they previously avoided.
Thinking backward from this goal can be an ideal way to structure your messaging. Formulating a vision for how your customers’ lives will look after using your unique solution can help you come up with ways to establish your narrative. It all comes back to problem-solving. Positioning your brand as the solution to challenges your customers face can create a desire for your product.
Show, Don’t Tell
Answering these four questions was integral to creating Rubbermaid’s story. Knowing what solutions their product provided allowed us to establish an emotionally compelling narrative. We began by showing a dad entering his garage, looking for his children’s sports equipment. Overwhelmed by all the clutter, he said, “There has to be a better way.”
Most of our viewers could relate to having such a messy garage, therefore we showed the problem. Then we offered the solution, our client’s product. Instead of just saying how easy it was to install, we showed it was a cinch, convincing viewers they, too could install Rubbermaid’s solution with no fuss. Then we showed the dad walk back into the garage with everything in place. It was clean. It was tidy. It looked spectacular. This time when he looked for something, it was super easy, allowing audiences to picture such great results for themselves if they bought the product.
As you can see, we incorporated all of the questions from our checklist into our direct response commercial. After establishing our problem with a narrative capitalizing on a common frustration, we showed our client’s unique solution at work. Not only that, we portrayed how easy life could be once customers just like our viewing audience used the product. Our story demonstrated the benefits in a relatable way. Moreover, all of the above happened in real time with sympathetic characters in a realistic setting. It’s one thing to tell people your product or service can do what you say. It’s another to demonstrate it in action.
As stated, a crucial aspect of storytelling is its ability to make people feel something. The secret to any great narrative is it puts you in the place of the characters. Storytelling does the hard work of convincing because it offers something audiences can vicariously experience. Any great storyteller accomplishes this magic by putting you in the action. Besides that, showing rather than telling, reduces uncertainty. Instead of guessing or hoping a product or service will work, storytelling proves it does.
Another important storytelling component has to do with the way we use our senses to perceive the world. It has been my experience that people more readily believe what they see rather than what they hear. Also, the more senses you can involve in messaging, the more memorable the experience. My team and I observed this phenomenon with the Keurig taste test that I will soon discuss. In this commercial, audiences at home saw and heard how impressed the subjects were as they raved about the product.
Here’s another example of showing versus telling in action. Another client, Smileactives, offers an effective teeth-whitening product. Now, imagine if my team and I created a radio commercial for the client in which an announcer said, “Just think: your teeth could look six shades whiter in 30 days!” This wouldn’t be a terrible spot; it is putting an idea into consumers’ heads they can visualize. However, it’s better to show, not tell, this message in a way incorporating more of the senses. In fact, we did it. Using video showing satisfied users, we captured not only what six-shades-whiter teeth look like, but how our subjects’ new appearance made them feel in their own words. Just like the Rubbermaid example, showing positive results goes much further than telling what a product or service can do.
The Story Behind the Story, Part 1
I first found my love of storytelling in a fourth-grade classroom. I would zero in on an idea and write for what seemed like hours. In fact, I would often stay inside while the other kids were out at recess. I was afraid if I didn’t transfer all of the ideas in my head onto the paper, they would be lost forever. To this day I still have a notepad and pencil with me wherever I go.
Then, in the ninth grade, I took a TV Journalism class that absolutely mesmerized me. I realized I could use pictures and video to share the story I wanted to tell. It wasn’t until my athletic career in college did I realize I could use my firsthand experience as a football player to supplement my interest in television. As a player, you have a unique insight as to how offenses and defenses work. It’s a game of athletic chess. Each team is doing whatever possible to beat the other. This, in itself, creates the foundation for great storytelling, presenting the main characters, conflict, suspense, and resolution in a fast- paced, engaging way.
Later, when I became a TV video producer, I found new and innovative ways to present sports stories as they happened on the football field, basketball court, and baseball diamond. Whatever the sporting event, I had to identify the pictures and commentary to take the viewer on a journey. After years of telling these stories, I honed my skills and decided I could use these to move people to buy a product as a marketer. Again, I realized I could take the viewer on a journey: First, my team and I presented their problem, then we served up a unique solution. To prove the solution worked, my team and I constructed a visual demonstration. Then we validated our claims with customer testimonials and provided an irresistible offer while creating a sense of urgency. If you find ways to create stories following this same pattern, you too can create a similarly powerful selling message.
The Story Behind the Story, Part 2
As previously discussed, Script to Screen helped Barney Adams bring his golf club to millions. We already went over how we helped audiences understand his product was superior through simple but effective messaging. Now, let’s delve deeper into the story behind Barney Adams and how he came to Script to Screen. As I told you, years ago, Barney worked at a small public golf
course in McKinney, Texas, where he recognized a typical golfing problem. Most of his clients had difficulty hitting with a long iron. Knowing only advanced golfers could use a long iron effectively, he designed a product novices could use to elevate their game. His fairway wood featured an upside-down design. No longer did golfers need perfect execution; his clubs allowed them to go into the grass a little to hit the ball in a tight lie, thus reducing their scores.
What I didn’t tell you is that back in those days, Barney had little money. Nevertheless, he believed in his product. Every person he sold his club to raved about his product. They absolutely loved it. One day, Barney decided to risk it all. He drove out to California from Texas with the clubs in the trunk of his car. Barney had done his research and learned of our track record producing golf commercials. Nervous, he told me he leveraged everything to make a half-million-dollar advertisement with Script to Screen: his house, his business, everything. Needless to say, there was a lot of pressure on both of us. Barney was nervous, but so was I. I knew if my team and I didn’t pull off a dynamite commercial, Barney would lose it all.
Knowing how important experts are to gaining the right perception, we brought in the best in the business to execute a stellar commercial. We used Jack Whitaker, a sports commenter veteran, as our spokesman. We also hired Hank Haney (Tiger Woods’ former coach), and Bill Rogers (a professional golfer). Then we set about telling a powerful story. We showed novice golfers struggling with their swings to introduce the problem. Then we alleviated these frustrations with Barney’s invention, the solution.
Just like all of those people back in Texas told Barney, he really did have something special with his golf club. Narrative after narrative featured stunned novice golfers improving their scores. Barney’s risky investment paid off! Sales went through the roof. His club was a monster hit, selling millions of units. Soon, industry leaders, like Callaway and Taylormade, were paying attention. Barney had shaken the golf world to its foundation, forcing competitors to innovate to keep up with his colossal sales.
Now, let’s dissect the story I just told you. Not only did Script to Screen use narratives to show novice golfers how they could benefit from Barney’s product, I used classic storytelling elements in the story I just told you. First, I created empathy by showcasing Barney as an underdog. Here was a person with little money who risked it all on his passion. Then I added details to flesh out his committed character, such as how Barney drove to California from Texas with all his possessions in his truck. Hopefully, this made you root for him.
Conflict featured prominently in the story we I told to make you wonder what would happen next. Would Barney’s gamble pay off? Would he be successful in risking it all? More elements of conflict appeared in the ad. The novice golfers’ conflict had to do with their golf game. Beginners were frustrated with their swing until Barney appeared with his solution. Designing a club allowing golfers to nail their swing brought a positive resolution to the story. The simple message behind this tale showed, not told, consumers this product works. Together, all of these elements created an enticing advertisement. By doing the same thing — using story elements for greatest emotional appeal — you too can compel customers to buy your product or service.
Recognizing the importance of story was step one. Step two involves answering the Storytelling Checklist. Be sure to commit to words exactly what ails your target customer, how you can help them with your solution, how your product or service will affect their life, and what the resolution will be. Once you have this in place, keep thinking like your customer. Devise ways you can create a story mirroring their struggles, positioning your brand as the way to fix their problems.
Next, develop a video you can post on your website or social media channels in which your narrative shows, not tells, your target customers why they should work with you. If it’s too expensive to hire a team to make a video or shoot it yourself, create a blog or e-book to tell the story of a customer you helped. There are many ways you can share your message. Consider posting this story on your website or in brochures. No matter how you do it, the important thing is to start storytelling to convince people that they should work with you.
Whether it’s a five-minute video or a 30-second Facebook post, the bulk of your brand’s information can be best conveyed through an emotionally compelling story. Customers won’t remember facts and figures as easily as they will recall a moving story. The more personal the narrative, the better. Also, stories tend to resonate when involving more than one sense. Remember, anyone can tell you something — anyone can make an empty promise. What’s exceptional — what convinces people — is a narrative in which an audience can vicariously experience the emotions of the characters.
This concludes our first section covering the marketing essentials applicable to any business. With this solid foundation in place, we will explore the marketing results process, using case studies. Up next, we will examine the importance of understanding our customers’ problems. As we have already seen with storytelling, how we frame a problem, as well as our solution, can be instrumental in effective messaging. In order to obtain results, you must learn not only to be a salesperson, marketer, and expert but also how to be a problem solver. Only through resolving problems will your customer trust you and buy from you.
EXERCISE: DEVELOP YOUR STORY
By now, you’ve learned storytelling is an essential marketing tool. The following exercise is meant to help you brainstorm story ideas and learn how to tell an emotionally driven narrative.
Step 1: Read positive customer reviews for your product or service. Did anyone tell you a story? Could this story be shown visually? Would it work with dialogue or without?
Step 2: Using information from Step 1, write down five ideas for creating an emotional connection. Think of ways you could have emotion and empathy come through in testimonials.
Step 3: Reduce your ideas to one-sentence pitches. Try them out on friends, and co-workers. Are they interested in what happens to your character(s)? If so, create a video and market test it on social media.
THE MARKETING RESULTS PROCESS
Chapter Six: Identify the Problem
Solving Problems, B2C or B2B
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” ~Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
Though commerce often receives a bad rap as a selfish enterprise, it is beautifully altruistic in its own way. Michael Douglas gives a speech in the movie, Wall Street, in which he professes, “Greed is good.” In actuality, buying and selling do not occur in a vacuum in which only one person succeeds. At its heart, the business of business is a highly interconnected process that makes the world go around. So, what’s key to being a participant in this mutually beneficial system? Knowing this simple truth: businesses exist to solve problems.
Whether it’s business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C), capitalism flourishes when simplifying or improving lives. A computer manufacturer such as Dell provides monitors, keyboards, and processors to an escrow company, helping service real estate purchases and refinances. The local go-kart track alleviates family boredom on a Saturday afternoon. The accounting firm manages the books of manufacturers and distributors alike. The acupuncturist treats patients with chronic pain. The list goes on and on. Whenever a customer, whether it be a business or individual, seeks out a product or service, it’s to solve a problem. From a macro, philosophical level, life is messy, filled with ups and downs. No matter how great things are going, there is always trouble brewing. This is not meant to be pessimistic. It’s a fact that fresh challenges arise day in and day out for our fellow humans. Rather than greeting this reality with doom and gloom, let’s embrace it as an opportunity for commercial growth. Or as Kaihan Krippendorff from Fast Company writes, “Great companies solve problems that matter.”
Barbi and I realized the necessity of customer problem-solving when we started our company. Since then, our ongoing goal has been to tackle as many challenges as we can, from helping our clients market their products, to writing this book to benefit other businesses from our experiences. Returning to what we discussed in the previous chapter, Barney Adams came to Script to Screen with a problem. He needed to sell golf clubs. Barney’s customers also had a problem: they needed to lessen their high golf scores and poor shots.
Now, let’s consider this situation on a deeper level. Other problems can arise from having a bad golf swing, like poor self-esteem. After all, people say golf is all mental. Imagine how much stress it might cause an individual if their livelihood depended on making deals with clients over golf. Such concerns might even lead them to seek a therapist. Likewise, a faulty swing could lead to physical injury necessitating chiropractic treatment. Are you beginning to see how any cause-and-effect scenario could lead to a range of problems ripe for business solutions?
Beyond Barney Adams’ product, entire industries, from psychiatry to chiropractic care, could spring up to solve problems arising from something as simple as a bad golf swing. Returning to Fast Company’s Krippendorff, he suggests conceiving ways your company can swoop in to help beleaguered people: “Companies that survive, do so because the problem they exist to solve (their purpose or mission) is so big that there is still work to do. Longevity
is not a goal in itself; it is a by-product of taking on a big problem.”
Krippendorff goes on to cite predominantly B2C companies such as Purina that exist to “connect pets with people” and Google that exists to “organize the world’s information.” These organizations continue to enjoy marketplace longevity because they solve ongoing problems. “When will such missions be achieved?” Krippendorff asks. “Every day, and never, which is why, as long as they stick to and really live their missions, these companies will survive.” Think about your own industry. Is there any ongoing problem you could solve to position your company long-term? FYI: what you do needn’t relate to alleviating the travails of mediocre golfers. Why not help subpar tennis players improve their backhand?
Seriously though, businesses, not just customers, also rely on other businesses to solve their problems. By producing an infomercial for Barney Adams, we helped solve his problems and his clients. Yet at the same time, Script to Screen relied on other companies to solve our production needs, including those that manufacture the lights, cameras, and all the other technical necessities for a commercial shoot. Likewise, other businesses solved Barney’s initial problem when it came to generating a superior golf club. In our specialized global capitalistic system, it’s rare to find a manufacturer creating every aspect of a product on their own. Instead, as in Barney’s case, he sourced materials, such as metals, wood, and plastics for the clubs from different manufacturers, some as far away as China. It all goes back to what I said at the outset of this chapter: Capitalism doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Instead, it connects businesses to businesses so they become dependent on each other for survival and growth. Once orders began rolling in for Adams’ clubs, disparate companies became integrated. Metal manufacturers in China came to rely on purchases of Barney’s clubs upstream to earn the money they needed to thrive.
The interrelated nature of business we are discussing offers tremendous economic opportunities. Think about it. When we give value to not only a customer off the street but to numerous groups who may also reap financial rewards, more chances to earn revenue arise. That’s why we often hear that entrepreneurs are the catalyzing engine for job growth. Citing moguls such as Pierre Omidyar (eBay), Larry Ellison (Oracle), and Stelios Haji-Ioannou (easyJet), Alexander S. Kritikos of IZA World of Labor, writes, “Entrepreneurs often create new technologies, develop new products or process innovations and open up new markets.” If you’re truly creative about problem- solving, you too can market an array of products or services as solutions for multiple verticals, helping to keep our integrated economy afloat.
Interestingly, some savvy entrepreneurs leverage the complex business-to-business cycle into successful financial enterprises. Gigya, an Israeli data management company, helps some of the top U.S. businesses, including Walmart and Adidas, interact with customers online. Freeing Walmart to provide consumer goods at low prices, Gigya provides a B2B solution for an ancillary problem. Gigya handles customer relations, answering queries via social media sites. In a similar manner, When I Work solves managers’ time management headaches by providing employee scheduling algorithms for maximum productivity. These businesses take the problems of their customers (other businesses) seriously enough to create billion-dollar solutions. Bottom line: Never underestimate your reach; your business could not only benefit potential consumers but also other businesses.
Someone Else’s Problem
Whether aiding in the B2C or the BTB space, you will most likely encounter competitors. Countless start-ups launch every year, many vying for the same market containing individuals and businesses possessing the same problems. We will discuss how to highlight your unique solution in the next chapter, but for now, it’s best to first feel out your competition. Though we have been discussing the many altruistic aspects of capitalism, let’s not forget its competitive nature.
Consider Sun Tzu’s appeal in the Art of War: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Sun Tzu, the trusted battle strategist, would encourage you to conduct corporate reconnaissance. Knowing what you are up against will inform your decisions. I suggest asking a trusted associate or friend to sign up for your competitor’s services or products. Encourage this person to test the goods, whatever they may be. Once they have, ask them to provide you an analytical review: What worked well? What didn’t? Once you have this information, it’s time for your own analysis. Ask yourself: what can you do to improve what you offer?
The answers to these questions will help you determine not only what makes you different (and hopefully better) from your competition, but also provide you crucial insight on how to market yourself to capitalize on your strengths. When it comes to economic surveillance, don’t limit yourself to existing competitors. Research companies with similar products or services that went under. Seek to understand why they failed. Was the problem they sought to fix trivial? Think about the earlier Google example. Everyone needs information. Most of us don’t need pet rocks. Also, be sure to examine the approaches of failed companies. You might learn the problem was valid but the manner of solving it was flawed. Don’t be too discouraged to discover someone offering similar products or services. (In fact, be wary of the opposite. If no one is offering anything close to what you are, there may be a good reason.) When encountering competition, use the experience to your advantage. Learn from others’ mistakes to improve your own offerings.
To lay out these questions and answers in writing, we suggest using SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis. This is a tried-and- true business tool used to help any size business analyze its advantages and disadvantages. To be frank, you need to anticipate all threats from your competition to be successful. Let’s look at some questions used in the SWOT Analysis gathered by Mindtools:
What advantages does your organization have?
What do you do better than anyone else?
What is your unique selling point?
What do people in your market see as your strengths?
What could you improve?
What should you avoid?
What are people in your market likely to see as
What factors lose you sales?
What good opportunities can you spot?
What interesting trends are you aware of?
How is technology changing your business?
Are there new ways of producing your products?
What are your competitors developing? Is new technology making your product obsolete?
Is new competition coming?
Are your rivals improving their product offerings or
By physically writing down these questions and answers, you can see problems in your own business plan. Performing this analysis before a business launch will prevent problems in the long-run. You should also do this exercise regularly, and with other employees or colleagues—their perspective may uncover solutions you wouldn’t have arrived at otherwise. By anticipating problems, you can also create backup plans. What if your competition creates a message almost identical to yours? Taunts you with similar price points? Have Plan B and C ready to ensure you will consistently stand out amongst the others.
On the Ground Reality
There’s a well-known saying: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” The sales process, whether it be via a salesperson knocking on your front door, or a customer clicking on a Facebook ad, drives our global economy. However, such lofty thoughts are not usually on a consumer’s mind when making a purchasing decision. In fact, in our advertisement-saturated world, sellers often have a difficult time connecting with buyers. The truth is many customers treat sales people poorly. They shut doors on them. They hang up on them.
Though the sales process can be discouraging and downright grueling, the way to rise above your competition is to utilize empathy before diagnosing a customer problem you may be able to solve. Buying and selling are interconnected. People need solutions to their problems and are willing to exchange good money to improve their lives. Whenever discouraged, remind yourself to take pride in this interconnected process as someone who makes the world a better place. A successful problem-solver does not assume he or she understands everyone’s problems. However, with a little effort, it’s possible to learn what really matters to your customer. Let’s find out how.
People Like to Talk About Their Problems
Once you are comfortable with a customer, ask him or her about their problems. This information will give you new ideas about how to better market your product or service. It can lead to a great sales angle, helpful statistics for your messaging, or the ideal spokesperson. As discussed, Richard Martinek, the middle-aged man suffering from illiteracy, proved to be a sympathetic spokesperson for our client, Hooked on Phonics. Upon interviewing him to understand how our client’s product solved his reading problem, we learned his powerful story. Martinek worked so well in our ad because he exemplified the type of customer whose life was positively impacted by the product.
To understand how you can apply such fact-finding tactics to promote your business, let’s examine how we came to understand Hooked on Phonics’ value proposition or the problem they solved. First of all, we could have gone the easy route. We could have taken some pleasing snapshots of the product, matched them with images of smiling children, then commissioned a narrator to tell the audience how Hooked on Phonics helps people read. That’s what lots of advertisers do. They slap together happy images of satisfied customers and tell you why you should buy from them.
That’s not what we did. Why not? Barbi and I don’t believe this superficial approach works. Moreover, back in those days, our backs were against the wall financially. We needed to hit a home run with this campaign. Therefore, we really sought to get inside the minds of our client’s customers. In fact, we told Hooked on Phonics we wanted to speak to their customers directly. We wanted to learn their problems. Here are just a few in their own words:
“I am illiterate at age 40.”
“My child can’t read.”
“I have always struggled to read.”
Personally meeting customers allows you to tap into their concerns. The more time you spend exploring people’s stories, the more diverse answers you will receive, allowing you to tailor both your offerings and your message. Here is another example of a person we spoke to. A mother of two explained to us that her younger child sped through school workbooks. As soon as she finished one, she would ask for the next. However, the woman’s other daughter suffered from reading challenges. It took her a long time just to get through one lesson. Her daughter would get frustrated and dreaded the sight of homework.
The mother then told us how Hooked on Phonics helped her struggling child get through lessons without ending up in tears. She liked to draw and became mesmerized by the sketches in the Hooked on Phonics’ workbooks because the kids looked just like her. By speaking to this mom, Barbi and I not only learned of her own frustrations, but we also learned about those of her child. We gained two new perspectives through one story. This eye-opening experience gave us details for the commercial we may never have thought of including ourselves because we weren’t looking at the situation from this mother or this child’s perspective.
Bottom line: going straight to your customers for feedback will give you an invaluable edge. Too many marketing departments and executives myopically rely on their own insights, discounting the perspectives of the people they are supposed to be serving. It goes back to what my father-in-law said: “If you build a house you like, the consumer will recognize it and let you keep it.” Don’t be afraid to ask customers why they latched onto your product. Individuals are more likely to speak about previous issues when they have already solved them. Also, talking to customers eliminates needless jargon and technical details. Why this works? Instead of getting stuck in some marketing echo chamber, you get to hear what your audience truly cares about firsthand. This information can make all of the difference when it comes to generating sales results. Now let’s talk about asking the right questions.
Fine-Tuning the Listening Process
As evidenced by Hooked on Phonics, customer interviews can provide a variety of answers to enliven your messaging. You might also notice reoccurring problems to address in your ads. Once you find the right questions, you’ll be amazed at the answers you receive. Sometimes I’ll ask a client a “what” question, such as: “What gives them fulfillment?” When I do, the energy in the entire room shifts. You can feel it. People love talking about themselves. It may sound odd, but after chatting for a while with little input from me except questions, the person I am interviewing will often turn to me and say, “I really got a chance to know you.” The truth is I didn’t tell them much about me at all. It only felt like I did because I
listened to them so intently. Even so, they did learn something about me: I am genuinely interested in other people. If you ask open-ended questions you genuinely wish answered, the person you are talking to will recognize your sincerity and appreciate it. When people know you care about talking to them, they’re more likely to reciprocate.
You may find this advice also extends to networking or social situations. Many times, business owners or company representatives think the thing to do at a mixer is to dominate the conversation. Big mistake. Talking about yourself is not as likely to impress others as much as listening will. Besides, what good does it do you to blab about yourself when you could better spend your time learning someone else’s problems? As we have seen throughout this book, the more you know about what vexes someone, the easier it is to sell to them. Also, you never know who people know and how they might help you in the future. By taking an interest in someone else, you could land a sale or win a devoted partner eager to help you solve your own problems.
In the end, conducting interviews and genuinely getting to know your customers, future clients, and/or business associates can only benefit you. It is important to realize that the most important listener at the end of the day is your next customer. What I mean by that is the information you obtain from an interview subject or a colleague you meet at a mixer can and should impact the way you market to future customers. Discovering the personal struggles of others informs the best messaging. Knowledge is power. When you know what ails someone else you can create the solution to get their business, succeeding in our interconnected economy.
Recognizing that capitalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is imperative to leave the office and go directly to your customers. Avoid vague market-testing and so-called experts (whether internal or external). Instead, go to the source. Ask your best customers about their problems and how you can solve them. But, don’t stop there. Determine your competition, then find out if they are solving the same problems with the same solutions. Once armed with this knowledge, position your messaging to zero in on the vital issues your customers face, positioning your product to be the solution. When it comes to designing your messaging, remember Richard Martinek from Hooked on Phonics. Put the person whose problem you solved front and center. Customers need to know how you helped someone just like them.
Similar to how business owners relate to other business owners, customers relate to other customers. Provide them with real, emotion-driven stories to connect them to your product or service. Look to your customers to discover how versatile your offerings really are. Also, consider incentivizing customers with free products as tests to gain more knowledge. Many companies offer swag to online reviewers for honest opinions. Listen to these individuals to imagine what you can highlight in your next ad or improve in the future.
Customers rely on businesses to solve their problems and businesses rely on other businesses to solve their problems. With this in mind, streamlining powerful sales messaging becomes simpler. The act of brainstorming everything you know your product or service accomplishes
enables you to better convey your value proposition to customers. Similarly, asking “why” questions fosters crucial insight as to how to position your brand. The best marketers don’t talk about themselves. They listen to others, especially customers, and use these stories to create effective messaging.
We’ve discussed a lot of problems. Now let’s focus on solutions. In the next chapter, we will explore how your product should offer an original, unique answer to your customer’s problem. Your solution is what will make you stand out amongst your competition.
EXERCISE: IDENTIFYING/UTILIZING CUSTOMER PROBLEMS
I encourage you to directly speak to your customers about their experiences. After this exercise, you will have a better understanding of what to ask to get the most thoughtful answers and how to use such information.
Step 1: Make a list of what you know your product offers customers. Ask yourself the cause-and-effect of these solutions (i.e. poor golf swing → poor self-esteem/injury, etc.)
Step 2: Write down fiver specific questions you could ask your customers about how your product or service helped them (i.e. How does it fit into their weekly routine? What was life like before using your solution?)
Step 3: Use this information. Ask the interviewee if you can capture them on video discussing their problem and how you fixed it. Use this very specific info in your next ad.
Chapter Seven: Provide Your Unique Solution
“To succeed in business, you need to be original, but you also need to understand what your customers want.” ~Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group
Your Promise to Customers
Whenever my agency approaches a new client, we ask four questions:
1. What is your product or service?
2. What does it do?
3. How does it do it?
4. Why do I need it?
The answers to these questions will provide you with your unique solution. Understanding how your product or service works, and how it will deliver on its promise, shortcuts the marketing process. Customers need reasons to believe your product or service is better than the alternative in order to buy into what you offer. While price is a significant factor in any transaction, monetary considerations are not enough to win over people. Your messaging needs to convince audiences of your specialness. A unique solution is key to separating yourself from your competition.
I will give you an example of this in action. When it comes to Script to Screen, our value proposition or unique solution is our 30-plus years as market share leaders attaining high-performance results. In the field of advertising, especially performance-response advertising, this depth of experience is uncommon. Many of our competitors have gone out of business or left the industry since we began decades ago. Of course, there are many well-known advertising agencies in Orange County. If we advertised ourselves as the best, we would be competing with many others with similar taglines. Instead, knowing one of our distinctive selling points is our many years of direct marketing experience, we emphasize this information to differentiate ourselves.
When Barbi and I were coming up in the business world, we were a lot like the many clients we have come to help. In a moment I will share with you some missteps that have informed my tips and suggestions. For now, let me say I was eager to write this book because I know Barbi and I could have benefited from such a guide when we were starting out. Though we had the help of great mentors, such as my father-in-law, we had to learn a lot the hard way. As may be the case with you, we were not financially secure at the time, so every little wrong move had gigantic implications. If we screwed up, our decisions would not only affect our lives but also our family.
Still, like many of you, Barbi and I had the entrepreneurial bug. Pushing past our fears, we put everything on the line to build the life we envisioned. Such risk-taking gave us a special perspective. When meeting with gutsy business owners such as Barney Adams, who are leveraging everything for their one big shot at greatness, we could empathize. We have walked the talk, giving us more value to companies hungry to break through with their marketing. We take the dreams of our clients (and you, our readers) very seriously. Whether it be pitching our services to billion-dollar brands or taking meetings with start-ups offering the next big thing, we can offer level-headed advice backed by our many setbacks and triumphs.
Paying Our Dues
Beyond our longevity and entrepreneurial experience, Script to Screen has another unique solution. Led by a husband and wife team, our company possesses two different, yet complementary minds. Until now, I have mostly talked about myself throughout these pages. In order to bring this story full circle, it is time I told you about my better half and the tremendous value she brings to our organization. You may be wondering how it came to be that two people named Ken and Barbi ever got together. As you might expect, it all began on a TV station.
Back in those days, I was a recent graduate with a degree in telecommunications and journalism. A former college football player, I leaped at the chance to direct live sporting events. My first industry job involved working as a production assistant for ABC Sports, making $50 a day. Even though this was in 1986, this amount was nowhere near enough to sustain myself, so at night I waited tables and did midnight hotel security. During the day, I got coffee, picked up people from the airport, did production errands and guarded outhouses at sporting events for the network announcing teams of Al Michaels, John Madden, and Pat Summerall. During this time, I also gained tremendous experience, traveling the world and learning the ins and outs of live television production. After two years, I earned the opportunity to work with a producer to create roll-in sequences for a live show. (Basically, someone had enough faith in me to say, “Don’t screw this up.” I didn’t.) I worked closely with the production department, camera crew, and announcer, executing the full package.
When my segment aired, no one complained, so I took that as a big pat on the back. It also landed me a job producing golf shows for KDOC-TV, an independent station in the Los Angeles market. This station was small and local, but it was in my field, and I knew it would benefit me to work there. As fate would have it, it helped me in ways far more fulfilling than a career. One night at the station I noticed a certain female host reporting on L.A. Rams, Raiders, and Dodgers games. She was smart, confident, and beautiful. Without a doubt, I knew I had to meet her.
The next time she came in to speak with a producer I was there. She didn’t notice me, though. As soon as she left, I asked the producer if he could introduce us sometime. The moment the producer told her my name, she shook her head. She told me Barbi would never date a Ken. She didn’t even want to meet a Ken. Undeterred, I tried my hardest to be in the same room with Barbi again so I could to strike up a conversation. I even considered telling people to call me a different name. Luckily, before that happened, Barbi agreed to go out with me.
Barbi and I were in our mid-twenties when we met, and we shared many interests and many frustrations regarding our industry. She had been doing on-camera work for a few years, taping hundreds of shows, but felt burnt out and had a desire to contribute more to society. I was working whenever I could with ABC Sports while pursuing directorial positions. Though I oversaw many live collegiate events, the chances of me directing National Football League or Major League Baseball games were slim. I just did not have the tenure necessary to land a network directorial position. That would take decades. Since we were both dedicated to our professions, spending countless hours crafting our expertise, the truth was finding personal time together was hard. Back when we were dating, I would work late-night shifts at a hotel or the TV station, so finding time to be together was a challenge. We liked being in the same industry yet knew we wanted to build something together — something ours.
The Rise of Infomercials & Our First Product
Infomercials exploded into the American consciousness in the 1980s. In 1984, Reagan deregulated commercial airtime. Networks were no longer required to sell only 30 and 15 seconds of advertising time. Instead, they could cut up the broadcast segments into 30-minute increments, paving the way for infomercials. For the first time, networks had the option to make big advertising dollars off the unsold or undervalued blocks of broadcasting time. Faced with the choice of rerunning episodes of Gunsmoke for little money or selling airtime slots to infomercials for major profit, many opted for the latter. Since Barbi and I were closely tied to television stations, we discovered they were making unbelievable profits based on the new arrangement.
Blame it on our youth, naiveté, or the fact we worked in TV, Barbi and I knew in our hearts we could produce better infomercials than the ones airing. The first product we ended up advertising involved someone near and dear to both of us. While dating Barbi, I became close to her family, especially her father. A self-made businessman, he rose to the top through integrity, marketing expertise, and positive thinking. My own father died when I was young, so I didn’t have much of a positive male role model. Barbi’s dad began to fill this role in my life. Consistently advocating the importance of a positive attitude, he helped me believe this quality could open life’s doors.
In fact, his influence affected me so much, it led to our first infomercial product. Barbi and I decided to record his positive affirmations as part of a series of motivational tapes. After extensive research on the best ways to present the information (repetition and osmosis), we created a line of products called Mental Dynamics and the infomercial to sell it. Unfortunately, it bombed. Nine months of preparation, creation, and hundreds of thousands of investor dollars later, we had little to show for our efforts. This experience taught us the hard way why they call it an infomercial: information in a commercial. Not knowing the distinction back then, we had created ads with more information than commercial. Not good!
The capital we lost came from Barbi’s father and his business associates. To understand how rough things were back then, picture this: Barbi and I weren’t even married yet. Needless to say, I didn’t think I was making the best impression on my future in-laws. Determined to set things right, Barbi and I threw ourselves back into the project. Night after night, weekend after weekend, we worked on our infomercial, re-tooling our message, discovering ways to improve it. We broke down the script, spending hours and hours re-writing it to make sure we were delivering our unique solution. The more we tweaked our content, the more we learned how to sell. Our improvements paid off. We eventually created a new quality infomercial that stopped the bleeding. Witnessing our efforts (and our results), Barbi’s father could see neither Barbi or I could sleep at night if we failed and appreciated our perseverance.
(By the way, if you can believe it, Barbi and I were so green back then we put our names in the infomercial in the form of credits as if we had produced a feature film.) Of course, we now understand that when you buy 30 minutes of screen time, every minute should be spent selling something. Back then, however, we used the last few minutes to highlight our phone number. (This was pre- Internet, so people couldn’t just Google us.) Happily, our goof paid off. One day we received a phone call. The person on the other line said, “I saw your commercial. I like what you guys did and I want to hire you to produce an ad for us.” Of course, I took this phone call in our tiny office, but to sound more professional, I said, “Hold on, let me talk to marketing.” I cupped my hand over the phone, turned to Barbi, and said, “Someone wants to pay us to do an infomercial.” She jumped around in excitement. Then I picked the phone back up and said, “How can I help you?”
In our first paid infomercial for a client, we got to work with our first celebrity endorser. The company Lifesign hired us to produce a gradual smoking-cessation program. We hired Florence Henderson from The Brady Bunch as the spokesperson since she was a former smoker. The client gave us a six-figure check, which was big money to us and we told her story using the skills we gained from working in TV and our initial infomercial flop. Happily, we achieved the results Lifesign sought, boosting our confidence to continue making shows with integrity. It may sound high-minded, but we never wanted to be snake oil salespeople; we wanted to create dignified selling messages that helped others. Though we were still living month-to-month and hustling hard to find our next client, we only pursued companies with products providing real, unique solutions to customers that in some way offered a positive impact on society.
The Human Ken & Barbi
Now that you understand how both Script to Screen and Barbi and I came together, let’s return to our other unique solution. Each time they work with us, our clients receive two distinct perspectives, one from Ken, and one from Barbi. Here’s an example of this dynamic in action. We once met with a client selling over-the-counter supplements to relieve menopause symptoms. The company didn’t want to pay for a campaign run by men who had no personal experience with the subject. Normally, I would’ve had to pass, but with Barbi on board, we were able to work with the client in a more personable manner. Similarly, for the Hooked on Phonics campaign, Barbi knew what it was like to be the mother of a small child and easily spoke with interviewees who also had kids learning to read. She understood their language and could communicate sympathetically and effectively. And since we considered ourselves good storytellers, we knew we could take the footage from the interviews, make a compelling story from each person, and create a message that would connect and get people to respond.
Though women are often perceived as making more emotionally-based decisions than men, this is not the case with Barbi. Of the two of us, Barbi is the more rational thinker. I tend to come from the more emotional right- brain hemisphere. Though Barbi is pragmatic and analytical, when she likes something, she gets very excited. There is no better producer or creator than Barbi once she is onboard with a project. In the 1990s, she was recognized as one of the most influential women in direct response television. Barbi also tells it like it is. Instead of making unrealistic promises to win a deal, she will level with a client if she believes they shouldn’t spend their money on an infomercial. This is very rare to find in our industry.
Further to this point, here’s a story to illustrate what I just described. There once was a situation in which a cosmetics company approached us with a mediocre product wrapped in flashy packaging. Barbi quickly realized it was like every other makeup product on the market. We had already built a reputation in this space by creating infomercials for Bare Minerals and this company wanted to achieve similar results. Though they had investors and money burning holes in their pockets, Barbi respectfully told this organization their product didn’t possess a unique solution. Importantly, we were a younger company back then and could’ve used the money. Yet Barbi knew she couldn’t get behind a product she didn’t believe in.
As for my contributions to round out our agency, I enjoy directing and can see a show in my head before we even start to produce it. I am much more involved on the creative side too; for instance, brainstorming ideas and solidifying an aesthetic are more my forte. I also have selling expertise and know how to base an infomercial on cultivating a strong emotional response. Whereas I often visualize, then communicate an idea, Barbi is adept at pinpointing a message, then driving it home.
Together, personally and professionally, my wife and I make a great team. Here is a quick example of the latter. Having interviewed hundreds of athletes, my wife knows which questions to ask clients and I know how to filter those questions into one simple, yet effective idea. Our unique solution is our winning rational/creative collaboration. So, now that you know our story, use it as a basis to imagine how you might write your own. Certainly, you may not be in business with your wife or have a name invoking well-known toys, but you undoubtedly possess a narrative about how you came to be an expert at solving your customers’ problems. Are you sharing this message with others? If not, you should be. It’s crucial to communicating your unique solution.
What’s Unique About Script to Screen
At the risk of plugging Script to Screen one more time, I am going to describe one more facet of our business to convey the importance of educating others about the value your business offers. In the previous section, I suggested telling your personal story. In addition to providing this, you need to supply a brand message describing what you do for customers. Let’s discuss ours. Beyond offering consulting support from two different perspectives, one rational, one creative, our organization offers unique financial, optimization, creative, and sales solutions.
Unlike the lion’s share of direct response production agencies, we don’t just create a compelling message to sell our clients products and services; we also manage the complexity of their entire campaign. Prior to building our multimillion dollar agency, we started doing everything from beginning to end with our own products. We designed and imported items manufactured in China to save money. This required communicating with product manufacturers overseas, shipping, then physically packing the merchandise we sold before dropping it off at the post office. We have since become a company that manages the entire campaigns for our clients. This means we oversee the media buying, micro-site development and optimization, ROI-driven social media, call centers, and distribution centers.
Here are how our four-part services break down:
Commercial creation and strategy development.
Campaign creation and management. (This includes distribution, shipping, microsite development, offer analysis, financial models, and real-time campaign analysis and optimization.)
Production and editing.
Digital and social media content creation and management.
Due to our unique solution, we often become a company’s direct response partner. Creating a viable marketing campaign is a job in itself requiring a sophisticated system. When tasked in this manner, we first perform a thorough analysis, including financial feasibility, cost of goods, and an overview of competitive retail pricing. Then we create a strategy based on a business’ products, features, and benefits. Meanwhile, we connect each vendor to whom they will need once the infomercial airs: a shipping company, fulfillment company, telemarketers, web developers, credit card merchants, and media buyers.
All of this must work in perfect harmony when producing a show, otherwise all of the substantial ad budget will go to waste. Tracking statistical data, we decide when and where an infomercial will air. Everything I just described may sound like a big job, but the real work starts when we receive immediate responses to an ad. When this happens, we must analyze the data and optimize our efforts in real time to increase our effectiveness in acquiring more customers. A quick word of caution about optimization and performance analysis tools: I have read articles opining that in today’s marketing world, creativity should be relegated to the backburner in deference to analytical tools. As I hope this book attests, content matters. If you don’t have an effective message, you will have nothing to analyze or optimize. A creative and compelling story sells products and services. You can’t just use fancy search tools, expecting to get a return on your investment.
Do You Have a Unique Solution?
Now that you understand our agency’s unique solution when it comes to the challenges our clients face, let’s put what we have learned to good use by determining yours. Here are three ways to know you have a unique solution:
1. A customer has validated your efforts, letting you know your product or service has improved their life.
2. Someone used your product or service to solve a problem for themselves.
3. You are using an efficient, well-thought-out marketing strategy to outperform the competition.
Item #1 above is fairly self-explanatory. In order to understand item #2, let’s discuss our client, Bare Minerals. The founder, Leslie Blodgett, was frustrated with foundation-based cosmetics. She had sensitive skin and liquid foundation caused breakouts, giving her complexion an oily appearance. Leslie solved her problem herself by creating the first-ever mass-marketed, mineral- based foundation. Light and flaky, her product didn’t clog up pores and it made your skin look healthier.
Bare Minerals enjoyed success with retail stores in the San Francisco Bay area. However, Leslie couldn’t compete with bigger companies, like Cover Girl or Maybelline. She didn’t have a huge budget, but she wanted to tell her story so she approached us. Barbi understood the problem and believed in the product, so we shot the infomercial. Due in large part to our direct-response marketing campaign, their $20 million business grew to $200 million within a few years. In this instance, Leslie knew she had a unique solution because she used her product herself to solve her own problem (unhealthy skin from foundation makeup). It was easy for Barbi and many other customers to get behind Leslie’s messaging after witnessing her personal results.
To help explain item #3, let’s return to the HealthMaster we discussed in the previous section. If you think about it, a blender is a blender. In order to sell units, our team needed to dig deeper to find something special about the product. Most people would probably agree the world doesn’t need another blender. In fact, when HealthMaster tried to sell this item as a blender they failed miserably. To convey the unique solution of this product in a way that would resonate with customers we dropped the word “blender.”
Instead, we rebranded the process of breaking down ingredients as “emulsification.” Emulsification connotes a meaning beyond basic blending. Emulsifying means reducing healthy fruits and vegetables to their finest consistency so greater nutrition can be absorbed. Or in simpler, problem-solving terms, we said if you consume more of this, you will live a healthier, happier life. Also, it didn’t hurt that Montel Williams was the person saying this.
Create a narrative about either yourself or your company conveying the specific value you bring to your customers. Using empathy, put yourself in your customers’ shoes to discover their pain points. Then, construct a story in which you convey your expertise in solving these issues. Remember to pay close attention to what sets you apart from your competition. A unique solution requires that you are different from everyone else on the market. Remember the makeup company Barbi turned down? You don’t want to offer the same product or service as the next company or individual. Otherwise people have little reason to work with you.
After you have established your story, create product or service messaging explaining how your unique solution helps others. It is key to answer the four questions posed at the beginning of this chapter. If you are feeling stuck about what you do that is so unique, review the information I provided about what Script to Screen does when it comes to not only marketing our clients’ products but managing their campaigns, optimizing profitability, and scaling into new platforms where customer attention is. Why this works? The more you can position your business as offering something rare and coveted in your industry, the more customers will want to work with you.
Recognizing and communicating your unique solution is a must for success. If you’re a real estate agent, you’re doing a job millions of others do. Therefore, you need to ask yourself this question: How am I unique? Yes, you may sell homes like everyone else, however, if you are doing well there must be a reason. If you don’t know why, consider asking your clients what drew them to you. Perhaps, it’s your persistence. You host open houses without fail every weekend. You consistently follow up via emails. You prospect daily.
As discussed in the previous chapter, listening to your customers is crucial. If two or more people mention the same thing, it’s possible what they are saying is what makes you unique. Once you have done the hard work of determining what makes you special, begin disseminating your message far and wide. The value you provide others, specifically solving their problems, will set you apart. The
more you can distinguish what makes your product or service original, the more others will be interested in what you have to say. Speaking of convincing others, in the next chapter we will cover the art of demonstrating and the necessity of giving people a reason to believe your claims.
EXERCISE: DETERMINE YOUR UNIQUE SOLUTION
By now, you know the importance of grabbing attention, telling a story, and understanding a customer’s problem. Now it’s time to show your customers you can uniquely provide a solution. Use these steps to fine-tune yours.
Step 1: Define your target customer. What is their pain- point or problem?
Step 2: Write down one to five sentences detailing how you are uniquely qualified to provide a solution. Your response should include answers to the following four questions:
1. What is it?
2. What does it do?
3. How does it do it?
4. Why do I need it?
Step 3: List your qualifications for providing your solution, i.e. if you are a great lawyer, include your educational background, cases you have won, etc.
Step 4: Describe your competition in one to three sentences. How do they fall short of offering your unique solution?
Step 5: Use all of the above to create your messaging.
Chapter Eight: Give Them A Reason to Believe
“The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” ~Bill Bernbach, Co-Founder of the Doyle Dane Bernbach Advertising Agency
The Power of Demonstration
By now, hopefully you have created a unique solution to solve the problems of thousands, if not millions, of customers. You have also developed a story to explain this solution through a compelling narrative, evoking an emotional response, attaching both minds and hearts to your product. All the succinct marketing slogans are presumably in place, yet you’re missing one element: a demonstration proving your solution does what you say it does.
We already learned the fundamentals behind storytelling and how the best advertisements use one to endear a product to an audience. Visuals can also harness the same demonstrative power. We are far more likely to remember a science experiment from biology class if we witness our fellow classmates dissecting a frog in front of us versus reading about its anatomy in a textbook. As imagery-obsessed creatures, we latch onto photographs and video as handy yet speedy mechanisms to collect and retain information. Or as Catriona Pollard describes in a 2015 HuffPost article, Why Visual Content is a Social Media Secret Weapon, “The images that you post on social media can help to tell your business’ story and share a message. Don’t be afraid to add personality to your content. People are more likely to engage and interact with a business that feels like a friend, particularly on social media.”
To Pollard’s point, we are more likely to buy and/or use a product in our own lives if we have already seen how it fit into someone else’s. This background feeds into the #1 question I receive from infomercial viewers: “Does it really work?” In fact, this question is so prevalent and so crucial, it informed the theoretical basis for this book. As evidenced by every charlatan since the days of Babylon, any silver-tongued con artist can make unfounded claims. In order to generate real trust, the key to closing any sale, you must demonstrate your claims. Belief compels action, and belief is founded on value. It’s not enough to explain why something could be useful in theory. In a well-known comedic trope from The Simpsons, Homer quips, “In theory, communism works.” The joke is that lots of things may seem to work on paper or in the imagination. The demonstration is where the rubber meets the road. Or, to put it a little less civilly, it’s put up or shut up time.
There is a good reason why advertisements perform better on TV than on the radio. Customers can answer the burning question, “Does it really work?” with their own eyes. At Script to Screen, all of our infomercials employ the demonstration technique. Again and again, it proves to be so helpful because of its objective irrefutability. Let me give you an example. As you may recall, Bare Mineral’s campaign promised makeup so gentle it wasn’t harsh to your skin. Read that line again and imagine someone saying it to you. You may nod along, recognizing words, such as ‘makeup’ and ‘skin,’ but what does a promise mean without proof? Instead of explaining our client’s promise, we showed it.
To demonstrate our clients’ claims we set up a demonstration so audiences at home could experience the veracity of our campaign. In our commercial, we applied liquid foundation on one Kleenex and Bare Minerals on another. When the liquid foundation was applied, the tissue fell apart because the foundation was so thick and goopy. When Bare Minerals was applied, the tissue held up and showed very soft and sheer coverage. One Kleenex had a hole, and the other one was whole, begging this question: Which makeup would you want on your face? The heavy kind that breaks apart the fragile integrity of a Kleenex or the one light one? It became a multi-million- dollar demonstration. You see it. You believe it.
Some marketers may think going to such demonstrative pains is unnecessary so long as you feature a likable celebrity in your ad, but customers are smart. They can tell when a celebrity is being used as a mere talking head. Instead of telling you why you need a demonstration over a celebrity endorsement, let me demonstrate it to you with the following story. Script to Screen was once hired to promote a company selling pots and pans. The housewares collection was affordable, yet it lacked a reason to compel audiences to pick up the phone. Throughout our strategy discussions, I remained adamant about the need to provide a demonstration to ensure their ad’s success. “You need to show your customer why your product is amazing — why they should replace their pots and pans with yours.” Despite my pleas, they disagreed, using a well-known name to carry their commercial. The product did not sell well.
To reiterate, you need to give people a reason to believe. Consumers will not open their wallets based on blind faith. A recognizable face or well-known name may grab attention, but trust is needed to really convert. Beyond crafting an emotionally engaging story (see Chapter Five) and delivering a unique solution (see Chapter Seven), you need to illustrate the promise behind your words with visuals, including still images or preferably, video.
Prove Your Product Works
While working with a different client, Banjo Minnow, we proved a unique demonstration could function as a better salesperson than a celebrity endorser. Though we utilized Bill Dance, a well-known fisherman to promote Banjo Minnow’s product, the ad’s real turning point concerned the way the lure worked, not so much Bill’s approbation. Let me explain. Banjo Minnow offers a special, highly effective fishing lure, different than anything else on the market. Barbi and I knew segments of Dance saying, “Believe me, this is a great fishing lure” would only go so far. To build trust prompting customer action we needed to center the campaign around a powerful demonstration — the visual equivalent of showing “This works!” to the audience.
First, we excavated a 10 by 10 piece of land in Florida, creating an underwater tank with an observation window. Then we created a natural habitat for bass, placing our underwater video cameras in the middle of the action. Once the bass acclimated to their environment, we introduced minnows, then inserted our lure. What was so great about this lure, its unique solution, was how it mimicked the appearance of a dying minnow. (The inventors at Banjo Minnow had skillfully employed the principle of empathy when designing their product. Knowing predators are more apt to pursue weakened prey,
the lure served to impersonate low hanging fruit, impelling the bass to attack.)
Helpfully, the product we were promoting really did what it promised. It was genuinely enticing bait! Our team had the easy job of capturing quality moments on video. We shot clip after clip of the bass going for the lure. Folks at home could see the beauty of this sporting equipment with their own eyes. Sure, it was great having Bill Dance talk about product, but that was more of an after-thought. The real magic occurred onscreen as viewing audiences witnessed bass falling for the amazing lure. Why this worked? We built trust through showing, not telling. Our product did what we claimed.
People Must Wrap Their Heads Around Your Message
I bring up certain infomercials, like the one for HealthMaster, throughout this book because they encapsulate many successful elements of a sound ad. Beyond Montel Williams’ heartwarming story and our avoidance of the word “blender” as a descriptor, we also demonstrated the emulsifier’s power. When initially devising a plan for the spot, we knew we must answer this question: How can we convince people that emulsifiers turning at 3,400 rpms will give them a better blending product? On paper, anything turning at 3,400 rpms sounds vaguely impressive, but what does this statement actually mean?
To form a connection between the number and the product, we attached the motor of a six-foot-high fan to the HealthMaster. If the product was as powerful as we said, it should be able to kickstart this fan. Sure enough, we cranked it up and the fan blew. Audience members were blown away too. We captured their surprised expressions and heard them exclaiming they had never seen a blender so powerful. What this example shows is that demonstrations are so potent because they offer another layer of communication. (If audiences can’t understand a message verbally or through text, they might through physical expression.) Likewise, even if they don’t understand how a product is doing what it’s doing, a demonstration can still be successful. They only have to believe what they are seeing to buy it.
Since this chapter is all about demonstrations, I want to textually demonstrate a few more of our successful infomercials, including an ad we did for Oreck’s air purifier. Similar to our approach for HealthMaster, my team and I had this thought: How can we show Oreck’s product works? Audiences needed to somehow witness air purification, a difficult feat to achieve on video. To solve this problem, we used smoke as an air pollutant. Next, we designed a chamber big enough to fit around the air purifier and we filled it with smoke. Then, we turned on the purifier and instantly it dispelled the smoke, replacing it with clean air. Within seconds, the chamber was clear, proving the purifier worked beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Another highly demonstrative infomercial we produced for Oreck was used to market their flagship product, the upright vacuum. The crux of the ad emphasized one primary selling point: the vacuum weighed just eight pounds. Unlike other unwieldy appliance monstrosities, this vacuum could be carried with ease. Despite its light weight, it was powerful, versatile, and durable. Knowing these attributes would be valuable to any customer, we crafted a script highlighting these features, explaining how the Oreck vacuum delivered value.
Though we had the script ready, it didn’t mean the infomercial was. An eight-pound vacuum sounded impressive on paper, but like the 3,400 rpm HealthMaster,
we needed to build a visual connection between this number and the end user’s experience. To illustrate its light weight, we filmed our actress lifting the vacuum with one finger while charging up a flight of stairs. Again, it all came down to what we showed. We wanted people to see this spectacle and think: “Wow. I can barely lift my own vacuum out of the closet! Life could be so much easier with this product.” To go one step further, we demonstrated our vacuum’s light weight by placing it on a scale beside a gallon of milk. Surprise! The milk was heavier. Pardon the pun, but this remarkable visual tipped the scale in our favor, solidifying our claim in audiences’ minds.
If you will recall, I mentioned the need to prove Oreck’s other claims, such as power, durability, and versatility. How did we pay off such assertions? We made sure to show the vacuum bumping into furniture, rolling down a flight of stairs, even surviving the violent assault of a sledgehammer. The sledgehammer was an extreme example, but it showed the Oreck vacuum could withstand any kind of abuse. Well made, it was built to last. As for versatility, we compared the product with a competitor’s, demonstrating how each fared when it came to navigating beneath low furniture such as beds and coffee tables. Of course, only the Oreck Vacuum could easily fit underneath, picking up remnants of food and tangled hair. This example put the customer at ease, showing they would no longer need to move furniture to clean the carpet.
One last example concerns our collaboration with Joan Rivers for her Great Hair Day product. As you may recall, she created this to address her own thinning hair. When I asked her how a professional model might best demonstrate her product, she said, “How can I sell it if I’m not willing to actually apply it to my own scalp? If I’m not willing to do that, I have no business asking my customers to purchase my product!” Based on examples such as this and Leslie Blodgett’s Bare Minerals, whenever appropriate, I always suggest featuring the inventor to chronicle their personal story. This harkens back to what we covered on empathy. If an audience witnesses the founder explaining why they invented something, how it’s helped them, and why they’re offering it to help others, it goes a long way towards building unshakeable trust. Why this works? Coming from the founder’s lips, a personal story can convince people why they need a product in their own lives. This appeal also eliminates doubt. No product inventor would want to tell their story if it did not contain a satisfying resolution.
When it comes to your own messaging, demonstrations can strengthen the relationship between you as the provider and the audience as the customer. You can spend 30 minutes trying to explain how or why a product works — or you can shortcut the process to one or two minutes with a video demonstration. Employ your own creativity. Remember how we conveyed power using a blender and a fan motor? You can do something similar. Better yet, dream up innovative ways to use the product on yourself. Again, seeing is believing. The more you can imagine ways to convey the unique solution your product provides, the more your customer can picture it improving their own life. The more this happens, the more they will trust you and buy from you. Now, let’s look at other ways to hang on to that trust.
To maximize your customer’s confidence in your ability to deliver on your promises, I recommend offering a 100% money-back guarantee. Be advised, this warranty should not come with a bunch of exceptions or a 30-day time limit. It should also contain “No Questions Asked” wording. I realize such an assurance may not always be feasible, but it can go a long way toward making your customer feel more comfortable.
Next, to satisfy savvier audiences accustomed to special effects and manipulative movie editing, employ a straightforward, no gimmicky filmmaking style. Curtail excesses suggesting footage tampering. Instead, whenever possible, show the demonstration live with no cuts. Even if this takes up valuable airtime, it will be well worth the money in the long run. Remember how I said infomercials are repetitive by design? Demonstrations work well this way too. Don’t be afraid to continuously drive your point home. Not only will it resonate better, but viewers also will be more apt to remember your message.
Wow! The Beauty of First-Time Reactions
What do potential customers trust even more than a live, minimally edited demonstration? Segments featuring individuals (non-actors) experiencing first-time reactions. In the following examples, I’ll walk you through how we used these to bolster our message in a genuine way. Returning to Oreck’s air purifier, we gathered an audience who had never seen the air purifier in action before and showed them a demonstration. The group’s instantaneous, collective “Wow!” said far more than any well-written narration could. It also did wonders when it came to dispelling potential objections from people watching at home.
Our company has orchestrated thousands of first-time reaction interviews. Participating in these, I have come to recognize two essential qualities for success: authenticity and transparency. In addition, the interview needs to include an immediate reaction without scripted involvement. Why? A script can preclude spontaneity, a requirement of believable first-time reactions. To procure a genuine response, you must create an environment in which the customer feels safe enough to be honest. It’s important to allow them to get comfortable with their surroundings and the production crew so they don’t feel pressured to give a solicited response. The real work begins before taping. Prior to the interview, engage your subject in a casual conversation so they know you are truly interested in what they have to say. Let them ask you questions. A low-key conversational atmosphere is ideal for capturing a genuine reaction.
In our infomercial for Body by Jake, we portrayed non- actors, everyday people demonstrating how easy it was to use his product. Jake’s attention to product viability is what made his segment so powerful. His Ab Scissors perfectly demonstrate why first-time reactions are key to selling your message. If you saw the Ab Scissors for the first time, you might wonder how it works and whether it would really give you a good ab workout. That’s understandable. Because the machine possessed no weights, it was difficult to know where the user would receive resistance. In addition, the apparatus was fairly large and looked difficult to operate, so we needed to prove otherwise. It’s important to note similar concerns may surround your product. Yes, you may not be selling workout equipment, but there may be elements leading to customer questions. First-time reactions can help answer these.
Returning to Jake’s segment, we needed to prove the effectiveness of the Ab Scissors, as well as its ease of use. We did this by showing people trying it for themselves. Their first-time reactions helped diffuse doubts by showing its ease and usefulness. These examples also answered viewer’s questions. Not only did the segment
demonstrate how resistance came from one’s own body weight, it also answered fundamental concerns, such as: Does it really work? Is it a quality product? Bottom line: Demonstrations, particularly ones featuring first-time reactions, can work well for your business. Immense social proof comes from establishing a group of objective observers. Allowing strangers with no stake in an outcome to see, touch, and use a product can independently corroborate your claims. Capturing their authentic opinions will enable you to overcome potential objections. Why this works? An honest reaction is more powerful than hiring talent to read a script or explaining talking points. Whenever possible, let “real” people sell your product for you in their own believable way.
Identify weaknesses in your advertisement and/or confusing elements to your selling message. Seek unbiased, fresh eyes to review your product. Learn their questions. Do they doubt your claims your vacuum is really that light? Do they wonder about the feasibility of using your gym equipment? Listen to their concerns, then make it a point to answer those questions and concerns through a demonstration.
Once you are certain your product or service can live up to your claims, plan a demonstration. Decide on the ideal space to arrange a group of unbiased people. Once this is settled, coordinate a video team to capture spontaneous moments and first-time reactions. Even if you are not filming a full-blown infomercial in a studio with a live audience, you can still obtain quality first-time reactions in neutral places, such as a busy intersection, or the mall.
Consider offering customers free products to try in their own homes. Once you give your products to them, let these strangers do your selling for you. Get out of the way and allow them to describe the merits of your amazing offering. Such endorsements are invaluable. As soon as you have them, share them with the world via your website and social media channels.
People buy from people they trust. Trust is the biggest sales trigger you can pull. Conversely, if you can’t earn someone’s trust, it’s difficult to earn their business. Demonstrating a product can earn lasting confidence by corroborating your claims, giving people a reason to believe you. The power of perceived objectivity can go much further than any script and even the inclusion of a celebrity. When marketing, it’s important to introduce, then reiterate key points that will continuously build off each other.
Understanding how humans react so strongly to imagery, it’s important to find ways to include great visuals, especially video, to simplify and express your message. As always, remember you may only have a viewer’s attention for a few moments, so make each second count. When determining how to pitch the Ab Scissors, Jake stopped us and said something that stuck with me: “Guys, we are not making an Academy Award-winning movie. We are selling. Let’s not waste one sentence or one second in this script that’s not about that.” Every second means time and money in our fast-paced culture. Use them wisely by investing in live demonstrations, featuring groups for collective buy-in and first-time reaction segments, leading to positive customer experiences.
Now that you understand the importance of creating cheerleaders in the form of satisfied users, let’s turn our attention to the fastest way to make a big impact on your business today: generating customer-driven testimonials.
EXERCISE: CREATE A UNIQUE DEMONSTRATION
By now, you’ve learned how important it is to demonstrate your product. In this exercise, you can find new ways to demonstrate not only the ease and use of your offering, but also how it differs from your competition.
Step 1: Create a list of products that could be perceived as similar to your own. Then, create a list of your own exclusive features and benefits.
Step 2: Using this list, brainstorm ways to highlight your advantages in a demonstration. (For example, if you invented a water bottle and its defining feature is the leak- proof cap, you could tip the bottle over clothing or a couch. You could even drop the bottle from a great height to show how nothing leaks.)
Step 3: After developing several such examples, set up a video camera to record the demonstration in front of a fresh group of people to capture their unbiased reactions.
Step 4: Ask others you trust to view the clips and report which ones grab their attention. Confirm which video builds the most trust in your claims and share it on your social media channels for even more feedback. (Advertising is expensive but can be profitable when you get your message right so invest time and energy into receiving feedback from people you don’t know. It can save you money in the long run.
Chapter Nine: Offer Testimonials
“A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself.” ~David J Greer, Entrepreneur Coach
Why Do You Need Testimonials?
Think about testimonials as your new sales task force — except this crack team of conversion experts costs you nothing. Regardless of your business size, testimonials offer the chance to attract new customers impressed by your track record. Testimonials can be written or recorded, but since I’m in the direct response/ infomercial business, we will mostly focus on video. Endorsements combine many of the marketing elements I’ve encouraged you to implement so far — personal stories, empathy, and authenticity — to name a few.
Everything we’ve learned so far about the review-based economy suggests the way to thrive is not so much by pitching your own product or service but to instead let your satisfied customers sell you to other potential customers. Why this works? Authentic corroboration not only staves off objections, it builds trust. After all, who knows your value better than someone you have already served well?
As discussed, the growing ubiquity of review-based sites, such as Yelp and Amazon Customer Reviews, illustrate consumers’ growing dependence on user opinions. According to Search Engine Land, “Eighty-eight percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” People frequently consult
message boards, social media platforms, and forums before making a purchasing decision. Authentic testimonials, especially in video form, can serve as an even more powerful mechanism to broadcast feedback to your audience — straight from the source. Rushed as most of us are for time, video testimonials shortcut the educational portion of the customer journey, allowing potential users to observe the person on the other side of the screen. Unlike a bot or someone hiding behind a keyboard with an anonymous text review, a person in a video can project genuineness, convincing us that we, too,
can have the same great experience if we use the same product or service.
Being online can sometimes feel like an echo chamber in which people talk at us, whether it is about current headlines or the latest meme. We are not only inundated with ads, but also with other people’s opinions about everything — from movie reviews to political opinions. Everywhere we look, someone is either venting or raving. While such heated discussions can be fruitful for the right types of businesses, they can also overload customers, leading to paralysis.
Though the web once promised to unite us, so much opining can be isolating, making us wonder, Who can I trust? Unfiltered video testimonials, on the other hand, can cut through this noise, offering assurances from fellow consumer to fellow consumer — digital breadcrumbs signaling which path to take. Moreover, employing happy customers to transmit positive word of mouth can build confidence in your brand. The more (unpaid) people trumpeting your merits just because you gave them a good customer experience, the more people will be willing to consider using your product or service.
Generate a Winning Testimonial Today
If your testimonial is not created on the user’s side (we will discuss the benefits of this later), you need to be prepared to ask the right questions. The most effective have to do with Why? These work so well because respondents cannot answer with a simple “yes” or “no.” Open-ended questions foster lengthy responses. Once you ask a question, let the respondents take as long as they wish to answer. You can always edit a video; you can’t manufacture someone’s response. Also, embrace tangents. Not only do these allow for spontaneity and therefore authenticity, but they also can lead to better material about your business you hadn’t counted on. A surprising anecdote can add more good feedback, further generating the right perception.
Try to remove yourself as much as possible from the process once the testimonial begins. You want the customer to do most of the talking to make sure it feels authentic. Reassure your subject that it’s okay to stumble over words or make mistakes. While you want to choose customers who are well-spoken, those who come across too polished may sound like they memorized a script. Viewers are used to advertisements. They are accustomed to a spokesperson sounding scripted. Bucking this trend by using a non-actor is refreshing. Don’t worry about capturing the perfect take — that’s not the goal here.
Instead, seek genuine emotion. Does this person love your product? Good. Their sincerity will come through, reaffirming the promise of your unique solution. Executed correctly, it will be impossible for audiences not to be affected by a person speaking their truth.
When interviewing subjects, ask specific questions about their experience. For example, don’t ask, “How do you like this pillow-top mattress?” The more general the question, the more generic the answer. (Plus, this kind of question is super leading — it would be better to frame your query in a casual way, inviting them to open up to you.) Keep in mind that specificity resonates with audiences. It helps demonstrate to viewers how your product or service can solve their own problem. Renowned photographer Diane Arbus observed this same phenomenon in her own work. “The more specific you are,
the more general it will be,” she once wrote. Paradoxically, the more specific details you can elicit from respondents, the more likely they are to reflect common experiences.
Beyond encouraging specificity, design questions to evoke a response filled with details and emotions. Going back to our hypothetical customer relating their experience, it would beneficial to ask, “What was the first thing you did when you woke after sleeping on your new bed? Do you remember any immediate thoughts?” Posing questions this way creates space for helpful responses. The respondent can tell us the difference between their new experience and their old wake-up routine: in the past, they woke up stiff and unhappy, desperate for better sleep. This morning, they grabbed their glasses and hopped out of bed, fully charged and excited to face the day.
What’s also nice about framing questions this way is that they provide room for before-and-after exchanges. Using storytelling elements, these questions establish what life was like before experiencing your beneficial product or service, providing a point of comparison. Those customers who take the time to offer testimonials usually have a unique story attached to their happy experience. When something or someone delivers on a promise, often times a customer feels they must tell their friends about it. This is the best kind of social proof.
Content in Context
One key way to elevate testimonial quality is to incorporate content in context. Employing one without the other is a wasted opportunity to create a lasting impact. For example, if we were collecting testimonials for the HealthMaster and the person mentioned they used it in their diet, we would want to make sure we captured footage of them implementing the product into their lifestyle. As we have discussed many times, showing always works better than telling. If it was a mom offering this HealthMaster testimonial, it would be helpful to show how easy it was to make nutritious smoothies for her children.
Likewise, we could also show a hard-working executive with little time to prepare healthy meals. Instead of having to create an elaborate breakfast every morning or wash down multivitamins, we could show them getting out the door faster with their nutritious shake, making them both productive and healthier. Employing content in context via testimonials means presenting subjects actually using your offering to improve their life while telling their own story. The more you can include content with context in your testimonial, the better viewers will be able to relate to similar situations in their own lives. The impact of content in context may even be sub-conscious. Just below the surface, a mom might be thinking, “I have a kitchen like that,” or “I need to feed my family of four” when watching the first video I mentioned.
In addition to impacting customers, testimonials can teach you things you didn’t know about your business. What I mean is that while you possess expert knowledge of your product, you may have limited experience using it as your customers do. By showcasing other people’s comments, including how they use your product, you can learn new ways to communicate your unique solution. Not only that, by listening to happy users you might find surprising (and better) ways they are using it you hadn’t anticipated.
I’ve talked a lot about the need for businesses to solve problems. To this point, don’t be afraid to ask customers to explain their challenges (and how your product solved them). From interviewing many customers over the years, we have discovered they share 80% of the same challenges. For instance, when creating testimonials for Barney Adams, three common themes emerged. People said, “I can’t hit my long iron out of the long rough. I can’t hit my iron off a tight lie. I can’t hit my driver off the tee.” Whenever you find a problem persisting amongst your clientele, try to view it as an opportunity to provide value. Again, problems = opportunities. Be sure to incorporate language into your testimonials evidencing how your solution fixes your customers’ concerns. Hearing these words come from satisfied customers will help others to understand how they too can fix their problems by using your offerings.
Over the years, we have interviewed thousands of customers, but a few really stand out when it comes to special testimonials. Similar to what we achieved with the Hooked on Phonics campaign, Turbo Fire was a DVD workout program we marketed to consumers using positive user reviews. Sixty percent of the infomercial featured testimonials describing how this fitness program changed their lives. Our approach was unique for using content in context: We asked users to videotape themselves doing the workout.
Why this worked? Going to the source, we asked out-of-shape people to document their fitness process in their own homes. “Here I am on day one,” the person would say into the camera before beginning their new routine. Talk about putting the viewing audience into the customer’s shoes! Since we didn’t write a script or film the shoot in a professional gym setting, but instead allowed the user to work out the same way a customer might at home, it provided true social proof. During the next 90 days, our subjects (standing in for the audience) captured themselves using the equipment, demonstrating the effects on their body. Importantly, we didn’t just tell people this product worked. We showed them proof by having
non-actors with less-than-perfect physiques report their daily progress as testimonials.
Of course, the standard industry approach would have been to shoot some toned model in a well-lit gym raving about the benefits of Turbo Fire. Knowing what you now do about social proof, story, empathy, and demonstrations, can you see why this tactic wouldn’t have been as effective? Consumers have been inundated for years by this type of polished commercial and would have probably tuned it out. It’s likely they would have viewed this model as unrepresentative. They might have said to themselves, “This person is already fit. Of course, Turbo Fire would work for them. Not for me.” Testimonial-laden, our commercial made a distinction: Everyone, no matter where they started, could see results after three months of using Turbo Fire.
With this goal in mind, we stayed away from a high-budget shoot. In fact, the footage we got back from the participants was grainy and suffered from a shaky cam and less-than-perfect scene design. Sometimes, we could even hear their neighbor’s dog barking next door. Likewise, our participants didn’t wear lots of TV makeup or have their hair professionally done. However, these flaws didn’t hurt our approach. If anything, they strengthened our material. Subpar production values imbued the campaign with authenticity. People at home had no problem believing what they watched was real. Hearing positive feedback from users they watched losing weight and getting fit before their eyes was the best kind of content in context testimonial because it put the viewer at home in the place of the user. Why this worked? People at home had the same problems. Many of them were fat. Many of them were out of shape. They were the very people they were watching and could see themselves improving their own lives if they too bought Turbo Fire.
Some of the people we used in the ad expressed worries that their footage would be inadmissible, especially if they became emotional when talking about how much Turbo Fire changed their lives. We told them not to worry. That’s exactly what we wanted. Real people don’t always talk in complete sentences, especially when overcome by powerful feelings. We encouraged them to be themselves, opening their lives up to the camera, especially if they were affected by what they were saying. Mistakes were not only acceptable but encouraged — they portrayed the reality of the situation, giving audiences a reason to believe in Turbo Fire’s unique solution. So, how did our gritty, testimonial-laden commercial do? I am happy to report our efforts constituted a huge part of Turbo Fire generating more than $50 million dollars in DVD sales.
Another of our successful campaigns powered by effective testimonials promoted Shark’s Rocket vacuum cleaner. For this spot, we were strategic about asking participants to not clean their house. Knowing how important before-and-after images can be when painting a picture in people’s minds, we wanted to show a clear distinction between what a home might look without the benefit of our client’s product. We made sure to capture our subjects in action, vacuuming up the dog hair, food particles, dirt, etc. that accumulated on their carpet. Recognizing the value of social proof, we let homeowners tell us how impressed they were by Shark as they cleaned.
Again, we made sure to combine content and context. The content of this commercial was the vacuum picking up debris, such as dog hair. Without the context of actual people cleaning their dirty carpets, our commercial would come across as inauthentic as a fancy gym and toned models using Turbo Fire. To be even more effective, we went to a number of different people’s houses, letting everyday people use Shark themselves. We didn’t need to tell audiences the product worked in our ad. The customers did our talking for us—specifically, they provided testimonials about how clean the product made their carpet as they used it. So how did this commercial fare? I am happy to report that our testimonial approach, combining content in context, led to Shark beating out Dyson for the #1 place in the market that year.
How to Encourage Customers to Give You (The Right) Testimonials
While actors can hinder authenticity, they naturally bring a level of professionalism. Non-actors, on the other hand, may be apprehensive of cameras and lights. They may be shy and uncomfortable sharing their experience. While you never want to force someone to participate, it’s helpful to remind your subjects of the benefits. There is a reciprocal nature to any testimonial. Testimonials offer tremendous value and may improve another’s life. Someone else could benefit from a similar problem and solution, especially if what they went through was difficult. Conveying this reality to a potential participant can alleviate concerns they may have about sharing their experience. We have had a 90% success rate by reminding
people of the altruistic nature of testimonials. Understanding how they can help others usually leads to them wishing to participate. Though it can sometimes feel like we live in a callous world, we have been happily surprised by people’s giving nature and their genuine desire to help others.
To establish another reciprocal aspect of giving testimonials, I suggest offering incentives. These shouldn’t be monetary as that can pollute the process, turning the situation into a transaction. Instead, consider offering free products o subscriptions. A strong word of caution is in order, however: Be sure your request for testimonials is not corrupted so as to encourage false or misleading reviews and/or ads.
To this end, some businesses have begun sending free samples to users in exchange for an honest review, taking a risk they may receive a negative one. Their reviewers disclose the agreement with the company to their followers, making a positive review even more impactful. Transparency is key with this approach and works to these enterprising companies’ benefit. Knowing the business encouraged objectivity ahead of time, observers can see for themselves the unbiased opinions of users just like them, fostering authentic social proof.
When it comes to generating your own great feedback, hopefully your customers will be so enthused by your product they’ll want to video themselves espousing its value. In reality, though, you may need to encourage users to share their experience by being proactive. Such measures are to be expected. People live busy lives. Taking the time to plug your company, no matter how fantastic you are, may not be at the top of their list. However, with the right professional yet relaxed approach, coupled with emphasizing how a testimonial could aid others, satisfied users should be open to the idea of sharing their experience.
People are quick to share their opinions. If your business exists online, be sure to read your own customer reviews. Put on your thick skin and look for individuals brave and honest enough to tell their personal story. Contact those reviewers to learn more. Don’t just seek to know if your product or service improved their life, understand how. Once you determine which comments could positively affect your brand if given a bigger platform, publish them on your site and social media channels. Then, contact these reviewers to request that they provide a video testimonial. Words are great, but video is best.
Obtain an authentic, impactful testimonial by asking “why?” Use open-ended questions and let the speaker explore tangents so you can pick out the best parts in the editing room. If they are user-made, keep the video recording mistakes or interruptions. Errors equate with authenticity; thus, people will more easily relate to the videos. Next, decide if your product calls for user-made testimonials or interview-driven testimonials. This can obviously be specific to each product or service, but a couple of guidelines may help. If you are trying to show how easy a product is to use, I would suggest user-made testimonials. If you are trying to show how many different ways a product could help someone, you may want to interview a variety of users, asking specific questions to get right to the point.
To assist you in crafting these interviews, here are our Five Quick Start Questions to simplify the process:
1. What problem were you having when you sought out a solution?
2. How did the product solve your problem?
3. What was different or unique about the product that made it a better solution than other options?
4. How was your experience working with the product and/or this business, and what would you say to another person about it?
5. What would you say to recommend this product to someone else?
Whether you decide on user-made or interview-driven testimonials, you need to build a trusting relationship with your customer base. Certainly, if you’re asking for their testimonial, be sure to tell them why you chose them and how their participation may help others. Once you set them at ease, ask open-ended questions that make them feel comfortable to tell their story, reminding them this is a safe space where mistakes are okay. Creating a trusting environment will only enrich your testimonials, leading to better results for your business and brand.
Whenever possible, marry the context and content. As we have seen, customers can’t help but put themselves in the shoes of the people they are watching, especially if the principals involved relate to their current experiences, such as fixing a healthy shake for their family. Show the problem, the solution, and why they wanted to be involved in the testimonial. Also, ask open-ended questions to your customers so they feel free to open up about their experiences. This will foster an empathetic connection between the person onscreen and the viewer at home.
As discussed throughout this book, enabling others to talk about your product or service is always more effective than you talking about your product or service. You will always be considered biased. After all, it is your business. Everyone knows you have an incentive to say good things about it. Most other people do not have anything to lose or gain by giving their honest opinion about what you offer. This is why testimonials can be so valuable.
Testimonials work best when presented as stories. At the heart of any narrative is conflict. Just think of any fairy tales you read growing up. Cinderella had to contend with her cruel stepmother and evil stepsisters. Little Red Riding Hood had to square off against the Big Bad Wolf. As humans, we gravitate toward observing conflict. Perhaps it serves an evolutionary function. Whatever the reason, we pay attention to other people’s problems. Moreover, our innate empathy allows us to relate to others when recognizing they have same the conflicts as us. It’s as if we are watching a five-car pileup on the freeway. Try as we might, we cannot turn away. What this means is, whenever possible, lead with the conflict in your
testimonial story — the problem.
Lastly, remind your customers why testimonials are reciprocal: their story will help others going through the same difficulty. Their testimonials will reassure people they are not being misled by unfounded promises. Moreover, testimonials help convince a weary public that they, too, can find relief from whatever ails them. In our fast-paced world in which people seem to never have enough time, a customer’s personal story can make your business stand above the rest. Now that we understand the power of word of mouth, let’s turn our attention to the flip side: how to deal with customer objections.
EXERCISE: OBTAIN USER-MADE TESTIMONIALS
We know not everyone has the budget to create highly professional shoots. In the vein of Turbo Fire, we want you to obtain user-contributed testimonials to make sure your audience knows you are authentic and truly care about helping people.
Step 1: Craft an e-mail to your subscribers and followers, letting them know you are having an open-call for honest reviews. Ask them to provide their experiences as to why they bought your product and how it impacted their lives. (Even if you get negative reactions, you might still receive valuable feedback on how to improve your product or service.)
Step 2: Pick the stories/reviews that intrigued you the most. Did this person have the kind of problem that may be common to others? Why were they so relieved to find your business? Can your offering help them every single day? Can it help others in a similar way?
Step 3: Contact the people who answered the above questions. Ask them if they would be willing to video themselves using your product or service (in context, preferably) or at least go on camera to explain their experience. Use this content on your site, social media channels, your next ad campaign, or as a highlight for your next e-mail newsletter.
Chapter Ten: Counter Objections
“Constant acceptance breeds complacency and mediocrity. Rejection breeds determination and ultimate successes.” ~Robert Wade, Economics Scholar
Our Fear of “No”
We are conditioned to fear rejection. In our adolescence, such fear may have prevented us from trying out for a sport or asking someone on a date. Later, such reticence may have prevented us from interviewing for a job or giving a speech. Receiving a “no” or even a “maybe” can be detrimental to our self-esteem. We try to avoid such damage as much as possible. This is why many people shun sales, especially cold-calling. They hate the thought of someone hanging up on them, or worse, getting a door shut in their face. It feels safer to not even try than risk rejection. But what if I could increase your chances of receiving a “yes”? And what if “rejection” isn’t rejection at all, but an opportunity? Let’s begin by reorienting our perception, viewing objections for what they really are (hint: not rejection). In order to do so, we must first understand how objections are used, the psychology behind them, and, most importantly, how to overcome them.
If you’ve worked in sales, you’ve experienced customer objections. Objections are not necessarily a rejection of you or your product. When you reframe the conversation in this way, it can be empowering and liberating.
Objections don’t have to be deal breakers. Rather, they can function as opportunities to better explain product details, value, and how what you are offering may be tailored to your customer. That said, objections can still be uncomfortable. After delivering what you think is a strong pitch to a prospective customer, an objection can deflate you.
If you’re seasoned in sales, however, you can learn to anticipate objections — even in the middle of your own sentences. Body language is a big giveaway. You can tell you are losing a prospect if you notice him or her look down for a second then back up with unfocused eyes. He or she may cross their arms, signifying disinterest. More courteous prospects may offer you a tiny smile that stops at their eyes. This type of reaction may feel even more discouraging. Rather than showing you the door, they just kill you with politeness.
When faced with such adversity, I find it helpful to remain unruffled. Instead of allowing doubts to sink your confidence, I recommend opening a dialogue. Listening to objections will help you answer them. I say the word “answer” on purpose because each objection is really a question. When crafting a response, be sure to answer their query. For instance, “I don’t have enough time to sign up for this service” may mean, “I am very busy. How much time will this require of me?” Recognizing this reality will allow you to provide what the prospect actually wants: reassurance. Going back to our hypothetical example, a good answer would be to explain it will only take this person a few minutes and will be easy to complete. Easing concerns goes a long way to building trust, the requisite for any sale.
Readiness is All
When it comes to one-way marketing, whether via infomercials, TV commercials, Facebook videos, or any kind of advertising in which you are not participating in a dual conversation, you won’t receive real-time objections from customers. Since most businesses and CMOs face this situation as opposed to face-to-face sales calls, I am going to make this the thrust of our conversation on handling objections. Importantly, the same principles apply. In either scenario, it’s necessary to stay unruffled and respond to prospects’ concerns in a constructive, positive way.
The difference is that since most businesses aren’t dealing with objections occurring in real-time from a customer sitting opposite them, they must instead anticipate objections. Accordingly, I will give you tips on to how to forecast them before they can unravel your sales efforts. Why this works? Packing your ad with answers to potential questions can offer the same level of reassurance as answering them in person, building trust. So how do you go about divining such queries from your prospects? By doing your homework. By employing empathy and thinking like your customer. By familiarizing yourself ahead of time with potential concerns, flaws, and/or issues that could derail your sale.
To explore various types of objections and how to master our responses, let’s make up a company and product to simulate what this process should look like. “Raw” is the name of our pretend company in this scenario. Healthy, uncooked fare is Raw’s value proposition or unique solution. Aware of people’s fast- paced lives, Raw seeks to emulate Amazon’s delivery model by transporting uncooked, organic grub to your door.
Before taking this concept to market, let’s imagine you attend a trade show for companies in the health food space as Raw’s owner and CMO. Passing out free samples of superfood powders and kale chips, you spend time getting to know your customer base. You also create online surveys to increase your email list, again offering samples to demonstrate your product’s quality. Trade show conversations and online data reveal your price as a point of concern. Respondents frequently seem to balk at spending $30 a month for your subscription service despite your stunning nutritional claims.
Unpacking Common Objections
It’s important to realize money will always be the #1 objection. Right now, your target market sees your product as another bill—not an indispensable solution to improve their lives. Whenever handling objections, especially ones involving finances, try to use specific language so others know you understand their concerns. The last thing you want is to be viewed as out of touch. Relating to your customers builds a trusting relationship. Returning to the importance of empathy, people relate to people like them. They want to feel seen and heard. Instead of ignoring this objection or dismissing it, consider tackling it head-on in your marketing language.
If the objection to Raw’s product offering is: “It costs too much,” turn this into a question: “How can I possibly afford this?” The answer should be: “How can you afford not to buy this?” The way in which you can make the case for your answer is by offering helpful information. List the time and costs associated with driving to the grocery store to buy healthy food. The sad truth is most supermarkets don’t offer fresh provisions with the high nutritional value Raw provides.
Mineral-rich and additive-free, Raw will actually save you thousands of dollars, if not more, in the long-term through a preventive diet focusing on wellness. To illustrate this key point, detail the average costs of doctor’s visits, medical prescriptions, and gym memberships needed to work off the weight if you don’t invest a small portion of your earnings now in Raw. Make it clear that the $30 subscription is a small pittance to pay for a product that will easily pay for itself, not just for your own health, but for your entire family.
Anything seen to be a deviation from one’s current routine or lifestyle is often construed as another common objection. As basketball legend and arm-chair philosopher Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, “It’s easier to jump out of a plane — hopefully with a parachute — than it is to change your mind about an opinion.” People become set in their ways. We are slaves to habit, often resisting change. Just think about the Amazon delivery model for a moment. A mere decade ago, many people were reluctant to shop online. Citing privacy concerns and shoddy return policies, they stuck with the big box store model. Nowadays, online shopping has been so adopted by the masses, Cyber Monday has replaced Black Friday as the biggest holiday shopping day according to TheStreet in 2017.
This is a long way of saying you needn’t worry too much about overcoming objections regarding a change to your customer’s routine. Though we are creatures of habit, we are also adaptive. Returning to our Raw hypothetical, if a segment of prospects, let’s say elderly people, unused to buying items online, objected to Raw’s web model, their question might be posed as this: “How can I use your service if I’m not great at ordering online?” The best answer would be: “We will make you feel comfortable by
ensuring the online sales process is simple.” Accordingly, the marketing materials would show, not tell, how incredibly easy it is to order. In fact, using the content in context approach from the previous chapter, it would behoove you as Raw’s founder to actually showcase senior citizens checking out online with ease to reassure wary prospects.
Many times, objections can arise when entering a space dominated by competitors. If you will recall, we managed to beat Oreck’s competition in the air filtration sector by simplifying our message. When going up against industry leaders, we spent a lot of time doing our homework — finding flaws in the ways the other guys explained their product’s unique value. I recommend the same approach for nipping this objection in the bud. It helps to show how you rank against your competition when it comes to factors, like price, quality, and ease of use so your prospects can make an informed decision about your superior value. By the way, being more expensive than your competition need not disqualify you from earning business. As we will discuss in Chapter Fifteen, which is about providing a sense of value, when a customer appreciates your worth, they will be more inclined to buy from you despite a cheaper alternative. (It’s up to you to make them see your value.)
One final common objection involves a question of veracity. When experienced in a one-to-one setting, you are more likely to receive polite objections statements like: “I don’t know if I can do this right now” or “Maybe it’s not for me.” More candid objectors may give it to you straight: “That’s not possible. I don’t believe it.” When we turn this into a question, though, it may look something like this: “Can you prove what you are saying is true?” As we have frequently discussed, people buy from people they trust. If they do not trust what you are telling them on TV, online, or wherever your messaging appears, they will not buy your product or service. Don’t let yourself be vulnerable to such objections, not even for a moment. Recalling what we learned in Chapter Eight, you must give your customers a reason to believe you, preferably with demonstrations and social proof.
You can go even further to stamp out questions about the truth of your claims by investing in customer service. Zappos, a digital shoe startup, recognized this reality early on, using quality customer service to overcome shoppers reluctant to buy products online. Recognizing this potential objection, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh set a simple goal: Make every customer happy, no matter what. To pull this off, he granted his call center agents autonomy to do the following without managerial approval: talk to customers for as long as needed to fix their problem, refund a defective product, and resend a placement for free. Zappos’ service-minded culture even went so far as to pay for a rep to send “get well soon” flowers to a customer’s sick mom. Talk about building trust!
If Zappos’ customer service model seems a bit extreme, you don’t have to get as crazy. You still need to build customer trust, however. Beyond providing quality products and services that do what you promise, consider offering personalized ways prospects and customers can contact your business. Feedback is important and can lead to brand loyalty when done right. Recently, companies have sought to avoid customer interaction, sequestering their calls to outsourced phone centers—or worse, eliminating any sort of phone call mechanism to handle dissatisfied patrons.
Avoid this mistake. Follow Zappos’ friendly model by being there for your customers. With any luck, you will never suffer a public relations nightmare. If you do, behave like Chipotle when handling its E. coli outbreak. The company closed every store across the U.S. to deal with the fallout. Also, not only did they enforce a new internal health standard, but they also were vigilant about releasing statements and keeping the public informed so as not to further erode trust. Such proactive behavior was meant to contain and thwart customer objections about the safety of their product. In a similar regard, it can be helpful to share ongoing improvements within your company to remain transparent. Customers and prospects alike will recognize your honesty and reward you with their loyalty.
As you can see, an objection does not automatically mean rejection. Objections only turn into rejections when you do not answer the underlying questions. Still, I get it. Even with this background in mind, it is hard to shake the fear of rejection. Let’s see if we can now go one step forward to ameliorating this ingrained sensitivity, especially when it comes to launching a new product or company.
Though we discussed countering objections concerning competition, it is reasonable to feel concerned about offering something similar to a big-name brand. Customers trust those companies who have spent time building a reputation and can be hesitant about giving someone new a chance. Sales expert Steli Efti of Close.Io articulates the psychology this way: “Your product may be better, but the industry standard is safer. The trick to winning over these prospects is presenting an option they haven’t thought of: Using both solutions. Turn an ‘either- or’ situation into an ‘and’ situation and you can close even the most stubborn prospects.”
Returning to Raw, our fictional company, it’s necessary to do something out of the ordinary when going against an established adversary, especially if they have been in business a long time. The objection from a person who has shopped at a local grocery all of their life to Raw might translate to a question like this: “Why would I want to change my shopping habits and go with you?” Remaining unruffled, your answer might be: “We know you have nothing to lose (and everything to gain) so I will offer you a free trial period.” Do you see how anticipating — and responding — to this objection could lead to success?
Hopefully, I have diminished some of your fears. Now that I have covered common objections you may face and given you resources to overcome them, let’s broaden our discussion. In order to do so, you need to better understand your customers as well as the psychology behind the marketplace.
The Psychology of Selling
Psychology can help explain the facets behind objections. Gareth Goh of Insights Squared points out that customers are more likely to chance a loss by not buying your product than to chance a gain by buying it. As Goh explains, “Pointing out what a buyer stands to potentially gain from buying your product requires a leap of imagination on their part — they have to picture themselves in a new and better place by having bought from you … [this] can be tenuous.” So, how does this relate to objections? Most objections involve this lack of imagination. A customer may say, “Well, I don’t need this.” Recognizing this possible reality, it is up to you to be the one who can imagine it, evoking a future in which they do need your product or service.
The brilliant minds behind Google did this exact thing. Back in the 90s, when most people were just beginning to understand the Internet’s implications, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin foresaw the value of a search engine to categorize and sort the web’s data. Did most folks know they would need such a classification system back in 1998? Of course not. Bypassing people’s objections about a future they couldn’t see coming, Page and Brin created a juggernaut of a company, now valued at over $600 billion and instrumental to our daily life. If your business similarly stands to benefit from imagining something that will improve lives but doesn’t yet exist, it’s up to you to create the intellectual context. Put your prospects into a future point in their life. Address the problem and your solution. Include as many details as you can. Pretty soon, people may start to see it and you will be one step closer to overcoming their psychological objections.
Goh also addresses how to play the objection-sales game: “Psychologically, buyers are perked up by the prospect of somehow ‘winning’ the battle against the seller, by getting as much value as possible.” In Chapter Thirteen, we will discuss important points to include in your final offer. For now, a couple of those tricks are relevant to this discussion. To compete in the objection- sales game, offer a price comparison backed by value. Begin with including a comparison between your discounted price versus the actual price. For instance, if you are offering a vacuum worth $100 but are willing to sell it for $80, you appear to give the power back to the customer.
Let them “beat” you at the sale by withholding the extra $20. It may seem like you are losing in this scenario, but any time you can relinquish the appearance of your selling power (the battle) to the customer while still profiting, the more likely you are to win the war. In the same vein, you can again offer a limited free-trial period. Why this works? If a customer tries it and likes it, you have earned their trust at little actual cost to yourself. Winning their trust in this way, they are likely to remain your customer. Ultimately, understanding the point of view of customers is your first step in handling objections. Once you psychologically determine what they are imagining (or, in some cases, not imagining), you will be more capable of filling in the gaps. Moreover, possessing a deeper understanding of human desires and motivations will improve your messaging, as we shall see next.
Demonstrate the Objection
As we have seen in the case of Bare Minerals, Banjo Minnow, and Shark, demonstrations help to solve objections. When we were marketing the Shark vacuum, we understood how customers might wonder: “How does it have such suction power?” We also recognized this wasn’t necessarily an objection. It was more of a question. Knowing this, we structured a content in context demonstration of its suction power on the dirtiest of carpets. But what if our viewing audience still didn’t believe what they saw? How could we continue to address their objections? By providing compelling facts and more testimonials. To demonstrate this, let’s look at a couple of Script to Screen examples instructive for handling customer objections.
Keurig coffee brewers grace the kitchen counters of millions of homes. With so much commercial success, it may seem odd that anyone still doubted the taste of K- Cups. However, as every decent CMO knows, resting on a company’s laurels is a recipe for disaster. Consequently, when we began marketing we decided to target those coffee drinkers unconvinced by Keurig’s quality, those who may
have never even tried Keurig but still guessed it would taste watered-down. Specifically, we went after those individuals who saw the Keurig label and said to themselves, “I only drink Starbucks Verona” or “No way Dunkin’ Donuts will ever taste good in a K-Cup.”
Knowing how seriously coffee lovers take their coffee, we knew we couldn’t overcome objections with a traditional demonstration. To challenge established opinions, we decided to perform a public smell and taste test with blindfolded participants. We first asked people to smell the K-Cup and filmed their reaction. After they were amazed by the rich smell, we asked them to taste it. This was important because these people had never smelled coffee in a K- Cup before; they didn’t have a framework for what it could taste like. This demonstrated the coffee had amazing smell and taste. Then, we asked fans of Starbucks to try two cups of coffee. One was from a physical Starbucks location, and another was a cup from the Keurig using a Starbucks-brand pod. This setting would not only provide objectivity; it would offer social proof.
When we took off the blindfold, revealing to the volunteers which coffee they indicated tasted better, they looked embarrassed. They said the K-Cup was every bit as good or better than the in-store cup. They didn’t enjoy being proven wrong—but then again, they couldn’t dispute their choice. This demonstration demolished taste objections. After all, our participants grudgingly had to admit Keurig tasted better. We didn’t convince anyone by offering a cup of coffee with the promise, “Trust me, this will taste better.” We let independent volunteers make the choice—without any external influence, thus proving our taste claims.
Objectivity was key to our marketing strategy and you must look for the same types of opportunities to prove the truth behind your messaging. When doing so, first seek to understand customer objections. Identify the underlying questions. Then, answer them with specific demonstrations, experts, and testimonials. Like Turbo Fire, if you’re selling a workout program to a wary public who thinks: “There is no possible way I can lose 30 pounds and get in that kind of shape in 90 days,” overwhelm them with contrary evidence. Provide transformative testimonials and bring in expert validation to corroborate the evidence (we will discuss how to find this validation in the next chapter). Why this works? An unassailable combination of emotional-based testimonials, coupled with objective findings, is incredibly compelling.
For another campaign, this one for MEDI-Flow pillow, we knew we also faced customer objections regarding product quality. People wondered: “Is it really possible one pillow can deliver much better sleep?” Again, instead of offering verbal reassurances, we set out to prove our claims. To do so, we visited a sleep center and placed electrodes on volunteers while they slept through the night with their normal pillow. After eight hours of sleep, doctors analyzed the data and showed results indicating restlessness. We also put a camera in the room to demonstrate how much the volunteers tossed and turned through their normal night of sleep.
The next day, we used the same volunteers to perform another sleep test, only this time with the MEDI-Flow pillow. Our clients, the company behind MEDI-Flow, claimed their softer pillow produced deeper rest. Once again, we presented the doctors’ findings. These findings showed the subjects experienced deeper REM cycles, resulting in a better sleep with the MEDI-Flow pillow. This study and demonstration independently verified our claims, proving MEDI-Flow pillow users slept better with the product. The bottom line: When you preemptively address your prospect’s concerns with empirical data,
demonstrations, facts, statistics, and of course, the human emotional appeal, you are more likely to win them over as customers.
In a perfect world, your marketing campaign would cover any potential questions. We don’t live in that world. In reality, you need to head off any potential concerns by thinking like your customer, covering anything that might prevent them from buying into your product or service. Hence, you need to research, plan, and prepare for the worst. In a previous chapter, we instructed you how to interview a customer for a testimonial. The same principles overlap when considering the concerns of objecting customers.
The most important thing you can do? Listen to your base. Don’t interrupt to correct them or dismiss their objections. Remember, my father-in-law’s advice. “If you build the house you like, your customer will let you keep it.” You are not doing yourself any favors by dismissing objections because you think you know better. Don’t take concerns lightly or personally. As an owner, a salesperson, or a marketing department, you proceed at your peril by not considering the thoughts and feelings of the people you wish to sell to. When confronted with an objection, seek to identify the underlying problem. Is it cost? Time involved? Do they already use a similar service and don’t yet recognize the difference and value of yours?
Once you understand the question behind any objection, sympathize with their dilemma or concerns in your messaging. Convey a personal anecdote demonstrating that you appreciate where they are coming from. For instance, consider saying something to the effect of, “I had the same hesitation when I first heard of this type of product but …” or “I understand the need for a tight budget. However, what’s so great about …” Relate on a personal level to your customer base. Don’t just tell them how your product can fit into their life; show them what you mean by using content in context. Provide a story, including a test taste, a research scenario, or something else powerful and independent to back your claims. Remember, you may have to overcome several objections, but when you show empathy, credibility, and trustworthiness, you can conquer any objection. That’s when prospects become customers. That’s when they ask you how they can buy from you.
You will always face objections. They are a part of the selling process. Customers want to feel reassured in their buying decisions and will bring up many problems before listening to any solutions. It is your job to assure them of the value they will receive and the honesty of your company. Remember Zappos, the online shoe company with the personable staff? Involve yourself and/or your people in the marketing process as much possible to reveal your humanity. Uncritically listen to people’s frustrations and hesitations to determine where questions or concerns may arise. However, even this is not enough. It is important to invest the time in formulating ways in which prospects can find fault with your marketing. By better understanding what can be problematic, you will be prepared to head off any concerns. Remember, objections are not rejections. Only if you ignore objections will you face rejection.
Finally, be confident. You know the value of your message, yourself, and your product. A rejection will not
demolish your dreams of success. By relaying the value of your product, employing these strategies, and understanding customer psychology, you can overcome objections and achieve greater success. In the next chapter, we will discuss an extremely helpful mechanism to fend off potential objection: expert validation. We will reveal how to obtain, retain, and offer third-party corroboration for your claims, culminating in positive results.
EXERCISE: PRACTICE HANDLING OBJECTIONS
What better way to handle objections in the professional sphere than to practice addressing them during your personal time? Similar to participating in mock interviews or reciting your speech to your cat, it can be beneficial to practice objection-handling aloud on your downtime.
Step 1: Write down five common objections you face as a business owner for your product or service.
Step 2: Below each objection, write down your best response using our strategies. (Bonus tip: be sure to identify the question behind the objection and answer it.)
Step 3: Say each of your answers aloud. Become accustomed to saying them courteously and sympathetically, but assertively.
Step 4: Try this practice out on friends and family. Give them the “script” of the objections, then practice handling it. Ask them to throw in a surprise or two. (It wouldn’t hurt to have them think up some of their own questions about your product.)
Want an extra challenge? Pitch a product you know they’ll dislike. Can you still overcome their objections?
Chapter Eleven: Offer Expert Validation
“The logic of validation allows us to move between the two limits of dogmatism and skepticism.” ~Paul Ricoeur, Philosopher
Succeed with Third Party Corroboration
We believe diagnoses from doctors because these learned individuals possess extensive medical training. We trust our car mechanic because he or she works on automobiles every day. Presumably, you are reading this book because my 30-plus years of marketing experience means something. Why do we go to experts? To fill the gaps in our own knowledge, we must trust authorities. Not all of us can be professional chemists, legal experts, or neurosurgeons, so we lean on others with the requisite credibility. Naturally, reliance on third parties can also help you sell your product or service. Employing the expertise of a respected individual can counter objections, the subject matter of the last chapter, culminating in customer trust and increased sales.
You may have noticed I discuss the notion of trust in each chapter. This is no accident. No matter how innovative or affordable your product or service, you cannot win over customers unless they trust you. Every second of your video ad, every word of your printed marketing content, is an opportunity to build this trust. So far, we have learned how to build trust through testimonials, demonstrations, and subject matter expertise. However, even if you are perceived as an expert — or have aligned yourself with an expert — customers are savvy. They know you have financial ties to your business. Therefore, it stands to reason you are going to say only good things about it. Throughout this book, I have often trumpeted the need for perceived objectivity and third-party validation. It is not enough to build trust by being perceived as an expert. To really hit a home run out of the park, you need other experts to get behind what you are saying in a way that still indicates neutrality.
Why is it so important to garner expert validation? Marie Swift, a PR Strategist on the Forbes Agency Council expounds, “The answer is easy: third-party validation that provides ‘social proof’ [proves] that we are not only relevant but also experts in what we claim to do for our target markets.” Remember that I told you in the testimonials chapter how a customer talking about your product is always more effective than you talking about it? This concept especially applies to experts. The validation of everyday users is important, but when a third-party expert claims your product is up to their standards, you become exceptionally trustworthy, leading to new heights of acceptance.
To clarify, a third-party expert is not necessarily the same thing as a celebrity spokesperson. If the basis of using third-party corroboration is building trust, your expert should not receive financial benefits. (I will later explain how to pick your expert and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship without a monetary exchange.) As always, it is crucial to break down barriers between your advertisement and your intended customer when contemplating the messaging. The expert serves a specific purpose for the viewer, acting as a kind of intermediary between your claims as the business owner or CMO and the actual product or service. Think of experts as functioning like a testimonial, except only stronger,
offering audiences compelling evidence with dispassion and authenticity. Discovering they were paid to voice their authoritative viewpoint would destroy credibility. Far more influential than the average user, customers are more inclined to listen to experts when finances are off the table. So long as the expert conveys respectable credentials and speaks intelligently about your product, they will help to gain consumer trust. This goodwill will no doubt extend to you and your organization.
Our team at Script to Screen has utilized numerous third-party experts over the years, leading to success for our clients. We have been fortunate to work with athletes, dentists, doctors, nutritionists, performers, and scientists offering unbiased and substantiating claims. Similar to our advice when it comes to interviewing customers for testimonials, we learned when it is best to shut up and listen. Why? The pronouncements by these qualified individuals often have proven more effective than the best marketing script. In the following section, I will review how we utilized our experts to achieve optimal results for our clients and how following our lead can be instructive for your brand.
The Science of Business
Marketing campaigns tend to make many promises. Unfortunately, many of these turn out to be untrue, leading customers to mistrust the phrase “guaranteed results.” With good reason, they view traditional ad slogans as deceptive shlock, written to trick them into buying something they don’t need. The pervasiveness of this attitude makes it so necessary to include third-party expert validation. By the way, the need for experts goes way beyond the scope of advertising. Think about it this way: did Oprah give you medical advice or was it Dr. Oz? Did Oprah offer you relationship advice or did Dr. Phil?
Both instances demonstrate the power of an entertainer aligning with a professional for credibility. (Of course, the case could be made that Oprah elevated both of her experts to new levels of popular acceptance.) Similarly, why do you think The Doctors happens to be such a popular afternoon television program? Like Oprah’s former show, it succeeds by offering advice from credible medical experts. People prefer hearing tips from acclaimed physicians—the more accolades they have received, the more degrees they hold, the better. Why this works? Everyone knows experts can be trusted. Understanding this reality, we utilized them in our respective Nutrisystem and Smileactives’ campaigns.
Nutrisystem makes many weight-loss promises and features diverse programs to fit different lifestyles. For their ad, Nutrisystem employed Marie Osmond as both the celebrity spokesperson and our expert. Her expert status came from her personal success with Nutrisystem. Using it, she lost 50 pounds. Anyone who knows Marie as a beloved singer and a performer realizes she must have more than enough money to buy her personal chef, trainer, and dietician to lose weight. However, the fact that she instead lost it using Nutrisystem—a program most people can afford—bestows it with credibility. After all, she chose this particular system because she knew it worked. Additionally, she wrote a memoir, Might as Well Laugh About It Now, chronicling her eating issues, which resonated with the public, allowing a glimpse into her personal life.
As I have mentioned before, a book is one way to be perceived as an expert or thought leader. By writing hers, Marie not only established her credibility as someone who struggled with weight loss but as a relatable person who discovered how to achieve her goals with a proven program. It also didn’t hurt that Marie invoked empathy amongst the public with her online testimonial in which she said, “Like so many of you, I was unhappy about how I looked and how I felt…[There] I [was], a single mom managing a career.”
Empathy, combined with her expert status as an author on this subject, played no small part in winning over our target market: busy moms juggling family, career, and health concerns. Like Joan Rivers, Marie was a straight shooter and willing to be vulnerable. Knowing Marie personally suffered from dieting issues convinced people she wouldn’t lead them astray. As a result, Marie did wonders to elevate Nutrisystem’s brand, gaining customer support with her personal, yet authoritative story.
Marie Osmond is a fine example of a celebrity-turned- expert, but what about lesser-known experts? Can they lead to positive results for your business? Absolutely. As we have seen, a customer researching a product is more likely to feel secure about their purchase when they see a professional vouch for it. We are also accustomed to trusting research by those with lofty educations, like Ph.D.’s. Just because these professionals aren’t as well- known as Marie Osmond or Dr. Phil, for that matter, doesn’t mean they don’t still command attention or respect. Also, though you may recall I always caution clients against beginning their infomercials with technical minutia, it’s time I stress the need to include scientific- based corroboration later in their commercial. If the point of countering objections is to reassure consumers, nothing works better than expert validation. Independent and objective, this alleviates concerns. Remember, customers want to feel validated in their decisions. If and when they know substantiating research backs a product or service, they are more likely to trust it.
We proved the effectiveness of such thinking with our campaign for Smileactives. This company offers a superior teeth-whitening product different from others due to its ease of use. Instead of requiring a dental appointment, complicated strips, or a kit, all you have to do is add the gel to your toothpaste and brush it onto your teeth. Though it already stood out as a distinct product, we wanted to generate more trust by bringing in a dentist who had performed more than 20,000 teeth-whitening procedures. The fact that this dentist, Dr. Barbara Wachs, recommended Smileactives brought tremendous credibility to our messaging. Not only did it assure customers that the process would be easy, our messaging also helped convince them they would receive the same professional results as in an office setting.
Beyond including the dental testimonial, we went a step further by including testimonial support from Eric Montgomery, a biological scientist and expert in the chemistry of teeth whitening. Once again delivering credibility, this expert discussed the physiological causes of yellow, dingy teeth. Explaining how teeth possess chromogens, molecules that absorb stains, and how Smileactives combines with these chemicals to generate a whitening reaction, this individual provided the product with a sound scientific explanation for its efficacy. This technical explanation may go over some customers’ heads, but like I’ve said before, the audience doesn’t need to understand the science. They don’t even need to know what chromogens are. They just need to believe the person explaining it.
Please know my above rationale is not meant to be cynical or condescending. I am not a dentist, nor was I aware of the science relating chromogens to teeth- whitening before working on this ad. In this sense, I am similar to Smileactives’ target audience. No one can be an expert on everything. Due to life’s complicated nature, we must rely on others from time to time. So long as these people prove to be knowledgeable and trustworthy, we can feel safe in their validations. You may be thinking to yourself, this is all well and good, but I don’t know any doctors or scientists to back up my claims. What do I do? Not a problem. Securing an expert may be easier than you think. Let me explain how.
Finding Your Expert
Before researching an expert, you must understand your unique solution. It might sound obvious, but all experts aren’t alike. If you’re building laptop accessories, you probably don’t need a doctor’s validation even if the title sounds good on paper. It would be better to feature someone respected in this particular industry, like a computer scientist or programmer. A respectable title will also help as long as it relates to what you are offering. Likewise, it should be clear from the words this person speaks or writes that they possess the experience and credentials to qualify as an expert.
To take a different example, let’s imagine you are a restaurant owner offering delicious, gourmet food fresh from local farms. Who might you pursue as your expert? Would a general manager with experience running successful chain restaurants do? Probably not. This individual does not speak to your unique solution. Your fancy eatery is well-known for sumptuous steaks that come from cows raised on grass, free-range chicken, and seafood caught in the wild. Therefore, you require an expert who can speak to food quality, not restaurant management. In this case, it would be a good idea to reach out to “John,” a world-renowned organic farmer specializing in the food-to-table movement. This individual could corroborate the dangers of pesticides and chemicals in the food supply while promoting the fact you abide by the strictest quality guidelines leading to delicious yet nutritious meals.
Bottom line: solid, related credentials can bestow an expert with the kind of validation needed to convince audiences of your value. The right person with a respectable background pertaining to your unique solution will help counter objections forming in a prospect’s mind. For example, if you provide a teeth- whitening product, it makes sense to ask a dentist to substantiate your claims. If you are a yoga instructor, it’s helpful to include testimonial support from a physician knowledgeable about the practice. Finding an expert is important, but finding the right expert is key. Your expert needs to validate not only your product but also what makes your take on it special. If you are successful in this regard, customers will be able to distinguish you from your competition and feel safe buying from you.
Employing the Expert
As we have seen, businesses can behave in surprisingly altruistic ways due to capitalism’s interdependent nature. This same phenomenon can exist between sellers and third-party experts. A kind of positive- sum game can occur between businesses and authorities in which both may profit from collaboration. Why this works? In ways not dissimilar from business brands, experts often seek out their own opportunities for exposure, cultivating reputability to enhance their status. Being associated with quality products or services can also aid them in attaining trustworthiness and social cache.
Recognizing the mutual benefits for expert and business alike, as well as the type of expert to seek, it is time to turn our attention to how to obtain one. Even without money or visibility, you can obtain experts willing to substantiate your claims in the same manner you can acquire user testimonials. Consider offering them samples of your product or service for their bias-free opinion. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact someone you respect in a space consistent with your brand and value proposition. Flattery can help too. Everyone likes feeling respected and needed. Why not send an email explaining how much you value this person’s opinion and see what happens? If handled with professionalism and courtesy, they may provide objective substantiation. Forward-thinking individuals may jump at the opportunity to boost their own reputation while helping to enhance your brand.
The flipside to expert acquisition is also knowing what to avoid. Since your goal is to increase, not erode, trust, there are a few people you should stay away from. You don’t want to utilize experts who are disingenuous. Also, avoid fringe people not well-regarded in the community. If tainted, their negative perception may extend to you. By the same token, include individuals with a high status of credibility. Like Barney Adams, if your product happens to be golf clubs, it would do you little good to reach out to your high school golf coach for expert validation. Yes, they may be very fond of you, but their professional reputation is limited. Sure, you may not be able to hook up with Jack Nicklaus, but you can probably snag someone more professional with a commensurate reputation. Also, don’t just use someone just because they are in close proximity. The power of the web to unite people everywhere can easily put you in touch with someone far away.
Along similar lines, fake experts should be avoided at all costs. No doubt, you have seen sketchy pharma ads featuring TV scripts with obviously paid actors dressed up in doctors’ outfits. First of all, it’s a bad idea to pay any expert (or customer for that matter) to participate in a testimonial. Pay-for-play is bound to lead to conflicts of interests and less-than-objective feedback. Moreover, the web is famous for debunking false claims. Being associated with a less-than-scrupulous expert may come back to haunt you. Besides, why even bother when there are probably many experts who would be more than happy to offer their professional judgment on your business’ offerings?
Similar to employing end-user testimonials, once you obtain your well-regarded expert, it is best to maximize your time with them. As discussed, an interview is only as good as the interviewer. This means it pays to ask the right questions, specifically, open-ended ones. When talking with an authority who knows what they want to discuss, it would be a bad idea to ask a “yes or no” type question and expect a polished response. Also, remember to do your homework. Your questions should be well thought out ahead of time to generate the answers to best position your brand. I recommend brainstorming a list of topics to cover as well as targeted queries. Some of these may include:
“Why would you recommend my product or service?” “Why is it worth the cost?”
“In your professional opinion, why is this product or
service unique? How does it provide something better than what is out there?’
Asking these types of questions will lead you to the ideal responses. Moreover, they will be pertinent to your messaging, offering the expert an opportunity to expound on their knowledge. Still feeling unsure how to proceed? The Action Steps below offer a more thorough outline to ensure excellent third-party validation will complement your marketing efforts.
Expert corroboration can foster trust between you and your customers. By sharing the spotlight with someone who has put in the time, research, and energy to earn respect in your industry, you provide a deeper, more trustworthy channel of communication. Now that you understand the need for experts and how to contact them, make a list of the top individuals who would improve your standing (and who could likewise benefit from an association with you.) Reach out to them through email, a phone call, or even an in-person meeting.
Since the truth is people respond better when they understand what is in it for them, come prepared to explain incentives for your expert. Think about ways they can heighten their status by being connected with your brand. Steer the conversation away from financial gain so as not to corrupt the association. Instead, focus on ways in which your product or service can help others, and how this expert’s participation can aid in this endeavor. (It’s also a good idea to follow up this conversation with a hand-written thank you note.)
If you are successful in lining up your expert, spend a considerable amount of time doing your homework, determining the right questions to best position your individual and your brand. Then, schedule time to interview this person. (Like testimonials, video works best.) Be sure to let them know you will be editing the material and allow them to weigh in, if possible, in the editing process. Once the interview has been edited, post it on your website, social media channels, or in your actual marketing campaign so as to receive the full positive effects.
The inventor of a product or a business founder is only trustworthy to an extent. Everyone knows this individual has a vested interest in the success of the business. To generate trust, the lifeblood of your company, it’s necessary to capitalize on the human need to verify claims through trustworthy, independent experts. Demonstrating to prospects and customers alike that your assertions can be corroborated by top professionals goes a long way to establishing social proof, objectivity, and authority. So- called thought leaders and experts lend an incredible amount of validation in our review-based economy. As I have said before, people don’t want to make bad economic choices, especially with so much at stake. The information age has brought us a wealth of information and data, but it has also saturated us with content, some of it dubious. Utilizing an expert for a stamp of approval is a sophisticated way of saying, “This is not B.S.”
To avoid appearing untainted in any way, avoid financial compromises with your expert that could undermine the promise of that last statement. The whole point of authority validation is to counter objections, reassuring customers they have nothing to fear when buying from you. Similar to the magic of a testimonial, an expert testimonial can break down conversion barriers, helping prospects to see your value. You can make as many promises and claims as you like to customers, but they won’t hold the same value as someone highly respected as a knowledgeable expert. Do your business a favor by engaging the types of authorities who believe in your business just as much as you do.
Once you have your customer’s trust, it’s time to give them the offer. This is the final step in your marketing campaign, and one which will bring you what you want:
results. In this last chapter of Section Two, I will cover how to seal the deal.
EXERCISE: FIND YOUR NEXT EXPERT NOW
You know you need an expert who can specifically relate to your product or service. But how do you know they’ll be the right one? Use these steps to ensure you are researching the right industries and prepared to professionally approach the experts within them.
Step 1: Write down your unique proposition in three different ways. Then circle the words that relate to the selected industries. (Example: “My chair alleviates back pain.” Circle ‘back’ as it relates to the health field.)
Step 2: Based on the words you circled, research the applicable industries. Who is an expert in back pain? Doctors? Chiropractors? Acupuncturists? Who has done significant research and can therefore provide you expert validation?
Step 3: Pick an expert in the selected field and research them further. Determine which professional organizations they belong to, as well as awards or designations received.
Step 4: If you plan on creating a video, reach out to this expert by sending them a product to try. Explain your unique proposition, why you admire their work, then use your research to show this person you’re serious about highlighting their expertise to your audience.
Chapter Twelve: Give Them the Offer
“Money doesn’t lead; it follows.” ~Dan Gilbert, Chairman/Founder of Rock Ventures and Quicken Loans, Inc.
Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Right
A customer is always hyper-aware of two things: their time and money. Viewing an ad takes time; buying your product costs money. As business owners and marketers, we must simplify this process. We need to make things quick and easy. Living in our fast-paced world demands an economization of resources. Customers need to know listening to you is worth their precious seconds. They also need to recognize the ease of your buying process, especially when it comes to selling online. A product’s value doesn’t just pertain to its price. It includes the time it takes to get it. Closing a sale is therefore like a delicate dance requiring the right steps and balance. Fumble the offer and you can lose the deal.
Up until now, I have written a lot about generating the right conditions to make a sale. It would be a huge disservice if I didn’t stress the importance of perfecting the closing itself. After investing so much energy into positioning your messaging, it would be a terrible waste to blow up the whole deal with a shoddy transactional process. Seemingly trivial details can wreck a transaction. For instance, if the screen lags after clicking a “buy” button, you can lose a deal. I began this book by discussing consumers’ waning attention spans; is it, therefore, any wonder customers can give up on buying your product if something as minor as a slow-loading page jams up the works? Instead of decrying people’s impatience (which won’t change a thing), it would be a better use of your time to streamline every aspect of your buying process so customers don’t go elsewhere for what they need.
At this point, you’ve learned how to capture your audience’s attention and maintain their interest through compelling stories hinging on emotional appeals, coupled with empathy. You have learned to give them a reason to believe in your claims through customer testimonials, countering objections by replacing questions with answers to generate reassurance. With any luck, you showed them why they need your product and how it will benefit their lives. You have built a rapport with your targeted base through expert validation, verifying claims, and defeating the most challenging obstacles to any sale. So, what’s the next step? Giving them the offer, the right way.
A Discussion of Value
If closing the sale is an intricate dance requiring correct timing and moves, presenting the offer may be likened to an art form. Blunders can be costly, undoing all of the hard work you have put in. Your highest concern at this stage should be communicating the value of your product or service. At some level, all prices are arbitrary, based on a comparison to something else. If you grew up in a culture in which the price of a pen was $10,000 and everyone saw it that way, you would have no other point of reference to suggest $10,000 is too much to pay for this object.
While prices can ebb and flow due to considerations such as inflation, value possesses a more enduring quality. We can disagree on the price of pens or houses all day long, but the worth of something is quite personal, based on factors such as utility, needs, and desire. As a marketer, it is my job to make customers understand the value of my clients’ products. Throughout the years, Barbi and I have never taken this responsibility lightly. It is no accident we never promote something we don’t believe in. In a similar manner, it is your highest duty to foster a sense of value in your customers’ minds before giving them your offer. If you do not achieve this goal, they are likely to walk from the deal. If this happens you will have only yourself to blame.
Another reason to spend the time communicating the value of your product or service pertains to perception. An understanding of your product’s value can provide justification if and when you need to increase or decrease its price. Value, correctly explained, can help alleviate cost concerns. For instance, people (rightfully) grumble when their health insurance premium goes up. Still, they are reluctant to go without healthcare because they value their health. Similar to healthcare, value can often transcend monetary values. (After all, who can put a price on a human life?) Considerations of value can also include someone’s time, their expertise, and quality of their work.
When it comes to the former, time, the value attached often goes something like this: My worth includes my expertise. By offering you my time and skills I will save you the time (and therefore the money involved) you would spend to do the work. The creation of a car can be thought of in this way. How many of us have the time or knowhow to build a car? Not many. It makes sense to see a sticker price in the thousands of dollars for a vehicle most of us would have no clue how to create.
By the same token, value can be assessed as a consideration of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs especially come into play with services rendered. What kinds of opportunity costs would you lose if you tried to perform the same work as a professional? There is a good reason your bookkeeper manages your accounts payable. Accurate and dependable, this person frees up your time by doing you a service. If they didn’t, you would miss out on all kinds of things, such as productivity and clean records. Yes, it is true that you could learn how to manage your own books if given enough time, but what would you miss out on while doing so? Most likely the opportunity to better run your company, manage your staff, and earn more revenue. Accordingly, when employing a bookkeeper, your opportunity cost is the money you spend for this person to help you. However, most businesses are happy to eat this cost because it beats the alternative.
Understanding how two precious commodities, time and money, can impact decision making is key to communicating our value to customers. Before making any offer, it is in our best interest to gather intelligence, observing behavior through the lens of our own tendencies. Think of your own purchasing decisions. Imagine you needed a new dishwasher, but your wife just lost her job and your family is hurting for money. Even though you both hate dishes piling in your sink, you decide to put off the purchase because dishwashers are costly. Then again, washing dishes by hand can take a good hour every night, preventing you from doing other things you like, such as spending time with your family. You have a decision to make. What do you value more? Your money or your time?
Paralyzed by this complicated decision, perhaps time enters the equation in a different way. Unable to make a choice, you procrastinate, and the situation drags on. Now, what if you saw an ad offering you a one-time
discount on dishwashers, but it was only good for today? Would your opinion change? Would it help you decide to buy the dishwasher at last even though the price is still a bit outside your budget? Yes! You buy it before the day is done. Now, let’s analyze what just happened. The retailer made you an offer you couldn’t turn down. Employing a sense of urgency to trade some of your money for more time, this company gave you what I call an irresistible offer.
How to Make an Irresistible Psychological Offer
To create an irresistible offer, you must first understand the psychology of your customers. Hundreds of studies have analyzed what influences individuals to do all kinds of things from donating to causes, to buying extra products, to skipping an aisle in the produce department. This kind of research aids marketers in crafting specific text, images, and discounts to close more sales. Through these examples, it is possible to discover amazing insights, such as how one simple word can revolutionize an ad campaign, spiking sales by more than a dozen percentage points.
In 10 Ways to Convert More Customers, Gregory Ciotti compiled 10 such studies of consumer behavior. Each offers actionable sales advice helpful to this discussion. For instance, every consumer reaches a “buying pain- point.” This describes the moment in which you tally up your items, frantically trying to see if you can retract some of your purchases. It’s when your inner voice warns: This is too much! Largely influenced by our upbringing, this pain-point may be the result of either the frugal or indulgent spending habits of mom and dad — as well as our own financial comfort level.
Similar to the earlier dishwashing hypothetical, if you’re accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck, you may possess a lower buying pain-point than someone enjoying a six-figure salary. As marketers, it’s up to us to convey prices versus perceived value to make everyone, regardless of buying pain-points, feel comfortable with our costs. To this end, Ciotti recommends “reframing value.” If a sticker price reads $1,200 for a new dishwasher, it might trigger buying pain-points for some people. However, if you finesse the wording, explaining the cost is $99.99 spread over 12 months for a brand-new appliance sure to improve your customer’s life, he might not balk as much at the cost. Instead of focusing on the $1,200, he might picture more time with his wife and children for less than $100 a month. Offering value, combined with enticing pricing, can ease a customer’s concern regarding opportunity costs.
A different study, this one conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, examined the influence of one word. In it, researchers studied responses to a free DVD trial offer. By changing the original text, which read, “a $5 fee,” to “a small $5 fee,” sales increased by 20%. This interesting finding exemplifies the need to remind customers of value. A “$5 fee” doesn’t connote worth. It just tells a person they are going to have to spend money. “That’s $5 out of my pocket I don’t want to spend,” they are apt to think. Though it may seem trivial, the word “small” kickstarts a mental comparison. “This $5 fee is small compared to what I spend on Netflix,” they might think to themselves. Such a descriptor initiates a value comparison, leading to increased customer action.
As I have pointed out, capitalism flourishes with a reciprocal give-and-take relationship. Businesses solve problems, leading to customer revenue. To emphasize the
value that you provide to customers, don’t shy away from being the giver in this financial relationship. Ciotta would agree with me that it doesn’t hurt to offer free items now and to make your customers feel that they are getting the better end of the deal. He writes, “It doesn’t take much to start the process of reciprocity; even the smallest of favors allow goodwill to be bought with customers, increasing loyalty and retention.” Loyalty rewards and freebies are small but meaningful gestures of saying “thank you.” Customers tend to remember such acts of graciousness, associating your name with value when making future purchasing decisions.
Another gesture to elicit customer loyalty has to do with incorporating the element of surprise. A study devised by The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology found that customers obtained great enjoyment from small surprises and tended to favor the companies behind them: “Dr. Robert Cialdini noted that subjects were prone to rate others as much more likable when they had simply bought them a can of soda.” Again, it sounds simple, but people like to be surprised by positive things, equating worth to the minor act. A little token can become the highlight of someone’s day. What’s your version of the free can of soda? What unexpected prize can you expend to increase your customers’ happiness? Scientific research tells us it’s worth the extra money, leading to more sales. Not only that, but it also makes your business memorable — and a memorable business is one people talk about with their friends.
Additional Tips for Presenting the Offer
Before we outline our campaigns and their irresistible offers, here are a few more tips from our experience in direct response. First, utilize the power of comparison as a means of expressing value. I recommend showing customers what they would have spent on similar products in your industry and how they will save money by buying yours. One cautionary word of advice, however: Don’t make up numbers. Don’t create a fake competitor or exaggerate costs. Throughout this book, generating trust has been the name of the game. Doctoring information can destroy credibility. Do your homework because your customers will, too. If you really want to engender goodwill, consider offering a low 30-day trial price or a 100% money-back guarantee.
As this chapter will attest, many customers worry about losing, whether their time or money. Offering money-back guarantees or free-trial periods can make them feel like a winner in a reciprocal relationship. It reassures them that they stand to gain something. It also flips the value perspective, helping people to view your offer as an opportunity cost, not a loss.
Putting It All Together
So, what does a fully formed marketing strategy look like? Taking a tip out of my own playbook, I thought I would show an actual campaign now that you have learned all 12 steps to the marketing process, including giving the offer. The following demonstrates two successful campaigns incorporating everything we’ve learned so far. An objection could be made that it’s easier to corporate all 12 steps using direct-marketing since we generally utilize a half an hour to complete our presentations. This is a reasonable concern, but since I am big on demonstrations, I am going to show you how my team at Script to Screen and I pulled off the exact same 12 steps in two minutes. Are you ready to see?
SHARK ROCKET VACUUM
1. Grab Attention.
We hired an actor with an English accent to rave about Dyson at the beginning of the commercial. He extolled the virtues of the brand. Then, we subverted expectations by showing an American housewife dismiss the “superior brand” of Dyson by one-upping its features with the Shark Rocket Vacuum. The punchline? Shark can do everything Dyson can, but for less.
2. Connect with Your Customer.
We showed Dyson’s products lack suction power and the heavy, bulky process of maneuvering them around your house. We also demonstrated homeowners struggling with these issues, illustrating how this vacuum made housecleaning much more difficult and time-consuming than it needed to be.
3. Keep it Simple.
Unlike our competition, a Shark vacuum has a lightweight, streamlined design with incredible suction power on all floor surfaces for a fraction of Dyson’s price.
4. Obtain Expert Status.
The CEO of the company presented his latest design, which outperformed all his other quality vacuums. His presence and confidence in his products established him as the expert.
5. Tell a story.
We showed homeowners struggling with their outdated vacuums in their own homes and had them explain their frustrations. These personal stories became the overarching narrative every homeowner could relate to.
6. Identify the Problem.
Typically, vacuums are constructed of heavy plastics with big motors that make them impossible to maneuver. They also are not very efficient at picking up messes. Homeowners were left making a compromise between light and inefficient at picking up messes, or heavy and bulky, making cleaning an even bigger chore.
7. Provide Your Unique Solution.
We offered a solution that put us in our customer’s shoes (or in this instance, their own homes.) Shark vacuums offered a superior design that was both extremely lightweight and incredibly powerful. Homeowners now had an easier and better performing vacuum at a fraction of the price.
8. Demonstrate It Works.
We showed demonstration after demonstration of how traditional bulky vacuums could not pick up messes consistently. We saw messes left behind even after the vacuum went over the area several times. Then, we showed the same demonstrations with the Shark vacuum effortlessly cleaning up the exact same mess over and over. This clearly showed the superior cleaning power.
9. Offer Testimonials.
We interviewed real homeowners who purchased the Shark vacuum and asked about their experiences. We also made a point to see them in their environment: the actual places and messes they used the vacuum to clean. This content, in the context of the story, ensured authenticity.
10. Counter Objections.
We ran into objections with this product. People said, “I don’t believe it is as powerful as you say it is. How can it be light and compact and still do a great job at cleaning?” We countered these objections with demonstrations. Shark owners showed us how well the vacuum worked, relaying their positive experiences. A second common objection was, “How can a vacuum of such high quality not be expensive?” We assured them the affordable price was due to superior engineering, thoughtful design, and the fact they were buying it directly from the manufacturer. This eliminated the middleman and passed the savings to customers.
11. Offer Expert Validation.
We featured Dr. Philip Tierno, a carpet and clean air expert, who validated the dust-collection technology of the Shark. This carpet and rug expert had 30-plus years of testing experience and actually administered a duct- collection test.
He confirmed the quality of the product and possessed the credentials to back up his claims.
12. Give Them the Offer.
Did we answer all of the questions and objections? Yes. Once we did, we moved onto presenting the offer. By providing all of the information in a relatable yet compelling way, we demonstrated value. For a reasonable price, we were offering a product with tremendous worth. It would not only solve our customers’ problems but also provide superior quality in an economically viable way.
With the Shark Rocket, we had the gift of time. We could draw out answers to questions and objections because we had 30 minutes to do so. But how do you make the same impact when you only have two minutes in a short commercial or Facebook ad? Our campaign for Smileactives proved success is still possible using seconds instead of minutes.
SMILEACTIVES (Two-Minute Facebook Advertisement)
1. Grab Attention.
We posed a question: How would you like to have bright white teeth now with little hassle and cost?
2. Connect with Your Customer.
We acknowledged the fact that white teeth are expensive. People don’t want to pay for dental procedures, whitening strips or trays. They’re also a hassle.
3. Keep it Simple.
We kept our messaging simple with a promise to improve our customers’ teeth in a non-invasive, yet cost- effective way.
4. Obtain Expert Status.
We presented a special teeth-whitening activation gel. Chemically balanced to kill chromogens in teeth causing stains, it combines with regular toothpaste to create a powerful treatment every time the customer brushes.
5. Tell a story.
We showed individuals putting the gel on toothbrushes with their favorite toothpaste, then showed before-and-after images to demonstrate what the product could do in just seven days.
6. Identify the Problem.
Other whitening gels pose frustrating challenges. Sometimes painful and often expensive, procedures can be time consuming and don’t always work.
7. Provide Your Unique Solution.
Our whitening gel works with any toothpaste. It doesn’t require extra steps, nor does it cause pain. It’s also very affordable.
8. Demonstrate It Works.
We showed models using the affordable, hassle-free teeth whitening product, generating teeth up to six shades whiter in just 30 days.
9. Offer Testimonials.
We collected a group of subjects committed to using the product for 30 days. We took photos on Day 1, Day 7, and Day 30, along with their happy reactions.
10. Counter Objections.
We only asked customers for testimonials who had used whiteners in the past. This way, they could say this product was better than all of the others they had tried. In addition, we based the price on subscription rates. This lowered the buying pain-point and gave them an “out” option — after the first month, they could cancel at any time.
11. Offer Expert Validation.
As described in the previous chapter, we hired dentists and teeth-whitening experts to validate the chemistry behind the product, reassuring the audience of its value.
12. Give Them the Offer.
We gave our subscription-based, psychologically irresistible offer at the [1:15] mark of the 2-minute commercial. We spent the last 45 seconds emphasizing the product’s value along with what they could expect to receive if they bought it today. We also rehashed how to buy it and how easy it was to use.
After doing all of the hard marketing work, don’t drop the ball when it comes time to present an offer. Use the above steps to organize your selling points into a streamlined and easy-to-understand offer. Each chapter of this book builds on a previous selling point, leading up to the closing. Make your most impactful closing by generating an appeal based on your value, especially as it relates to time and money. If you ever feel stuck, return to the basics. Lead with an attention-grabbing message before presenting your customers’ problem and your unique solution. When offering value, remember to include enticing images and irrefutable demonstrations. Be sure to answer these questions: what does your product or service do? How? Why is it necessary?
Once you have established these fundamentals, your messaging will naturally counter objections, leading to an irresistible offer. So long as you are proving value by showing how you can improve your customers’ lives, what you are offering is sure to speak for itself. Be sure to consider your customers’ financial situations, offering them enticing pricing while communicating your value so they can understand your worth. A sense of urgency is key to promote any sale, therefore prompt your customer to take action. Whenever possible utilize price comparisons. Do the research for your customers. Explain why buying at this moment will save them money — and time.
Customers want to save time and money. Proving your product will do both for them is a recipe for success. It is possible to generate interest by proposing irresistible offers as well as honest price comparisons. Empower customers by understanding their psychology, empathizing with their buying pain-points. Don’t manipulate numbers or neglect their objections; rather, break down prices so they are more palatable. Consider using monthly subscriptions or offer trial periods to increase their comfort level. Whether you have two minutes or 30 minutes of airtime for your video, or 30 seconds in a Facebook ad, you can use this book’s advice to close a sale. Also, remember to maintain customer attention with specific wording (remember the “$5 fee” vs. “small $5 fee”), to secure an interest in a bargain that speaks to what they value.
You are now equipped to write a draft of your marketing strategy, no matter your product or service. The 12 steps we outlined in campaigns for Shark and Smileactives can be instrumental in crafting an effective campaign, and, like other examples in this book, may be used for greatest success. In the third and final section of the book, I will break down lessons to further finesse the closing and sharpen your sales message. Doing so, I will teach you how to maintain authenticity, give social proof, demonstrate your product’s value, and produce an even stronger call to action. By perfecting each step, you will be even more effective in your marketing.
EXERCISE: DESIGN YOUR BEST AD
By now, you’ve read all 12 steps for a solid marketing strategy. It’s time to complete your strategy for your product or service. During this exercise, keep in mind your offer. Does it offer value when it comes to time and/or money?
Step 1: Answer the following questions with one sentence: What’s your customer’s problem? What’s your solution? What does it do? How does it do it? Why does everyone need it? How will you demonstrate it works? Who will you collect testimonials from? What are some anticipated objections and how will you counter them? Who will offer expert validation? What will make your offer irresistible?
Step 2: Take your one-sentence answers (perfect for building a two-minute ad) and expand on them. Add details. Include demonstrations or additional experts. Now you have a preliminary outline for a 30-minute ad.
Step 3: Make a timeline, plotting each answer in 15- second increments (or five-second increments for a two- minute ad). When does your offer land? Can you push it sooner or later in the commercial?
Step 4: Edit your sentences. Organize your ad into a first draft. Read it aloud — does it flow? Will it answer people’s questions? Is it enticing enough?
To spice up your offer, can you include a money-back guarantee? A free trial? A two-in-one deal? Make sure to emphasize these kinds of items as they can build a trusting relationship between you and your customer base.
This process is the backbone of our multimillion-dollar agency that has generated billions in sales for our clients. That’s why we call our book “This Works Marketing.” Now you are well on your way to producing an effective ad.
SECTION THREE: FINESSING THE CLOSING
Chapter Thirteen: Provide an Authentic Message
“Truth is a point of view, but authenticity can’t be faked.” ~Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment
Authentic Public Relations in the 21st Century
Believe in the power of connection. As social creatures, deep human connection makes us feel whole. It’s no secret we avoid fake people. We know phoniness will not improve our lives. Real connection can only occur, though, when both parties are honest and willing to show their true selves. Despite opinions to the contrary, revealing vulnerability can be helpful from a marketing point of view, yet so many people run from it. The fear of exhibiting “weakness” stops us in our tracks — preventing us from going deep enough to establish meaningful human connections.
Research Professor Brene Brown understands this reality. She spoke on the limitations of refusing to be vulnerable in a widely downloaded TED Talk. “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people,” she said. “We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, and to be loved, and to belong.” Displaying vulnerability, she explains, allows others to see us as authentic and connect with us more. Still, you may be asking yourself: What on earth does being vulnerable have to do with improving a marketing message? Quite simply, being vulnerable means permitting others to see our mistakes. It has to do with being real. Being vulnerable might seem like a stupid idea when navigating the cut-throat world of sales. After all, we are taught in business to never let our guard down, lest we undermine ourselves in front of competitors.
However, I tend to agree with Brown about the importance of vulnerability. I encourage you to consider a different approach when it comes to presenting yourself and your organization. Far from undermining people’s perceptions, being vulnerable can help humanize you, leading to greater trust, the cornerstone of every business relationship. Why this works? Do you want to sell more products? Do you want to develop stronger relationships with your customers? Then you need to come across as authentic in the 21st century.
Being authentic was not the suggested marketing norm in the corporate world a generation ago. Employees and employers alike were encouraged to present a buttoned-up image. They put up emotional firewalls between themselves and customers to prevent revealing the slightest weakness. But times have changed. Perhaps it’s due to more females in the workplace. After all, women are known to be more emotionally demonstrative than men. Then again, maybe it’s due to the Internet’s tendency to blur the line between personal and professional lives. Whatever the reason, norms have changed. Customers have not just come to appreciate authenticity, they expect it. They know when they are being sold to and resent it. It’s therefore time to embrace a new mentality — one that says B.S-ing is no longer a good idea.
By the way, even if your competition hasn’t gotten this memo — especially if they don’t understand what’s required of brands in the social media age — you must embrace the new paradigm. Do you want to make waves? Do you want to build customer loyalty? Then, drop the corporate speak. Use your platform to have real conversations with your followers and customers. The company Patagonia did this. Dedicated to combatting the environmental crisis, it implemented a “drive-less” program, actually offering monetary incentives to employees not to drive alone to work. Putting its money where its mouth is, the company also ran a full-page ad on Black Friday reading, “Don’t Buy This Jacket” for its own product. Talk about confounding expectations. Their ad copy told shoppers, “This season, share some values,” encouraging them to pledge to reduce consumption. The response? This campaign grew revenue by 30% the following year.
You may read this story and think it sounds like a cynical marketing ploy, but I don’t consider “providing an authentic message” to be a phony sales tactic. You can’t feign authenticity. Either you have it or you don’t, and customers will recognize the truth. Over the years, Barbi and I have chosen to work on those campaigns we believed in because we knew if we didn’t buy into the message, no one else would either. Good marketing increases awareness for an already good product — it cannot make up for a poor one. You could arrange a beautiful set with pristine lighting, employ a professional wardrobe stylist, and pack the spot with mega-celebrities, and still lose sales for appearing disingenuous. Don’t believe me? Pepsi’s attempt to “project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding” blew up in the company’s face in 2017. This happened when it crassly thrust reality star Kendall Jenner into the Black Lives debate with a corny shot of her giving a Pepsi to a cop to quell a race demonstration. Sensing phoniness, viewers converged on social media to criticize the ad, prompting Pepsi to pull it.
As the Pepsi debacle shows, most people can easily sniff out inauthenticity. We know when someone is not being genuine. Sure, there are charlatans who can peddle their version of snake oil, but they usually don’t last long.
Fact-checks and the internet’s easy access to information have made it harder to hide. Besides, unless you have a poor-quality product or service, there is no reason to hide. Why be anything other than straight-up with people, especially when being genuine can yield so much good? I will be honest and vulnerable with you right now. I cannot teach you how to be authentic. This is a trait you’ve hopefully developed as you’ve matured. However, I can demonstrate how my team and I have used authenticity to improve our sales messages. In the following section I will share some successful campaigns in which demonstrating authenticity played a big role. But first, I want to show you what not to do by detailing some huge public-relation disasters.
A Lie Is Not a Fix
The might of the Internet can be a double-edged sword. Though it permits us to reach more customers than ever before, it also reveals — and holds hostage — our most embarrassing mistakes. Forever. To demonstrate the danger of allowing inauthentic messages to fall into the hands of people with the capacity to re-upload (and share and share and share), let’s take a look at some displays of inauthenticity we should not emulate.
Do you remember the tragic oil spill in the Gulf, courtesy of British Petroleum? The accident caused the deaths of 11 crew members and unleashed 60,000 barrels of oil, contaminating the ocean and the local ecosystem. After the devastating event, BP’s CEO Tony Hayward spoke out publicly. He did everything one would expect from the head of a conglomerate. Nicely attired, he proceeded to tell the world his company was doing everything possible to amend the disaster. He insisted BP was pursuing strong measures to minimize the accident’s effects on the environment.
Hayward said all the right things. Following the advice in section one of this book, he even made an attempt to be vulnerable. In relation to relief efforts, he acknowledged the tremendous difficulty BP faced. “These are without a doubt complex and challenging tasks. While we have had to overcome hurdles, we are doing everything we can to respond as quickly and effectively as we can.” These words may have come across meaningful on paper, but his TV appearance belied them. If anything, he looked indifferent about the problem. His words felt scripted and rehearsed. Instead of demonstrating authenticity, he conveyed apathy, the exact opposite of what was needed.
After all, BP’s incompetency cost lives. Mourning families wanted to hear contrition. They wanted a human being filled with pathos who cared about their loved ones. Instead, Hayward gave a poor performance of a sympathetic individual. To make matters worse, a couple of days later, an amateur videographer caught him on tape cruising the harbor in his multimillion-dollar yacht. This sent the public a very different message: Sure, I’m going to handle this epic disaster — the clean-up, the mobilization crews, the relief wells — after I finish drinking my wine and entertaining my friends. This was the real Hayward. The video said far more about his priorities, unraveling thousands of dollars’ worth of public relations efforts.
What Hayward’s gaffe reveals is that you can hire fancy media firms to construct polished scripts. You can say “all the right things” and look the part. However, all of this work will produce little good in the public world we now live in, courtesy of the Internet. Not only that, if you do not believe in your message, no matter how polished you appear, the public won’t either. Renowned business guru Brian Tracy once said, “The glue that holds all relationships together — including the relationship between the leader and the led — is trust, and trust is based on integrity.” Thanks to the web, trust can be created quicker than ever. It can also be destroyed in a matter of seconds, especially with a leak.
Remember how I said part of being vulnerable means admitting mistakes? The next two companies could have saved themselves much embarrassment by absorbing this lesson. Similar to BP’s blunder, the trouble originated with the companies’ response to a problem. The fact is, as humans, we make mistakes. Shipments don’t get distributed correctly. Ill-conceived slogans get misunderstood. When stuff like this happens it’s the best time for an authentic response. When that doesn’t happen, a problem can worsen.
Over the years, the clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch has earned a mixed reputation. Clearly a successful organization, it made public splashes with publicity stunts, such as employing shirtless male models as greeters. Likewise, the company also has a notorious history for producing questionable clothing. In one incident, it created T-shirts featuring degrading depictions of Asians with racist slogans, reminiscent of insensitive caricatures from the early 1900s. Hampton Carney, responsible for the company’s PR, had some interesting “authentic” responses that undermined his efforts to contain the problem.
“We are truly and deeply sorry we’ve offended people,” he initially said. This apology soon was proven disingenuous by his following statement: “We poke fun at everybody, from women to flight attendants to baggage handlers, to football coaches, to Irish Americans, to skiers. There’s really no group we haven’t teased.” This defense completely undermined his “sincere apology.” Justifying objectionable products by pointing the finger at others did little to ingratiate his company to the public. He lost the goodwill he might have received with a simple apology by telling people they needed to get a better sense of humor. His tone-deaf response also showed he clearly did not understand the line between teasing and perpetuating racist stereotypes.
In a similar move to that of our first example with Tony Hayward, CEOs from the Big Three auto industries demonstrated extraordinary callousness when requesting a bailout in 2008. During the House Financial Services Committee at which company leaders implored state representatives for $25 million dollars, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York) asked which of them flew there on a commercial airline. None could raise their hand. Each arrived on their exorbitantly priced private jets. Here was a chance to display authenticity or even vulnerability while appealing for money. Instead, their actions revealed hypocrisy. “There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they’re going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses,” said Ackerman. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in a high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious.”
As all know, wealth is inextricably linked to power and this power can be abused. Starting with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, 2017 saw a record number of public oustings of CEOs, politicians, and entertainment moguls as the #metoo campaign went viral. Public figure after public figure went down in flames as their actions came to public light. The fact that so many careers were destroyed certainly does not mean every wealthy or powerful person is guilty of misdeeds. What it does show, however, is the web’s growing influence to shape public opinion in sweeping ways. This is not likely to change as the Internet becomes even more central to our lives. What can change, though, is your approach to your messaging. Are you going to choose to be like these CEOs, oblivious as to how your words or actions may turn off people? Or, can you take a lesson from these examples and own your messaging by projecting authenticity and trustworthiness?
I hope you never become involved in a PR disaster or have to speak to the public about a mistake your company made. But if you do, the situation needn’t erupt into a full- blown crisis as long as you speak and behave in a way that yields a genuine human connection. Of course, the best way to avoid this problem altogether is to not tell people what you think they want to hear. Conveying genuineness will always take you so much further, especially when it comes to winning over customers. Now that we’ve analyzed some cringeworthy disasters, let’s look at some successes. The following authentically driven campaigns can offer examples of what to do.
As we have seen, testimonials can be a major component of authentic messaging. They remove you, the business owner or CMO, from the picture, allowing your customer to connect with someone just like them. A mom who wants to buy pots and pans for her family doesn’t need to see the company CEO onscreen to believe in the product. What works better is to produce a video of customers like her in an authentic setting, using the product in a realistic way to help her understand how this product could help her family, too. Understanding this reality, we married content and context to promote Circulon cookware, encouraging real-life customers to involve themselves in the demonstrations.
In our campaign, we treated our customers like the celebrities. We had them use the pots and pans, cooking their favorite dishes in front of the camera. This demonstration gave people a reason to believe in the product. Why this works? We didn’t stage these scenes in a sterile studio. We filmed them in customers’ homes, showing real families. This helped our audience see themselves in the people they watched. Not only that, we also secured strong social proof for our products through the positive first-time reactions we captured. While the moms were cooking with Circulon, we asked them directly what they liked about the cookware.
As you can imagine, we received honest, genuine reactions that connected with people at home. Busy flipping pancakes or tossing spaghetti, the moms opened up to us about their experiences with the products. There was nothing scripted about what happened in this interaction. The moms gave us genuine reactions. At one point, one blurted out that this was best non-stick pan she had ever used as she scooped food from it onto a plate for her family.
As I have so often mentioned, content in context works well to help people picture themselves in the same scenario as the person onscreen. We sharpened our message in this commercial by including actual responses from real families to project authenticity. I recommend doing the same thing when it comes to your own marketing. Whenever possible, feature those people who best represent your ideal customer. In another campaign, we employed authenticity in a different, but equally effective, way by capturing a special moment between family members. Most people probably don’t associate Omaha Steaks with vulnerability and powerful emotions. However, knowing how important human connection is, we decided to create a commercial highlighting the power of food to bring people together. Our team set it up so that
a daughter could surprise her mom, dad, and siblings at with Omaha Steaks.
The daughter lived across the country and didn’t get to see her family much, so it was a treat for them to have her drop in with this gift. The daughter’s family had no idea she was coming. We didn’t stage or script the scene; we just let it naturally happen. As a result, no one’s guard was up at the reunion. Real emotions emerged as the family hugged each other, happy to be together again. I am aware that this scene could come across as forced or a crass exploitation, but that is not at all what happened. Genuinely heartwarming, this real moment couldn’t help but touch viewers. Suddenly, the moment wasn’t just about food. It was about what we all crave so much as humans — personal connection.
Another emotionally compelling moment we captured while marketing involved the Sensa Weight Loss Program. Carly, a woman who had lost 100 pounds through Sensa, spoke movingly about what it felt like to have such a breakthrough. Tearful, yet joyous, she stood in for every audience member at home wishing they, too, could experience such success turning their health around. A word of caution is in order: Showcasing strong emotions can be very powerful, but only if it’s real. Manipulation can destroy credibility just as fast as a genuine moment can build it. It’s never a good idea to fake an emotional scene. Customers will see through the ruse right away, shredding all trust.
If you can’t achieve the kind of authenticity you seek from the individuals in your commercial, don’t push it. It’s a bad idea to force an emotional moment or use actors. Fake tears and performances are bound to backfire. In our spot, Carly exuded authenticity because she was being honest. Willing to be vulnerable, she broke down in front of the camera multiple times. Coming from the heart, her appeal made all of the difference in connecting audiences with the product, leading to outstanding sales results for our client. You can attain the same success by finding ways to create an authentic, emotionally charged message.
Accept the fact that conveying authenticity will help you more than it will hurt you. Hiding behind a polished corporate image might have worked in the past, but not so much anymore. Just as the information age is all about connecting online, a real hunger has developed for genuine messaging. Create innovative ways in which you can display your true self in your marketing. Simon Sinek calls this the “Golden Circle” or leading from your “Why.” “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it,” he is famous for saying. Transformational companies such as Apple, argues Sinek, inspire customers by creating a genuine passion for their vision. Find your “Why” and spend the time incorporating it into your messaging.
If you find yourself in trouble — perhaps with a public relations problem, make transparency your default response. Publicly admit your mistakes and make amends. Whatever the crisis, it will be better resolved by using a direct approach than attempting to spin the situation in a disingenuous way. Dream up ways to imbue your marketing with authenticity. Think back to Circulon and Omaha Steaks. Design a way in which you can tell a story starring your actual customers having a positive experience with your product or service. Once you have your idea in mind, let the customers take the reins as much possible and get out of the way. Remember, the best person to talk about your business is not you — it’s your happy customers.
In the 21st century, authenticity is desired more and more because the public has been saturated with advertisements. People have seen so many commercials that fatigue has set in. If you want to cut through the noise, find unique ways to share your company’s story through genuineness. Customers will gravitate to your brand when you connect with them. One way to do this is by incorporating satisfied real-life customers using your product or service. Content in context is key here. These scenes need to drive home the message that the viewer could solve their problems in the same way as the person they are watching onscreen. Another method for building a connection is through displaying true emotions in your messaging.
So not to be caught unaware, I have highlighted PR campaigns gone awry to show you how easy it is to screw up public perceptions. As we have seen, trust is the currency of the review-based economy. You should always be on guard as to how your business is being perceived, especially online. Take care to make sure your words match your actions. If you make a mistake, be quick to acknowledge it and fix it. If you follow the approach I am suggesting toward more authenticity, you are bound to win more customers. This chapter was very much influenced by the power of public perception; in the next, I will help you foster social proof. Succeeding in this area will do wonders for your credibility, leading to greater trust.
EXERCISE: CONSTRUCT AN AUTHENTIC SCENE
Remember our Sensa campaign? Now, it’s your turn to capture an emotionally-charged moment from your customer. Here are some suggestions on how to build this kind of scene into your next commercial.
Step 1: Research past customers who have had a positive experience with your product or service. Write down ways in which you could tell their story in an emotional light. (For instance, did something happen that greatly improved this person’s life?)
Step 2: Set the stage for your commercial by appealing to these customers to participate in your ad. Let them know their story is meant to help others facing a similar problem.
Step 3: Create a relaxed setting to capture your subject onscreen explaining what happened. Ask open-ended questions to allow this person to do most of the talking.
Bonus: If possible, try to construct a scene in which your subject can be seen using your product or service (content in context) while relating their positive experience.
Chapter Fourteen: Encourage Social Proof
“When you say it, it’s marketing. When your customer says it, it’s social proof.” ~ Andy Crestodina, Content Marketer and Co-founder of Orbit Media
Our Herd-Like Mentality
People like to think they are non-conformists, but the truth is more complicated. Groupthink isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, from an evolutionary standpoint, a lot of good can come from relying on popular opinion and social consensus. After all, if a large group of people is doing something and reaping positive effects, there’s a probably a good reason. It’s helpful to know what others are doing so as not to appear foolish — or worse, blunder. If you were invited to an important work event, it would be a good idea to find out how everyone else plans to dress. Unless you’re like Lady Gaga and enjoy making an entrance in a “meat dress,” it makes sense to know what everyone is planning to wear. As social creatures, trusting in the behavior of the group makes us feel safe and gives us a sense of belonging.
As evidence of the powerful pressure to conform in social situations, let’s consider experiments conducted by Solomon Asch, a pioneer in social psychology. Asch created a series of tests to reveal how peer pressure can be strong enough to make us doubt ourselves. To do so, he set up a situation in which eight participants sat in a room answering questions together. (A typical question might include looking at a drawing of lines and reporting back which line was the longest.) Only one participant didn’t realize that the other seven were in on the experiment.
Ahead of time, Asch coordinated it so that the other seven people would give a bunch of wrong answers. According to Martyn Shuttleworth, writing on about the experiment on Explorable.com, “The results for the other [experimental] groups were interesting; when surrounded by people giving an incorrect answer, over one-third of the subjects also voiced an incorrect opinion. At least 75% of the subjects gave the wrong answer to at least one question. … There was no doubt that peer pressure can cause conformity.” What this means is that if enough people tell us we are wrong, we might just believe them. No doubt, you’ve heard about peer pressure. This experiment scientifically proves just how strong social influences can be. Throughout the pages of this book, I have given you tools to not conform — to think in novel ways to be successful. Now it’s time to learn how to be a conformist.
The Psychology Behind Social Proof
Social proof is the phenomenon in which someone is unduly influenced by a group. Ed Hallen, writing for Fast Company, explains the psychology behind this phenomenon: “The extended self is made up of the self (me) and possessions (mine). It suggests that intentionally or unintentionally we view our possessions as a reflection of ourselves. This is why consumers look for products that signify group membership and mark their position in society.” Status-driven, we humans seek to improve our standing in the group. Not only that, but there’s also safety in numbers. As a result, we tend to mimic others we view as successful.
Psychologically, this helps explain why a person might pay exponentially more money for a shirt with a Fendi label even though the same style, cut, and quality could be found elsewhere for much less. Obviously, a shirt from T.J. Maxx doesn’t carry the same social cache. “We are symbols and we inhabit symbols,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Everything associated with us, including the clothes we wear, signify things such as wealth and position. Likewise, we attach social status to all sorts of products, including wines, cars, and jewelry. A product’s perception often has a lot more to do with its reputation than its actual utility.
The fact that people follow popular trends based on their adoption by others has everything to do with cultivating the right reputation. Not only that, a successful perception is connected to critical mass. If people gravitate toward your product, especially online, the fact that others recognize you is bound to make more people take notice of you. This phenomenon occurs all of the time. In 2017, it happened with the surge of Bitcoin to more than $19,000 in price — a new company record. Impressed by extensive social proof, more traders and first-time investors began looking into the cryptocurrency.
Being on the winning side when it comes to social proof means succeeding in the perception game. Etsy provides a good example of this. The online craft company amassed a devoted following among early adopters. Founded in 2005 as a virtual marketplace for social good, the company skyrocketed to popularity as more people discovered how easy it was to buy and sell their specialty products through it. In 2015, it became the largest certified socially responsible company (or B Corporation), surging to an estimated worth of $3.3 billion.
As Etsy shows, critical mass creates a kind of snowball or domino effect: Success tends to beget more success. In Etsy’s case, more people began using the site after it received such a strong valuation. I am not saying I expect you to become a billion-dollar company once people catch onto your worth. (I am also not saying you shouldn’t try). What I am trying to convey is the importance of building a strong reputation. As with so many things in this book, the way to achieve critical mass is through building trust. After all, social proof is founded on trust. If we observe enough people trusting in something, it’s bound to convince us to trust it too.
Perception is also at the heart of social proof. Testimonials and demonstrations, in particular, are mechanisms for building good public perception. Witnessing the positive reactions of others helps to reassure people about your business. Online, the review- based economy thrives under this model. Sites such as Amazon dominate the marketplace with another influential symbol: star ratings. The more stars you have, the more people are likely to buy into a positive perception of your business. Why this works? We trust the opinions of everyday users with nothing to gain by sharing their experience.
This means that if numerous people come to the same positive conclusion about whatever it is you are selling, we are likely to think they can’t all be lying. (Of course, some companies do rig the review process. Still, overall people tend to trust the reviews they read online.) Social proof plays another major role when it comes to shoppers buying something for the first time. As I have said, customers want to know they’re making informed buying decisions. To protect themselves, they often pay attention to the social consensus.
The social consensus I am talking about permeates our everyday life in ways we don’t even think about. For instance, have you ever wondered why sitcoms use laugh tracks? It has to do with manufacturing social proof. Studies have shown humans laugh more in public than they do alone. According to Brittanica.com, “sweetening,” the process of making a joke sound funnier, dates back to the 1940s. Columnist Jonathan Hogeback explains Laugh tracks originated as not only a fix, and sometimes replacement, for an unengaged live audience but also as a way to engage an at-home audience into a more-traditional, communal, and theater-like experience.”
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, a similar thing occurs when we see a live performance, such as a magic show. the same lines, I’d like to now describe other examples of social proof in action with a few of our successful campaigns. “Magicians thrive upon gathering audiences to collectively experience their act. Witnessing a spectacle together corroborates its reality. The fact that so many other people experienced the same spectacles helps convince us what happened was real. What sells the tricks in the observer’s mind is not just the magical act itself but also witnessing it alongside other spectators. We believe it because others believe it too.
The collective power of a group experiencing something together convinced me long ago to employ social proof whenever possible. Over the years, Script to Screen has used it to great effect, influencing countless viewers. I have personally seen people blown away. The blind taste tests we did for Keurig accomplished this. In these, we subverted people’s expectations — subjects went into the tests not realizing that each K-Cup had a significant amount of their favorite coffee in it and that each cup also had a filter. After realizing this, they quickly understood that each cup from a Keurig brewer would be brewed to perfection and deliver the rich, bold taste they were expecting. The stunned looks on the subjects’ faces were priceless. Their looks said it all. We didn’t have to convince people with words. We just showed the social proof. Along the same lines. Id like to now describe other examples of social proof in action with a few of our successful campaigns.
Yes, I realize not every company has access to Mario Lopez, host of Extra and former Saved by the Bell star. I mention him in the following story, not because he’s a well-known celebrity but because of how we were able to harness his star power to draw in a crowd. Similar to the situation with Keurig, Script to Screen was hired to promote Nescafe’s Dolce Gusto Brewer and coffee products. To pull off social proof in our ad, we set up a coffee-tasting bar featuring Nescafe Dolce Gusto at a busy L.A. mall with Lopez tending to the brewing.
To be sure, Lopez helped attract customers, but the product made them stay. Recognizing the importance of being seen as objective, we were careful to film passerby coming and going by Mario’s kiosk so viewers could see for themselves that we didn’t pay actors to give us fake reviews. At first, many of the reactions we captured had more to do with people’s surprise at seeing Mario offering them free coffee. However, once the shock wore off and they tried the beverage, they were impressed by its taste. The mall setting proved to be ideal for establishing social proof. It was clear that the random people we stopped had no stake in the demonstration, adding to its authenticity.
As the Asche experiments reveal, people often take their cues from the other people in their environment. On a psychological level, our participants were being subtly influenced by the positive impressions around them. The same thing happened with the viewing audience at home. The fact that so many people raved about Dolce Gusto and the great coffee helped convince them to try the drink, too. After all, no one wants to feel left out of a good thing. The mall also created a lot of open space for observation. People wandering in and out of stores noticed what was happening at the kiosk before making their way over to see for themselves. They didn’t feel unnaturally forced to participate, strengthening the genuineness of our commercial (what we covered in the last chapter).
People appreciate their space and usually don’t want to be bothered by solicitors. Knowing this to be the case is helpful for establishing demonstrations for social proof. If you ask one individual at a time to test something, they might be leery of participating, however, if you create a social atmosphere, crowds are more inclined to form — which is what you want anyway. Like the situation we set up in the mall, if passersby notice a group of people enjoying themselves, it may pique their curiosity. Enticing others to participate helps keep the demonstration objective. Subjects don’t feel dragged into anything. They are the ones who took the initiative. Likewise, they feel in control, sparing you the need to persuade them. They won’t feel like they’re being tricked. After all, they were the ones who came to you in the first place.
In addition to public displays, it’s helpful to build social proof online. When we were marketing the Shark Rotator Vacuum, we promoted fact that J.D. Power gave us 5-star reviews. Earlier chapters of this book taught you how to obtain those 5-star reviews, and this section reveals their power. It’s no secret 5-star reviews are powerful. They’re the epitome of social proof. The more reviewers, the more credible the rating.
Think about it this way. Imagine you’re searching for a hotel on Yelp. A Best Western in your area has a 5-star rating, but only three people contributed reviews. Then you happen to see another hotel with a 5-star rating, this time with 100 reviews. Statistically, the second choice gives you a higher percentage chance of having a 5-star- worthy experience than the first. Only three people out of the thousands of hotel guests decided to make a comment about the Best Western. Their experiences could be accurate reflections on the hotel, then again, they could be exceptions. There’s really not much data to go by. On the other hand, the hotel with 100 positive reviews provides social proof in the form of high numbers. If a hundred people felt compelled to write a positive review, perhaps it is worth staying at this place.
Scouring the internet for social proof can be especially helpful when it comes to new purchases. We trust in the experiences of others who came before us. “Can I trust this business?” we wonder. “How do I know they won’t rip me off?” One way to find out is to research message boards and sites like Glassdoor to get the inside scoop on a company. True, people go on these with agendas and axes to grind. Then again, they can be trustworthy because people can protect their anonymity while divulging authentic opinions.
Any business owner who has felt the wrath of a scathing review knows how devastating it can be. One negative blurb can threaten your livelihood, unleashing the dark side of social proof. When this happens, it is helpful to take a step back. Is this person’s comment accurate? If so, it’s worth contacting them to change their opinion if possible. If not and/or the comment is the result of trolling, try to mitigate the damage by acquiring more good comments. Enough positivity can drown out the naysayers, restoring your business’ perception. A word of caution: Be proactive online. If you notice nasty comments, react quickly to take control of the conversation. The last thing you want to do is to let bad social proof sink all of the trust your business has worked so hard to cultivate.
When it comes to social proof, one well-known influencer can be as powerful as a large group, because influencers possess big followings. By creating such a big network, they have proven themselves to be a reliable source of information. Ed Hallen, co-founder of Klaviyo, an e-commerce e-mail marketing platform, argues that influencers trade on their positive reputation. “Anything else they are involved with is seen more positively by association. This is why influencer testimonials work.”
The nature of word-of-mouth has definitely changed in the past few years. We used to trust our neighbors best. Now, we reserve that kind of confidence for strangers with Instagram followers in the tens of thousands. Whether or not you agree with the current administration’s critique of the media as “fake news,” the fact is more people are turning away from traditional broadcast news reporters such as Brian Williams and the late Walter Cronkite.
Instead, citizens rely on specific influencers as their information source. If you aren’t an influencer or haven’t amassed a following, I recommend aligning yourself with someone who can elevate your brand. We discussed this idea in the chapter on obtaining expert perception. Knowing what you do now about the importance of social proof — how it can help or hinder your reputation — it’s imperative to take control of the digital conversation about your business.
Along the same lines, the right influencer can make a dramatic impact with just one post to their many followers. Knowing this, we used strategic influencers to promote our client, Gwynnie Bee, an online creator of plus-size clothing subscriptions boxes. Gwynnie Bee fills an interesting niche. Before the company hit the online space, there weren’t many clothing options for full-figured women. Gwynnie Bee provides rental clothing for females, sizes 10 to 32. Its customers can obtain the clothes they want using monthly pricing plans with free shipping. Or if they want, customers can keep outfits they like.
To kickstart awareness of this business, we needed to find the right influencers. We reached out to fashion bloggers, sending them clothing samples. The response was great. The bloggers loved the product and used their various platforms to deliver positive social proof. Like domino theory, it only takes one or two well-placed influencers to get the ball rolling. The message went far and wide that Gwynnie Bee helped a segment of women who felt limited by their attire choices. Our strategy capitalized on the theme of this chapter — the ability to shape beliefs through the power of public influence.
It’s time to ramp up awareness for your brand. Think of the communities you’re involved in and how they relate to your industry. Are you selling educational products, for instance? Reach out to school districts to see if you can give a presentation at the next PTA meeting. Perhaps you can offer free trials to parents. Are you in the food and beverage industry? Locate networking groups in your area and give out free samples. Building public awareness is key. The theory behind critical mass suggests the more people talking about your business — the more people talking about your business. The key is generating momentum.
Think of ways right now in which you can involve influencers in your messaging. It needn’t cost you a lot of money to build a sphere of influence. Influencers may be willing to spread the word about you if you take the time
to cultivate a symbiotic relationship. Remember what we did with Gwynnie Bee? Consider giving out freebies to help people understand how great your product or service is. Along the same lines, formulate a public demonstration of your unique solution.
Use the test tastes we did for both Keurig and Dolce Gusto as models. Similar to testimonials, social proof works best when the messaging comes from one satisfied customer to the next potential customer. When this happens, capture what people say. Video the interaction if possible or ask people to give you an online review. Post their testimonials on your social media feeds and share the positive responses. With any luck, customers will soon be asking you to try your product, instead of the other way around.
When it comes to important buying decisions, conformity can be beneficial. Social consensus alleviates doubts in customers’ minds, helping to steer them toward action. Conversely, if no one believes in your product or service, it’s hard to convince new people. Like it or not, we as social creatures like to follow the pack. Why? When it comes decisions involving money we rely on the opinions of others. Instead of bemoaning the fact that people are so insecure they can’t make up their own minds, use the psychology behind social proof to your advantage. By swaying the most influential people to adopt your business, you are likely to bring in more customers, especially with the magnifying power of the Internet to connect people.
Social proof is also ideal for convincing the skeptical. Acquiring critical mass can pave the road for wider acceptance. Once you successfully connect with one group of customers they are likely to spread the word about you, leading to a kind of snowball effect. Those people who are wary of your business could end up jumping on the bandwagon just because they see other people doing it.
At the end of the day, don’t underestimate how much conformity affects people’s decisions. Relying on others gives us comfort. We don’t want to be the only one in a ball gown at a casual barbeque. We also don’t want to make a mistake that will hurt our status amongst our peers. We may pay lip service to living in the land of freedom and rugged individualism, but more often than not, we make our decisions based on what our neighbors do — even if by “neighbor” we mean those people we follow online.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but understanding how social proof can build trust in your business is key to standing apart from the pack. By now, I hope you feel the resources and advice I have to offer have been beneficial and started you on the path to crafting a message that will make a significant, positive impact on you and your business. Before I wrap up, I wish to turn your attention to providing a sense of value to your customer. Like social proof, this comes down to creating the right perception. You already know what you offer is valuable, but it’s imperative you make customers believe it, too.
EXERCISE: CREATE A DEMONSTRATION FOR STRONG SOCIAL PROOF
Demonstrations are a godsend for providing social consensus. Done right, your customers will do your selling for you, convincing others to go along with their decision. Let’s set the stage to get public perception on your side.
Step 1: Write down ways your target customer could experience your product. For instance, if you offer food or beverages, you could provide samples or have a wine-tasting party.
Step 2: Create a situation in which you put on a public demonstration and invite people. For instance, could you set up a booth at a mall or rent space at a trade show to capture first time reactions? Create a list of possibilities, ranking them with pros and cons.
Step 3: Using your first choice from step 2, set a plan in motion to put on your demonstration. Bring a camera crew (or at least a camera person) to capture the results. Bonus idea: To get more participants, announce prizes and incentives on social media.
Step 4: Post the footage to your web page and social media. But don’t stop there. After researching social media influencers in your industry, appeal to them to experience what you offer. Send them free samples for an unbiased review. If they agree to participate and share positive reviews about your business on their platform, return the favor by cross-promoting them. After all, public perception cuts two ways. Everyone wants to be socially recognized.
Chapter Fifteen: Provide A Sense of Value
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” ~Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway
It All Comes Down to Value
It’s a big mistake to offer a price without attaching a sense of value to it. Writing for Inc. magazine, Geoffrey James defines value as “not the amount of product for the price, but the financial impact of the purchase compared against the purchase cost.” Eric Ries, author of the Lean Startup, defines four types of value that a product can provide a consumer. Understanding where your product fits into the below metrics can help you convey its worth. (Of course, each of the following designations is fluid and can overlap with another. Even a sleeping bag can have social value. For instance, a high-end sports company might manufacture designer sleeping gear meant to make you look cooler than your fellow camper.)
Practical Utility: this refers to something’s tangible benefit. The majority of products fall into this category. For instance, a water filter has simple, practical utility. Most people don’t buy one because it looks pretty. They order a filter because it distills the water they wish to drink. Similarly, a sleeping bag has an uncomplicated function — it provides warmth. Seen in this light, a product’s value can be tied to the actual way it helps you, whether that is a floor to walk on, a bike for transportation, or a table to eat on.
Social Value: In the last chapter, we discussed the status reasons someone might prefer to wear a Fendi brand shirt over one that comes from T.J. Maxx. Social implications relate to the way you may be seen by others for owning a product. What matters more with this designation is the value a customer perceives to be associated with something, especially if it has to do with social proof or the ways others might view them for owning it.
A Jaguar can, therefore, be perceived to be a better car than a Prius when it comes to social value, even if the latter gets better gas mileage and is more reliable. Even food may be seen through the lens of social value. Irrespective of the health benefits, a pricier gallon of organic milk can confer greater social status to the person buying it than a cheaper, inorganic brand.
Perceived Value: Similar to social value, this designation has to do with the value equated to a product due to the way it is packaged or presented. Whether it be promoting Lucky Strike cigarettes or Heinz beans, the Madison Avenue marketing team on the show Mad Men spent much time and energy crafting the right perception for their clients’ products. Accordingly, the perceived value can relate to the recognition of superior design or quality. Under this definition, a customer may derive a sense of worth from a product because it is thought to be the best in a certain category, such as the finest watch or the most exquisitely designed lounge chair.
Identity Value: According to Ries, this is the most potent value designation and the most personal. It relates to the worth you derive from a product fitting into your perception of yourself or others. More so than the other designations, the significant emotional attachment is often associated with products in this category.
Along these lines, a man may spend days researching an engagement ring he feels best represents the woman he wishes to marry. Intangible, the ring’s qualifications may have more to do with his conception of her. For instance, he may end up selecting a classic setting and an old- fashioned diamond cut because he feels this arrangement represents her personality. Companies in the “lifestyle” space tend to emphasize this kind of value — their products promise to reflect our personal taste, making us feel like one of a kind.
Now that we have a better sense of how customers assess a product’s worth, let’s deepen our discussion by examining ways to cultivate value for your products and our services. What I hope to make clear is that even though price plays a major part in our buying decisions, it takes a backseat to value. If you cultivate the right value in your customer’s mind, they will be more inclined to buy from you despite what you charge.
For What It’s Worth
In today’s media-driven world, anyone can hop on the Internet to find the lowest prices. It takes little effort to price-compare several brand options. Unless someone is making a purchasing decision due to an intangible factor, like social utility or perceived value, they are likely to make their selection based on practical utility since many items offer the same benefits.
When competing against other companies offering products with similar functionality to yours, it’s up to you to make people see lower cost doesn’t always mean better quality, especially in the long run. Technological advancements will continue to lower production costs for many goods in the future. With so many companies competing for market share, it can become a race to the bottom to see which business can offer the lowest price. This type of scenario doesn’t bode well for you as a business owner or CMO wishing to grow year after year. So how can you stand out and change people’s minds?
When writing commercials, we always try to avoid clichés, but to master the following concept, you should lean on a longstanding one: You get what you pay for. This discussion relates to the one we had in Chapter Seven on expressing your unique solution. When going head-to- head with competition, it’s key to focus on what makes you different. Undoubtedly, you believe in your business because you provide a better solution than others. (If you don’t, you have a bigger issue I can’t help you with. Throughout this book, I have stressed the fact that businesses exist to solve problems. If your product doesn’t do that better than your competition, you are in trouble.) Returning to dealing with competition, if you are being squeezed out by someone else because they are cheaper, it is time to reframe the conversation about the value you provide.
There are many ways to reframe the conversation but let’s start with you get what you pay for. It’s essential to remind customers that a cheaper product often means cheaper quality. Address this reality candidly. “Sure, my competitor’s sleeping bag costs $100 less, but you’ll know why the first time you go camping in winter and nearly freeze to death.” Testimonials from an objective, expert source are another good way to express practical utility. Remember how we incorporated scientific evidence from a dentist and a scientist validating Smileactives teeth- brightening claims? That was an example of helping customers understand the practical value they will receive by choosing our product over someone else’s who might be cheaper.
A word of caution is necessary: If it happens that your product is less expensive than your competition, you need to be careful to not degrade your perceived value. You don’t want people to equate your low price with low quality. If they do, you may run into trouble when some other enterprising company undercuts you. If your product’s best selling feature is its price, you will have lost your edge.
One innovative way to win the perception game is to multiply people’s sense of your product’s utility. Trader Joe’s exemplifies this approach. More affordable than other grocery stores such as Ralph’s or Pavilions, Trader Joe’s products still command respect when it comes to the other three factors influencing worth. Socially acceptable with perceived high-quality products, the brand fits into many people’s conceptions of themselves as practically minded shoppers who enjoy diverse types of gourmet and healthful food.
Reframing the Value Conversation
To demonstrate the importance of communicating your product’s value to customers to win their business, I will return to how Script to Screen positioned the campaign for Shark Rocket and Rotator. At the time of our campaign, customers saw Dyson as the premium brand in this space. Their newest model cost $700 but promised superior suction and versatility in a bag-less vacuum. Of course, Dyson’s brand carried a lot of influence. People felt safe paying that much for a vacuum because of the Dyson name and its perceived value.
Analyzing the marketplace, we felt certain we could compete against Dyson. If people were willing to pay that much for a vacuum with those features, we thought we could change people’s perceptions by showcasing our client’s affordable pricing, practical utility, and perceived value. Using tactics we have expounded on in this book, we proved our vacuum possessed more suction power than Dyson. We also emphasized its ease of use and light weight through demonstrations in people’s homes and positive testimonials.
As you have already read, these strategies demonstrated our value over Dyson’s product. Not only did we prove the Shark vacuum to be incredibly versatile in cleaning people’s carpet and furniture, but it also cost less. We made people feel like they needed our product by changing the value conversation. As a result, we beat a #1 selling brand. Our campaign spurred customers to take action, the subject of our next and final chapter.
As the Dyson example shows, it’s your job to control people’s perception of your product’s value. This doesn’t mean you need to manipulate others or use deceit to make this happen. Instead, you need to prove your worth, whether via practical considerations, or intangibles such as your customers’ sense of self or social utility. You can accomplish this belief shift through speaking to the things your customers hold dear. Let’s now return to our hypothetical yoga studio to understand how this works.
Changing People’s Minds, One Customer at a Time
It is time to return to our favorite hypothetical, the yoga studio owner. Once again, imagine this is you. How could you make people believe yours is the place to go to, even if there happens to be nearby local studios? It comes down to the principles we have already learned. Throughout this book, I emphasized the importance of creating the right perception. For instance, we learned how aligning with experts can build a solid reputation. Doing so can also communicate practical utility. The right messaging for a yoga studio should, first of all, promote the idea that there are many medical benefits associated with the practice. While persuading people to try yoga in general, you should also work to make people understand why they should come to your specific studio.
One way to do so is by using social utility. You could draw more people to your studio by cultivating relationships between your instructors and your students. You might get a bunch of regulars if you established a strong community vibe. Not only might students feel inclined to come because they want the health benefits — but they might also wish to spend time with your community. Social utility can blend with identity value for even greater success. Why this works? Returning students may begin to equate their social life and personal life with the value you provide, encouraging customer loyalty.
There’s no doubt price matters when it comes to purchasing decisions, but the price is only a function of value. We construct prices based on perceived worth — what someone might pay to receive something that matters to them. It’s a mistake to concoct a price without supporting it in context. In this first section of the chapter, we defined various value types and how they impact the mindsets of customers. Hopefully, it is clear that perception also affects the price. Controlling this part of the value conversation is necessary to convince customers to buy from you. So, how can you further the value conversation? By elaborating on your features and delivering an irresistible offer.
Make it Good
Whatever price you are charging, your product or service needs to be seen as worthy of your customer’s time, attention, and money. It’s no easy task to communicate this truth to a public suffering from attention deficit disorder. But don’t get discouraged. It’s possible to break through the noise with the right messaging. Similar to a good testimonial, the right messaging means putting a price (content) in context.
A common mistake I see in infomercials and other types of marketing occurs when someone presents a dollar figure without any attached value. This is a bad idea because it eliminates any frame of reference to gauge worth. Let’s say you used the sales trick in which you list the normal price with the reduced price. “Normally, the price would be $495, but we’re offering it for $175.” There are times when this trick works well. For instance, if you’re marking down clothing for a sale, it can be helpful to make this comparison. However, putting numbers this way can also appear arbitrary. Without a context to understand why you are lowering the price, people can lose sight of the value you offer. They might even think you’re slashing prices because you’re desperate to make a sale.
You don’t want to discount without a reason. For instance, a customer needs to understand why you are reducing the price of the car you are selling from $20,000 to $15,000. After all, if you initially told them the price was $20,000, there needs to be a plausible rationale for why you would reduce it. A good way to keep control of the value conversation while still discounting is to offer explanations that don’t undermine perceived worth. Here’s one that works: discounting for inventory overflow, i.e. “We need to liquidate our stock to sell the new models.” This explanation can do the trick because it gives context yet doesn’t undermine your products’ worth. However, I recommend making it crystal clear the reason you have inventory overflow is not because you couldn’t sell your existing products and don’t know where to put the old stuff — but because you want to roll out even better products.
As the above example illustrates, perception impacts much of the price conversation when it comes to offering content in context. Reframing is key for best results. If you need another good reason to explain why you are discounting your price, you can also chalk it up to urgency. As we will discuss in the next chapter, timeliness affects sales. You can still keep the perception of value when lowering your price if you explain you are doing so if they act fast. Offering this kind of discount can be a win- win for both you and the buyer. The buyer feels good for taking advantage of the situation. Reacting quickly, they were able to acquire the product before someone else did.
While helpful to closing sales, discounts can still harm the perceived value of your product even when content is presented with context. There is also a limit as to how much you should reduce your price (and/or give away freebies.) This comes back to perception. You don’t want to undermine your worth by giving too much away. When you do, people can lose respect for your brand. If you’re trying to use a discount as an attention grabber, be careful it doesn’t backfire. Yes, people are more motivated by value, but not cheap products. If they feel what you are selling lacks worth because you’re giving so much of it away, they may question why they should buy from you at all.
Another way you can reframe the content in context price conversation is by offering the discount as a loyalty reward. Many restaurants, stores, and gyms have used this technique to good result. In doing so, they
contextualize a discount, not by undermining a product’s value, but emphasizing how valuable the customer is to the business. Rewards cards provide a good example of this. Why this works? These types of discounts keep the value perception intact while validating the customer, again a win-win for both buyer and seller.
Going Beyond Surface-Level Value
Similar to rewards cards that encourage loyalty, another way to add value to the customer experience is through improving customer service. As we witnessed with Zappos, the online shoe company that made a name for itself with its friendly call center, you can connect with customers in personal ways that also demonstrate your product’s worth. In the age of automated phone services, more than ever, good customer service distinguishes average companies from excellent ones and can lead to greater benefits, like upsales.
As Tim Donnelly of Inc. explains, “The toughest job selling value to customers is getting them to picture the full depth and breadth of everything your company has to offer.” Rather than limit your messaging to your initial product offer, consider training your call center reps to turn existing customers into repeats. Why this works? People like to know that if they have a problem, your team will take care of them — another practical utility for communicating value. When you reassure customers of your worth, they are more inclined to work with you again.
As Zappos and other customer-service oriented companies demonstrate, added value comes in many forms. The way to transform people’s perceptions of your business is to find new and original ways to deliver tangible and intangible benefits. How good does it feel to call a company’s help number and be connected immediately? Doesn’t it make you want to do business with them again? Absolutely. Similarly, if you receive a surprise gift card from a company doesn’t it make you want to buy from them again? It certainly does. This is exactly the kind of out-of-the-box thinking I encourage you to pursue. Doing so will allow more customers to perceive your value. After all, a price tag is just a number. It’s the content in context that provides actionable meaning.
When you successfully communicate your value to customers eager for your product, they will take notice. To do so, I suggest creating a marketing message that conveys how your product provides worth in all four areas we discussed. (Of course, not all products or services will feature all four utilities. It’s okay if yours doesn’t either.) Once you know what you bring to your target customers, be sure you are communicating your price in a (good) way that makes you stand out from your competition. If you are priced lower, be sure you express the quality of your brand so people aren’t just buying your products for the discount. If this is the case, you could lose them if someone undercuts you.
Make sure you are not setting your prices too high or low to arouse suspicion. Research similar products, calculating average prices to make sure you are well situated in your industry. Next, encourage your sales force to align your price with value, especially when discounting. If you don’t have to discount your products to win over customers, I recommend refraining from doing so as long as possible. If you do offer reduced prices, give
an explanation why that doesn’t negate your perceived value.
Finally, be personable when it comes to providing value. Tessa Stowe of Business Know-How reminds us how important one-on-one conversations are to customers. She says these can be easy to accomplish because “[presumably] no one has asked your prospect powerful questions which help them get clarity around their problem and what is costing them.” Fulfilling customer needs, both during and after the sale, also helps distinguish your business as one providing superior value.
The worth of something isn’t always reflected in its price. Likewise, the value isn’t always readily apparent. It is up to us as marketers to communicate why people must buy from us. Every transaction comes down to an exchange of something meaningful to both parties. In order to finesse our message, we need to demonstrate our worth.
Testimonials and demonstrations can help convey the utility of our product. It’s helpful to clarify what people can expect to receive from us through content in context pricing, carefully thought out discounts, and frequent incentives to encourage loyalty. When you control the value perception of your business, you teach people why they should buy from you. Every element of your messaging can be honed to transmit the right reputation in the minds of customers. Remembering what we did when it comes to competing against Dyson, it’s possible to surpass some of the biggest brand names by using the skills you have learned so far in this book. We will now close out the material with a chapter that fittingly tells you how to finesse your closing.
EXERCISE: DETERMINE, THEN DEMONSTRATE, YOUR VALUE
Before you can feel comfortable marketing your product based on its value, you must know your industry norms like the back of your hand. You need to identify the price points that make sense for your profit margin within the demographic you wish to reach. This exercise will help you discover what you bring to the table and how you can express your message to your audience.
Step 1: Research competitors in your industry. Look at similar products or services and record the average prices as well as discounts. Take time to compare the lowest and highest cost products/services while sifting through customer reviews. Are there drastic differences between you and other companies? If so, what can account for them?
Step 2: Take the time to research your competitor’s products/services. Compile a list of differences between what you offer and they do. (Be sure to list which of the four utilities each product/service possesses.)
Step 3: Familiarize yourself with the kind of language your competition uses. Is it better than yours? Why or why not? Make a list of all the different price points you offer and how low or high you can adjust your price if needed.
Step 4: Using your research, create original messaging that speaks to your unique solution. Carve out your own niche that differentiates yourself in price and value from everyone else.
Bonus tip: Continue to keep an eye on your competition to be sure you are remaining viable in the market, both in value and price. You don’t want any surprises.
Chapter Sixteen: Provide A Call to Action and A Sense of Urgency
“Marketing is enthusiasm transferred to the customer.” ~Gregory Ciotti, Business Strategist
Results Are What Matters
Customers are just like you. Many of them get up, check their phones, mentally sort their to-do list, then go to work to stare at another screen for eight hours. With the amount of technology at our fingertips, it’s inevitable we now live our lives in the fast lane. Our attention is constantly pulled in multiple directions. Such attention- pulling can distract us from the work we need to perform to grow. As business owners, we are often too busy trying to grab other people’s attention to do what is needed to improve our business.
However, if you have made it this far, congratulations! You did take the time to better yourself. You can go even further, though, by examining your lifestyle and what you value. If you do, you will see you are not much different from your customers. You can also learn to communicate with them better by giving more thought to the things that matter to you. Once you realize this, you will naturally implement better business-to-customer relations, leading to improved results.
This whole book is about results, courtesy of lessons learned from Script to Screen’s track record of 30-plus years of campaigns. We have had the opportunity to create some of the most successful campaigns in the direct-to-
consumer business, and have gleaned actionable knowledge directly applicable to you and your business, no matter what stage it is in. With that, our biggest growth lessons have been from unsuccessful experiences, so we carry a unique perspective valuable to you. My partner, Barbi, and I wanted you to read our stories, obtaining helpful lessons to improve your marketing approach. Writing this book has been cathartic, reminding me of ways in which we have helped our many clients, but I didn’t just do it for me. The previous chapter was all about value. The value I hope I provided you was knowledge. From the bottom of my heart, it is my sincere desire that you use what you have learned to become more successful.
To succeed in business, I believe you must possess a structured plan for customer acquisition and retention. Therefore, I devised this book to provide a formula for effective marketing. I stand by each of my principles because I have seen the firsthand results. They … work! To be sure, following my formula shouldn’t stop you from innovating on your own. The information contained in these pages are meant to be guideposts. If you follow them you are bound to achieve success, but as with anything, even my formula can be improved upon. In fact, if you find ways to improve on my suggestions, I encourage you to contact me with your stories. I am active on social media and would be happy to give credit where credit is due for the good advice.
What We Have Learned
Before I close the book with a section on creating a strong call to action, I would like to recap everything we have learned. First, we discussed how people’s attention spans have waned. I told you the best way to interact with overscheduled and overstimulated audiences is to make a splash and grab attention immediately. I advised you to hook people with video, images, or messages that pack the biggest emotional punch as opposed to using sterile facts. Highlighting before-and-after proof as a way to capture hearts and minds quickly, I told you to save the more detailed information for later.
Once you obtained someone’s attention, I advised you to maintain it by connecting with them. You need to show you not only care about your customers but that you also relate to their problems through empathetic messaging. The most successful marketers, I argued, are the ones who put themselves in the place of their customers. Finding a way to improve or make someone’s life easier is instrumental in winning their business. When it comes to cultivating empathy, I recommended opening up about your story and how your product or service helped yourself or others. I made a point to suggest people relate to others like themselves. They especially like to feel they are being or seen or heard.
I advocated deepening the connection between you and customer by avoiding the complex in favor of simplistic messaging. Too many people, I argued, convolute the marketing process with technical jargon and unnecessary details that confuse the issue, leading to paralysis. I suggested describing things as if you were talking to a fifth grader — not because people are too stupid to understand something harder, but because simplicity leads to quicker understanding and better retention. Once you decide on the most elegant and streamlined message, I recommended associating your brand with experts to establish a sense of knowledge and authority. I helped you imagine ways you, too, could be perceived as an expert to improve your standing. I made the case that being seen as a thought leader could
generate more trust for your business, whether that be through becoming an author, creating helpful videos, or via public speaking.
It is no accident that many stories are sprinkled throughout this book. Humans gravitate toward narratives. They help us better recall details and learn important lessons. Likewise, I said, whenever possible, your messaging should feature storytelling. I told you one of the best ways to convince people to buy from you is to establish situations in which they can imagine your product or service in their own lives. This can be most effectively accomplished through stories, especially those featuring sympathetic characters, conflict, and resolution.
Drawing on concepts such as empathy and storytelling, I made the case that you should position your business to solve your customers’ problems through unique solutions. I told you businesses exist to improve people’s lives and the best way to connect with your customers is to first understand what ails them, then create narratives showing how you helped other people just like them with your unique solution.
If you are successful helping your customers, they will let you know. (They might also let you know you didn’t help them.) I suggested utilizing those people who have good things to say about you in the form of testimonials. We learned about the review-based economy and how customers make their buying decisions based on knowing, liking, and trusting a business. Testimonials, I argued, were the quickest way I knew of to generate trust as people are inclined to trust the opinions of satisfied users over you, the business owner.
When it comes to building trust, the cornerstone of successful marketing, I encouraged you to go beyond just testimonials. Seeing is believing, I contended, and the way to give people a reason to believe in your claims is through public demonstrations, supplying social proof. We went over the importance of first-time reactions and the need for perceived objectivity. With any luck, I helped you realize customer objections needn’t kill a sale. Through reframing an objection as a question, I suggested, you could proactively address flaws in your messaging or items that might need clarity in the customer’s mind. I encouraged you to view countering objections as the process by which you reassure people of your product or service’s claims.
Along the same lines as providing testimonials and acquiring authority status, I made the case for offering independent expert validation. More than everyday users, these individuals confer legitimacy to your business in profound ways. Once again, I suggested the way to best market your business is to let others do the talking for you. Once you have established the trust you need through these individuals, I told you it was finally time to give the offer. To make it irresistible, I recommended showing your value to customers in terms of value. I also encouraged reassuring them with incentives such as 100% money-back guarantees and excellent customer service.
I am the kind of person who doesn’t like to give advice I wouldn’t take myself. Everything I recommended throughout this book came from my personal experiences. Since different readers possess different backgrounds and experience levels, I didn’t just want to offer a bunch of information with no practical implications. Therefore, I gave you action steps and exercises at the end of each chapter. It is my hope that by creating an interactive experience you are inclined to get more out of the material. So, what is the purpose behind all of these steps and practical applications? Results. Results were what I promised at the beginning of this book, and I will wrap it
up with a discussion on how to finesse the last step in obtaining any sale: providing a call to action. (CTA)
Make it Painless to Buy from You
The fate of retail stores looks dim because online shopping is so fast and convenient. Customers are accustomed to receiving a world of new and streaming video at a touch of a button. They want their purchase process to be just as speedy. Online purchasing has revolutionized sales. If the process isn’t as streamlined as possible, customers will lose the interest you’ve spent so much precious time building. Not only that, but if you don’t ask for the order in a clear and precise way, you will have also wasted your time. A call to action should be unequivocal, directly offering the next steps to purchase as well as communicating a sense of urgency.
There are many tactics to employ in a CTA to develop urgency and inspire direct action. Just a few of these tactics include dropping payments and using payment plans. For instance, you can say, “This product can be yours for four payments of $49.99 (a payment plan) but call in the next five minutes and we will make one payment for you. That’s right. You will only have to pay three months at $49.99 — but to do so, you must call now to receive this exclusive offer” (a dropped payment). It can also be helpful to make the CTA very specific to your audience. For example, you can say something like, “Be one of the next 100 to call” or “Call in the next 20 minutes and get a free gift.” As you can see, all of these suggestions promote urgency to encourage action. They also provide quick and easy ways to accommodate most everyone’s budget, i.e. they spread out the payments so the total amount isn’t due right away. The point is, they meet customers in the middle, whatever their objection is, whether time, money, or ease of pay. You’re working with them to close the deal.
We see CTA’s every single day disguised as things like pop-ads. Quick and to the point, they don’t always ask you to buy now, but they do encourage you to take action. If you’ve spent any time on the web in the last few years you’ve likely seen one asking for your email address. Some businesses try to be cute with their CTA’s, especially on health websites and blogs. Here CTA buttons include wording like, “Yes, I would love more fitness tips,” or “No, I’d rather stay unhealthy.”
This kind of attitude may compel some respondents with the right sense of humor to action but it probably leaves the rest of us cold. On other websites, the CTA includes a “Download” or “Buy Here!” button, usually in a brightly colored bubble shape to make it easy for the customer. Paul Boag, business coach and founder of Boagworks, reminds business owners to not “only focus on conversion. Also focus on perception. How does your call to action reflect on your brand?”
As Boag suggests, whether it is at the end of a video or the top of a web page, a good CTA should mesh with your brand’s tone. Everything a customer sees onscreen needs to aid in the trust you are trying to cultivate. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be persuasive with a CTA instead of stooping to gimmicks or overloading them with tons of pop-ups and buttons “to buy here.” Throughout the marketing process, you have presumably done a good job helping customers understand why they should buy from or with you. Accordingly, the CTA should be the place where the rubber meets the road, the final opportunity to let someone feel like they made the right decision.
Creating Your Call to Action
The best CTA’s provide a brief description of the features and benefits of your product or service. This recap helps explain what the customer will receive upon purchase. It should also include the price being offered at this moment. My years in the infomercial business taught me a lot about using CTA’s to their best advantage, especially when generating a sense of urgency. Whether you decide to use a direct response ad to market your business or not, you can still learn a lot from their structure.
The most effective infomercials are split up into three segments. Each segment is followed by a shorter sales segment, the CTA. These segments can add up to about 10.5 minutes in a 28.5-minute infomercial. The other minutes of an infomercial feature all of the components we have so far discussed. The CTA, however, is the moment for action and should be so enticing it leads to a direct response (hence the name of this kind of commercial.)
Whether it be in the infomercial world or elsewhere, businesses run into trouble by not being direct enough with their CTA or failing to make their appeal urgent enough. As anyone who has been in sales knows, buying can be emotional. CTA’s should, therefore, speak to people’s feelings more than their rational minds. Think about a time you faced a purchasing decision. You might have been shopping at your favorite clothing store and seen a limited 25% off sale.
What happened next? Some people might be seized with a desire to take advantage of the deal. Maybe this happens to you. Your heart speeds up. “Should I spend the money?” you wonder. “Should I take advantage of the big sale or walk out now?” Marketers like me know that once someone leaves the store, they’re likely to not come back. The pressure to make a decision will ebb and the emotional urge to buy will fade. When it comes to whatever you’re selling, don’t let your customer leave the store. Convince them to buy now with a sense of urgency — otherwise, they are bound to cool off, constricting the urge to take action.
Since this book is all about results and results come from action, I highly recommend you build urgency into your CTA. Tell viewers your offer won’t last. Consider creating special coupons with expiration dates that need to be acted upon immediately. Tell them the price is sure to go up next week or that if they don’t buy now, you can’t assure them the product will still be in stock by the time they get around to making a decision. These are all powerful triggers to entice customers to speedy action. The truth is, the longer you wait, the more likely it is your hot prospect will move on. Without inducement, people will wait and wait. While they do, what else is happening? They are being bombarded with other ads asking them to make a buying decision. They might end up using the money they could have spent with you on something else.
So, how do you create a “buy-at-this-moment” CTA? Let’s look at some businesses that understand how to capitalize on this effective appeal. A division of Barneys Warehouse that specializes in discounted clothes wanted to sell excess inventory some years ago. To generate desire (without, of course, reducing value perception), they informed customers there was only one item left in each size and color for their big sale. Like urgency, perceived scarcity also leads people to take action. Barneys managed to liquidate its stock by convincing people to buy their clothes quickly at a discount or risk losing the important opportunity.
A different company, McDonald’s, doesn’t trade in urgency or scarcity (unless, of course, they’re offering the McRib for a limited time.) It does utilize a strong CTA, however. Not long ago, the company realized how much faster ordering could go if it simplified the CTA. Remember what I said about making the offer easy on your customers? McDonald’s gets this message loud and clear. The pioneer of the fast-food industry, McDonald’s revolutionized the ordering process years ago by limiting people’s choices. After all, too many options can lead to confusion and paralysis. To enhance the CTA process more, it simplified meal names to mere numbers. Suddenly, the decision process was even easier than before. Another example of a subtle CTA is Starbucks mobile ordering. Although not a direct sell, it does create an undeniable feeling of convenience creating action. In fact, in 2017 mobile ordering has been responsible for a 4% growth in U.S. orders (Forbes April 12, 2017). When you put that into the context of a $5 billion-dollar-plus annual revenue, a CTA is extremely important.
One final word about improving your CTA process that comes from my experience in direct marketing. Many infomercials offer a free trial to generate trust and demonstrate value. For example, when advertising a workout program, we might offer a number of free days to help a potential customer fall in love with the product. I recommend doing something similar. First of all, it shows confidence in what you offer. Next, it capitalizes on the need to make an emotional decision fast. Signing up for a free trial is a good way to get your foot in the door. Afterward, if you have done everything else right, you’re bound to create a loyal customer.
Your CTA must be simple and generate a sense of urgency. “Be one of the next 500 to call.” “Call in the next two minutes.” If the customer is not propelled to act immediately, they may either forget your advertisement or overthink it and decide to walk away. Develop wording that conveys the message that this opportunity won’t last, whether due to timing, scarcity, or some other related issue. To establish customer loyalty now, insert free trials, money-back guarantees, and opportunities for pay-as- you-go subscriptions.
Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for your customer to buy from you now. When it comes to crafting your ad, include the value within the CTA to encourage swift action. For instance, if you’re selling a master blender, tell customers they could buy a mixer, blender, and cutter separately for $100 each, for a total of $300. Or, they could buy this product now, which contains all three, and they would only have to pay $100. Do you see the difference? You’re giving them exceptional value at a reduced price so they will be foolish not to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.
Build a trustworthy website so the public knows their payments will be secure and quick. Also, limit your requests on the page. (You don’t have to get them to sign up for everything at once. You can choose to e-mail them other offers later, especially if they’re now on your e-mail list.) Partner with e-commerce platforms such as PayPal or Stripe that accept all major credit cards.
You may want to offer additional information on your site for anyone who may be skeptical. Shaina Rozen, former communications director of Crowd Favorite, says that “all customers have different decision modes. Some make decisions quickly, while others need time to scour through the details and ruminate before making choices.” While you want to create urgency, you don’t want to be seen as pushy or rush your customer. Last, consider including an “i” information button to explain any extra shipping details that might otherwise confuse someone. Design each web page so all forms are clean and succinct. Get it right and customers will reward you with sales.
Everything within your marketing message leads to the CTA, therefore everything in this book has led up to this moment. I have taken you through all the steps you need to master to be successful in achieving marketing results. Each lesson built on the last. At the heart of the material is what might be thought of as my overall thesis statement. Here it is: Throughout history, business has worked best when based on trust. Due to the rise of the Internet, we now live in a review-based economy in which customers make their buying decisions based on knowing, liking, and trusting a business.
To connect with customers and win their trust, you need to employ all of the lessons in this book. When it comes down to it, trust, the cornerstone of business, is built on relationships. If you take time to build relationships with your customers and viewers by being genuinely helpful and empathetic to their problems — if you offer solutions to improve their lives — you will be rewarded with their business time and again.
I will close this book with my own call to action. As everyone knows, time goes by quick. I encourage you to act now. I implore you to take the knowledge and actionable steps in this book and immediately put them to good use marketing your business. Throughout these pages, I hope I have demystified challenging concepts and given you helpful advice. You now have the tools to identify what works (and why it works) when marketing your product or organization. Business exists to solve problems and I hope I have solved some of yours. Thank you for your time and attention. My wish is that this book gives you the results you seek to take your business — and your life — to levels you have only dreamt about.
EXERCISE: CREATE YOUR OWN URGENT CTA
It’s time to write your own CTA. Whatever and wherever you are advertising, you need to compel your customer to act now.
Step 1: Compile a list of limited one-time offers you can offer your customer. Can you afford a 30-day money back guarantee or a free trial period? If so, start here.
Step 2: Write down the most important action your customer could take to get started with you: a call, email, click here, etc. Make sure you condense the action item into one sentence you can put at the end of your video or on a web page.
Step 3: Make a list of 1-3 reasons why a customer needs to act now to get what you are offering.
Step 4: Insert the above into your ad at least more than once so as to help people know to take action right away. (If you are producing a video commercial, look for a natural pause between sections to see where your CTA can fit. For example, a CTA can be effective when placed after emotional testimonials, a demonstration, and/or a scientific explanation. As always, with your marketing, each point should build on the last.)
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The Proven System Generating Billions in Sales for Brands
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