By Dean Rieck, direct mail copywriter
Apart from food, water, shelter, basic clothing, and warmth, most purchases today are discretionary. People buy stuff they want, not necessarily stuff they need. So selling is largely a matter of understanding the psychology of your customers.
You don’t have to be a PhD to figure people out. But you do need to know a few key psychological concepts related to direct marketing and buying.
1.) People make decisions emotionally. People seldom make rational, logical decisions. They decide based on a feeling, need, or emotion. Usually, therefore, intangible benefits are the key to persuasion. Even for offer-driven promotions and business-to-business marketing, there is an emotional core to every decision. For any given promotion, you should ask yourself, “What is the emotional hot button here?”
2.) People like to think they are logical. While people make emotional decisions, they justify those decisions with logic and supporting facts. Example: a woman sees a picture of an expensive dress in a catalog and instantly wants it because of her emotional reaction to it. However, if it were just a picture and a price, she may not buy it if she’s at all practical. But the copy goes on at length detailing the quality of the fabric, the close stitching, and how buying such a dress is really an investment. This gives her the justification she needs to act on her emotional impulse.
3.) People are egocentric. Notice that the key word here is not “egotistic” but “egocentric.” That means centered around the ego or self. We all see the world in terms of how it relates to us personally. So any time you ask someone to do something, you must answer his or her unspoken question, “What’s in it for me?” On a deeper level, the question might be “How does this give me feelings of personal worth?”
4.) People consider the value of your offer. Value is not a fixed number. It is more than just price. Value is relative to what you’re selling, what others charge, what the prospect is used to paying, how badly the prospect wants it, and how the prospect perceives the difference between your offer and others. The idea is that you must show a value that seems to be equal to or greater than the asking price. The greater the value relative to the price, the more likely people will respond to your offer.
5.) People think in terms of people. The human brain is not a computer, calculator, or information processor. Scientists have shown that its primary function is to help people deal with social interactions. Remember back in high school how some mathematical questions were stated as real-life situations? They were always easier to understand and solve than abstract problems. That’s an example of how the brain thinks. Most people don’t think in abstract ideas, but in terms of people. Your marketing messages, therefore, should feature people rather than concepts: names, personal pronouns, quotes, testimonials, stories, photos of people, etc.
6.) People want to avoid risk. People pursue gain, but the urge to avoid loss is more powerful because it works on a more basic level. This DOES NOT mean that every appeal should be based on fear. It means that you must keep in mind this undercurrent of fear in every transaction. On a practical level, remember that in direct marketing, people usually can’t see you or the thing you’re promoting before they part with their money. There is a level of distrust and suspicion you must overcome. You must lower feelings of risk by answering silent questions: “Does this really work? What if it doesn’t? Can I return it if I want to? Will a salesman call and pressure me into a purchase? Do others trust you? Why should I deal with you rather than someone else?”
7.) You can’t force people to do anything. When people buy, inquire, or donate, it’s not because you wield some magical power over them. You can urge. You can push. You can entice. But ultimately, people do what they want to do. This means your job is to show how what you’re offering meets your prospect’s needs.
Check back next month for the remaining 8 psychological secrets!