As I sat on a wooden bench with three of my friends at one of my favorite malls in my local region of the San Francisco Bay Area, I observed a set of events transpire that I had no earthly clue of when they occurred; but would later go on to eventually help me offer succor to many startup founders whose companies’ sales began to stagnate.
Only being around fourteen or fifteen years old at the time, I was kinda what you would call a mall rat.
And like most high school age teens, although I absolutely loved going to the mall; I did not have very much money to spend once I was able to get there. However, the lesson I learned that day at the mall would go on to become invaluable years later towards my career as a marketing professional.
Strategically positioning ourselves on the bench in the mall nearest Macy’s (which was prime real estate to see girls as well as be seen by them) as we had done so many times before, I noticed Nia; a former classmate of mine—shopping in a nearby retail store with her mom.
Having not seen Nia in awhile, I told my buddies that I’d be back in a few minutes and to hold down the fort until my return.
Walking through the store’s doors to say hello, I overheard a conversation Nia and her mom were having with a saleslady about a jacket she had just picked up off a rack and tried on in the store. “Nia, you know this jacket is over your budget.” Said Nia’s mom. “I know, but isn’t it cute?” Nia replied. Begrudgingly, Nia began to hang the jacket back on its rack.
It was at that moment, the saleslady applied what I would later learn—was an extremely effective sales and marketing tactic. “Although that jacket does look great on you, maybe it’s best that you didn't buy it.” Said the saleslady. “I’m sure that if you wore that jacket to school, you’d be the envy of all the other girls at your high school. And who wants that?”
Now, you’re probably thinking, “All the saleslady did that day was use reverse psychology on Nia.” While on the surface, it may seem that way. But that isn’t what led Nia to plead with her mom in the store to buy the jacket for her that day (which she eventually did).
What the saleslady successfully used at that moment was an effective marketing tactic that your startup could also apply—emotional marketing messaging. And these are five ways to do so.
1. Paint a perfect picture in their mind
One of my favorite authors, Darren Hardy, once said that, “It’s not the best product that wins. It is the best marketer that does.” Darren couldn’t be more correct about that. Most consumers do not lean on logic when it comes to finalizing their purchasing decisions. They lean on emotion (the term “retail therapy” exists for a reason).
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the emotional marketing tactic that the saleslady used, and which ultimately led to Nia pressuring her mom to purchase the jacket—was an emotional marketing messaging tactic that I call “articulating an optimal outcome.”
By suggesting that if Nia were to wear that jacket to school; she’d be envied by all of the other girls there—the saleslady painted a picture of the perfect outcome in Nia’s mind.
Understanding that most young women love receiving adulation for their fashion choices and wardrobe from their peers—the seasoned saleslady used messaging that would resonate with Nia that she would receive exactly what she yearned for—if she took a desired action.
Watching Nia joyously walk out of the store that day with her mom smiling from ear to ear holding her shopping bag, it was obvious to everyone in the store—she was absolutely ecstatic about the purchase (and so was the saleslady who likely received a commission for the sale).
Like the saleslady that day, you can evoke emotion in your startup’s marketing messaging by understanding just what the optimal outcome would be that would lead consumers to purchase your products or services. Then, articulate how they could attain that outcome simply by purchasing your startup’s offerings.
2. Alleviate hesitation
While painting a perfect picture by articulating an optimal outcome works great on enticing customers to make low-involvement purchases (clothing, food, household items, and other small purchases), when it comes to high-involvement purchases (cars, equipment, high-end electronics, homes, etc.), evoking happiness with your marketing messaging isn’t enough to influence consumers to finalize a purchase.
To influence consumers to cross that threshold, you must begin by addressing the biggest barrier to securing the sale—their hesitancy.
The best way to accomplish that is by eliminating as many risks as possible that would cause the consumer to be hesitant of completing the purchase. But just which emotional string could you pull on with your marketing messaging to eliminate your audience’s hesitancy? That would be the feeling of relief.
“If you can make your target audience feel something, you can connect with them.” Writes Nancy Harhut, author of the book, Using Behavioral Science In Marketing. “And once you connect with them, they are more open to responding to you. Behavioral scientists refer to this as ‘emotional contagion.’”
Evoke the emotion of relief in your marketing messaging by offering your audience an ironclad guarantee that would eliminate any post-purchase dissonance most customers may have.
“If you can make someone feel excited about the prospect of using your product, or relieved at the thought of subscribing to your service, you’ve made emotional contagion work for you.” Says Harhut.
Make emotional contagion work for business by offering a guarantee to customers that addresses and eliminates each and every hesitancy they would have prior to purchasing your products or services. You could do that by offering extended warranties and money back guarantees.
3. Issue a warning
Have you noticed that every few years around election time, politicians bombard the airwaves telling us all how bad our lives would be if we do not vote for them or donate to their campaign?
The reason why you’ve seen or heard those ads on your television or radio all of your life is because the folks running those campaigns understand how to effectively evoke an emotion that often leads to a desirable action—fear.
Marketing and storytelling go hand in hand. And in every great story, the protagonist must overcome something in their path that stands to prevent them from having a happy ending and going on to ride off blissfully into the sunset. But in order to do that, the protagonist must first avoid a negative situation in the story that stands in the way of them doing so.
What is it that stands in the way of your target audience’s happy ending if they were to choose not to purchase your products or services?
Would they be less safe or healthy?
Would they lose money?
Would they lose precious time that could be spent with loved ones?
Would they not find romance?
Would they lose peace of mind?
Would they be less cool amongst their peers?
Regardless of what it is, articulate that undesirable outcome to your audience by issuing a warning of what they stand to lose if they do not purchase what you have to offer (just make sure that your products or services actually do help them avoid whatever it is that they fear).
4. Be exciting
When was the last time you saw a theme park go out of business? The answer is probably never. Theme parks are popular due to the fact that they’re designed to evoke an emotion that we’re all hardwired to seek in one way or another—excitement.
Bring consumers closer to your brand by appealing to their inherent need for excitement through your marketing messaging by exuding and evoking excitement through your brand’s tone, image, and marketing communications.
One brand that does a great job of this is Monster Energy. Sure, most people would expect an energy drink brand to be exciting. But when consumers think of Monster Energy, they think of action. That’s because Monster Energy exudes action through its advertising, sponsorships, website, and social media presence.
Your startup could do the same by articulating just how much more fun life would be for consumers if they were to enter your brand’s world. And just how mundane life would remain if they chose not to do so.
5. Practice generosity
Last, but definitely not least, is the act of being generous. Reciprocity is real. And if you want customers to support your startup—start by showing them that you care about them. That could consist of:
Emailing them happy birthday wishes.
Sending them offers for free.
Provide free troubleshooting tips for problems involving your category or industry.
Having random Q & A’s on social media with consumers.
There are plenty of ways to be giving towards your audience without it involving a sale. But usually when businesses practice generosity with their target audience—that audience returns the favor.