Someone recently told me that good products sell themselves. I wish that were true, but it isn't. Good products don't sell themselves, but bad products, even if well marketed, will die a faster death.
Good products are the foundation for a successful product line or business. Product line managers live to have a product that is first to market, because that brings several powerful benefits. A first-to-market product creates and defines a completely new way to address a market need. This newness creates a clean approach to customer needs.
Psychologists, adherents to neural linguistic programming, and marketing theorists all say people are driven primarily by the need to avoid pain and are secondarily prompted by the desire to gain pleasure. According to psychologists, even when we do something that seems painful, we do it because we associate the final outcome with pleasure. Wow.
This was a common theme of the self-help guru Tony Robbins, and it works, but this general principle gives rise to six related emotional triggers that also work in most Western cultures.
- Reciprocation: If you give someone something for free, that person will feel obligated to give you something back. Ever been to a tradeshow? That's why companies give out freebies. It's also why marketing and sales people are constantly told to underpromise and overdeliver.
- Consistency and commitment: Someone who does something once is more likely to do it again. This trigger is used during the marketing and sales process. When given the same circumstances, people generally will repeat a previous action, rather than doing something different. Incremental commitment happens by getting people to give you their name, make that first click, accept that first email, etc. Once they start, they are on a path of continuously reinforced commitment.
- Social proof: In forming their opinions, people depend on people they know. Social statements of good (or bad) encourage the person hearing or viewing them to be induced to go along (or not, as the case might be). This is why Campbell's Soup used to have 25-word "Why I like Campbell's" contests. Testimonials can drive crowd psychology. They're based on social proof triggers.
- Liking: This is simple. You're more likely to give the benefit of the doubt to someone you like than to someone you don't like. That's why marketing and sales people are taught to try to be human. Showing weaknesses with charm and humility helps to make a personal connection. So does talking about problems and dreams. Once people likes you, most will listen to your pitch or read your sales copy.
- Authority or credibility: If people believe you are an expert, they will often take your word over someone else's without checking the facts. The best way to gain credibility (authority) is by being truthful. This helps to build long-term credibility. BSing people about what an expert you are sometimes works, but when you are eventually found out, all is lost. The scary part is that many will believe you sight unseen -- until they begin to discover major discrepancies.
- Scarcity: For retail business, customers like to have something others can't have. This makes them feel special. Many spammy messages use a countdown timer and "Only six left" kinds of messages to activate this trigger. For business-to-business relationships, scarcity plays a role in the marketing and sales process, but the scarcity has to change to something like "Only three more customer positions left for calendar year 2014."
For some engineers, these types of social triggers may seem unsavory, but marketers can use these triggers in a socially conscious way. I find it instructive to read (and watch) promotional materials for all kinds of products and services carefully. The more you follow and analyze email spam, the more resistant you will become to these types of triggers. At the very least, you'll know what's being used on you.
In my next column, I'll talk about the dark side of emotional triggers. In the meantime, I welcome comments and questions.