Last night my wife, who doesn’t drink, hosted a wine tasting party. Seems odd, right? Well, she did it for me. I drink. The tasting offered me a chance to try a bunch of new wines while she focused on the social aspect of the party. That answers why she hosted the party, but the real lesson in this article lies deeper.
One of her friends, who works for a direct sales company that produces these wines, organized the party. She picked the wines, went through a pre-designed pitch about the company, and gave us some tips on how to taste and drink.
As we tasted the wines she asked us to write down what we thought of them and suggested we buy three bottles of each for whichever ones we liked. At the close of the tasting she told us she would take our orders. One of the interesting sales dynamics at these social events is the implicit social pressure to buy something. Nobody forces you to buy something but there’s almost a social obligation to do so.
Nobody wants to be seen as “that person”:
“Oh, she just drank all that free wine and didn’t even buy anything?”
Also, most of us hold a view of ourselves as supported of our friends. That compels us to act in a way that fits that view:
“She just went through all that trouble and gave us some free goodies. I should at least buy something for her efforts”
“They’re all buying something? Guess I better buy something too, just keep everything cool”
These are the conversations going on in our heads. Resisting social pressure takes willpower, something that’s hard to muster, especially at night after a long day.
But This Is A Column On Written Persuasion!
I know. As writers, control over when, where and with whom our prospects consume our messages rarely exists. That makes social pressure harder to pull off but not impossible.
Here’s how it works.
Target Their Group Bias
Your prospect belongs to several groups. By group I mean professional, personal, community, family, racial, ethnic, hobbies, political, and so on. The groups he belongs to exert a subtle pressure to conform to the norms for his group (similar to peer pressure in a face to face setting). That subtle pressure ignites the need for your prospect to fit in.
For example, suppose your group of friends that live in your community like to fish on the weekends. Fishing may bore you to tears but when they ask you to join them for the day wouldn’t you feel just the slightest bit of pressure to say yes? That’s exactly the kind of social pressure we need to imply in our written copy. Suppose you’re selling memberships to support a local museum in whatever city or town you live in. The data shows that 72% of subscribers are female, between 26-40 years old and work in accounting or finance. I can use that data to target who I market to and show them (with some subtlety) what their peers are doing.
Just like in face to face settings, it stirs that conversation in their minds:
“All my friends at work are doing it. I’ll be the outcast if I don’t do this too. “
“I guess if all my peers and most of my friends are doing it…”
There’s one other tool at our disposal… and it’s gotten a bad rap lately.
Fear Of Missing Out
Fear of missing out also represents a kind of social pressure. Studies prove its validity way beyond social media. Here’s an example.
If you are writing to restaurant owners about a seminar on restaurant stuff, your selling points may persuade him or her to sign up. If you tell him that the top food writers and restaurant financiers in the area will also attend and that other restaurant owners are going to connect with these hotshots, then it makes it harder to resist.
There may not always be an obvious fit to take advantage of this technique. It takes a thorough understanding of your market and a good deal of market research. Guessing your way through it will likely result in a major disconnect.
Final tip: Your writing must be subtle, not an obvious attempt to manipulate. They need to connect-the-dots and start that private conversation in their head.