How To Turn “Price” Shoppers Into Emotion Buyers

After an hour of traffic, I wanted out of my car. I noticed the gas gauge near empty. Perfect. A quick stop to fill up and I’ll check email, Twitter and texts. I drove past the first gas station. They’re a bit pricier than the one down the corner. I put on my turn signal as I got closer. There were three cars waiting in line.

“Crap. I should have gone to the other place. It was empty.”

I didn’t want to wait. I drove over to the next town. Eight minutes later I pulled into the station and filled up.

All that extra effort to save five cents on gas. That comes to sixty cents savings on twelve gallons.

People often make stupid decisions, myself included. We use absurd logic.

Was the sixty cent savings worth an extra ten minutes of my time?

I lost ten minutes of my day to save sixty cents on gas. Yet, I would never think twice about spending five dollars on a latte.

Today I drove ten minutes out of the way to spend an extra four dollars a pound for organic coffee beans.

It’s NEVER About Money.

Why waste so much time and effort to save 60 cents on gas? Then, spend more time and money to buy exotic coffee beans?

Emotion Trumps Reason

Yes, it’s true. Even if you consider yourself the logical type, emotion drives your behavior. You justify that behavior later with logic.

Emotion drove my decision to save five cents on gas. I see gas as a commodity. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone charge me more than the fair price. That’s why I refused to buy at the more expensive station. It came down to a desire for fair treatment.

Emotion drove my decision to spend more time and money on coffee beans. I’m a coffee snob. I crave high quality and organic beans. I’m willing and eager to spend more time and money to meet my craving.

Would a cup of Folgers give me the same emotional pleasure? No way.

When Price Shoppers Forget About Price

Customers who price shop, do it for one reason. They see your offer as a commodity. Even commodities can escape the price shopping mentality.

Show how you are different. If nothing makes you different then do something to make you different. What can you do that your competitors don’t? In the digital marketing space, we often add quick private consults. You can hold weekly webinars for Q&A. These things take effort. Most competitors shy away from anything that adds effort.

Whatever you choose, make it concrete and specific. Avoid abstract terms like experience or overall value.

Even my friends at the pricey gas station could do it. They could check your oil or clean your windows, just like the old days.

Last year I bought a new car. The salesman showed me their swanky lounge area. He said “Guys come here on Saturday afternoons just to escape and hang out.”

At that moment, I decided to stick with that dealer. That one line took me out of price shopper mode.

Read More →

Stop Trying To Persuade. It’s Easier To Be A Cheerleader

When someone asks me for a quick tip on persuasion, I give a surprising response.

“Avoid it if you can. It’s easier to be a cheerleader.” 

They respond with a furred brow and demand an explanation.

What is a cheerleader? Of course, I don’t mean pom-poms and back flips.

A cheerleader sells a product, service or idea that the other person already desires or believes.

Read these examples:

  1. It’s easy to sell a steak to a meat eater looking for dinner. The same pitch to a vegetarian falls on deaf ears.
  2. It’s easy to sell the idea of a Trump impeachment to a liberal. Selling the idea to a Trump supporter invites their wrath.
  3. It’s easy to sell a weight loss diet to someone embarrassed by their weight. Selling preventive weight loss products to someone trying to gain weight makes no sense.

You get the idea, right?

Get A Giant Head Start

As a persuader, you face a difficult challenge. You need to change minds.

As a cheerleader, you face a lower hurdle.

Let’s pretend the cheerleader sells a weight loss product to someone who desires to lose weight. She only needs to convince her prospect on the value of her solution. A tough challenge in that market but attainable.

The persuader first needs to convince the thin person he needs a solution to prevent a weight problem. She then needs to convince him that she’s the one to provide it.

See the difference? The cheerleader is already half way there.

Here’s an example from my own life.

Driving in my car yesterday, I listened to a podcast. The guest talked about pistachios. He raved about the benefits. He further stated:

“Eat as many as you want. Don’t worry about the calories.”

I’m a pistachio lover. That was all I needed to hear. I raced to the supermarket and bought two bags of pistachio kernels (without the shell).

That guest was my cheerleader. He told me what I wanted to hear and I jumped in with both feet.

Century Old Marketing Wisdom

If I believed nuts were harmful, I would question his wisdom. I would demand more proof. I would find my own proof to refute his. He would need to work a lot harder and longer to first persuade me that pistachio’s are healthy. Only then would he have a shot at persuading me I can eat limitless amounts.

Smart marketers and copywriters follow this path. The great ones have known this for over a century.

It’s far easier to cheerlead than it is to persuade.

Marketers who buy lists of names look for people who have already bought products like theirs. It shows they already believe in the product idea.

Find people who already desire what you sell. It could be a product, idea or belief. Once you exhaust that market, only then should you tackle the non-believers. It’s challenging enough to be a cheerleader.

Read More →

How “Digital Waste” Destroys Your Marketing Efforts… And The 5 Common Spots Where These Evil Critters Hide

With each swallow, I felt a gag reflex. Am I going to throw up? My hand jittered. My heart raced. You would think it’s a major life event. No, it wasn’t the minutes leading up to my wedding. It wasn’t when my wife went into labor.

Rather, this was my first day back from vacation. The feeling came from a thought. After one week off, how much crap awaits me?

I knew from my mobile phone indicator that over seven-hundred emails remained unread. I avoided anything work related the whole vacation. The second I walked in the door to my office, the pent up stress exploded.

By lunchtime, I filtered out three-quarters of the emails. They were either redundant or pointless. Out of the rest, only thirty mattered.

That means ninety-five percent of the crap I get is digital waste.

I’m sure your life is much of the same. People bombard you with stuff that doesn’t matter.

Are You Guilty Too?

I’m guilty of doing the same to others. I do it without thinking about it. I try and force my priorities onto others.

There’s one instance where I avoid this flaw.


It’s hard enough to get attention. It’s even harder to hold attention. Just like garbage emails, sales and marketing material suffers from the same disorder.

It’s filled with pointless crap nobody cares about.

Are you writing about what’s important to you or what’s important to your readers?

This Question May Save Your Butt

There’s an old question that copywriters ask when we edit our material.

Does this sentence advance the sale?

It takes ruthless honesty to answer this. We hate to kill our creations, even pointless ones.

Wasted words lurk in common hiding spots. Here’s a quick guide of the most common offenders.

  1. Introductions  – Start in the middle of the action. Setting the scene might matter in a four hundred page book. In an ad, it’s a reason to swipe away.
  2. It’s all about them – You can talk about yourself. Just make sure you talk about them more.
  3. Conclusions – Hit your reader with a call to action at the emotional high point. A conclusion brings your reader down from her emotional high. Your goal today is to sell. You can educate tomorrow.
  4. Fake benefits – Yes, we need to tout benefits. Here’s where you need honesty. Are the benefits you boast about important to your audience? Benefits that lack relevancy hinder your sales efforts. It creates a mismatch in their thinking: “I don’t need that. This isn’t a fit for me.”
  5. Filler – Do you need to produce one thousand words? Your piece clocks in at nine-hundred. What is your knee-jerk reaction?  Add an extra hundred words to meet your quota. Those extra words hurt your efforts. Either find something super compelling or have that talk with your boss or client. If you can make the sale in nine-hundred words, isn’t that a good thing?


Read More →

When Their Embarrassment Becomes Your Advantage

Rotten food, crumbs and mystery garbage littered our family car. My wife begged me to clean it. It’s the one thing she wanted for Mothers Day. I agreed. I opened the back door and took a good look. The car should be condemned. It needs professional cleaning.

I thought about taking it in. Give my wife a pristine car on Mother’s day. It makes a nice gift, right?

Here’s the problem. I couldn’t bring it in. The extreme filth embarrassed me. Has that ever happened to you?

“The car needs professional cleaning. I’ll clean it as best I can. I’m too embarrassed to bring it in now.” I told my wife

Time to start cleaning. I plugged in the shop vac. I put on some gloves and grabbed a garbage bag. A half hour later, we had a clean(ish) car. It was presentable enough to have someone else finish the job.

Two Fears That Light A Fire Under Our…

Do you ever act in a way or say something to avoid embarrassment or harsh judgment? Most of us do. In our house, we do a big cleanup the night before the cleaning person comes?  We don’t want her to think we’re slobs.

Look up companies that market cures or treatments of embarrassing medical issues. Many of them stress that they package their products in plain boxes. I found one that even showed a picture of the packaging. They do this to prove something to the buyer:

“Yes, we know it’s embarrassing to order this stuff. Don’t worry. Nobody will ever know.”

Fear of embarrassment and harsh judgment powers more of our behavior than we like to admit. Both fears add firepower to your sales or marketing campaign.

How To Tap Into This Fear

You can use this in two ways.

First, let’s assume your buyer needs your product.

Does the need cause embarrassment? If yes, show how they can buy it in total secrecy.

Second, the anticipation of embarrassment is what drives decisions. What about your product is likely to embarrass your buyer? Give them the firepower to fight it.

For example, let’s pretend you sell knitting classes and you’re targeting male customers. Most men would feel embarrassed if their buddies found out. How would you sell it so that the buyer could shoot back at those who criticize?

I would stress the fine motor skills you develop from knitting. These skills help you fish, shoot guns or do carpentry work. It’s the same concept as football players taking ballet.

Reverse Embarrassment?

What the heck is reverse embarrassment?

Here’s how it works.

What is the potential embarrassment your prospect faces if he refuses to buy?

Don’t blurt out “you’ll never feel embarrassed again.” They often won’t admit (even to themselves) their condition embarrasses them.

Use specifics. Target the behavior that triggers the perceived harsh judgment. Here’s an example.

“Our writers keep you in the ‘safe-zone’ of criticism”

This targets the buyers fear of criticism or harsh judgment.

“How to recover from long pauses in a presentation. (Sing these two words and nobody remembers you faltered).

Fears of public speaking screwups trigger embarrassment.

Read More →

The Art And Science Of Legit Bribery

Our business took longer than expected. The kids began to act out. I could see the boredom it in their faces. They wanted out. I can’t blame them. How many kids under the age of seven enjoy sitting with kitchen designers? We didn’t want to make a scene. We turned to a surefire solution. A bribe.

“Behave for another twenty minutes. We’ll go to Liberty Science Center next. But you must behave.”

For the next twenty minutes, they sat and played with a few meager toys. Our bribe worked.

The dictionary refers to bribes as giving something to persuade or induce others.

Allow me to disagree with the all knowing dictionary.

Bribes don’t persuade. In fact, it’s the opposite of persuasion. If I could persuade my kids to behave, I wouldn’t need a bribe.

A bribe is a transaction.

We failed to persuade our kids to behave. Instead, we bribed them. We bought their good behavior. In return, we gave them something they desired.

We do these transactions in business, sales and marketing.

Marketing Bribes

The world seems to accept marketing bribes. In fact, it’s common to see something like this:

“I’m offering my 10 point [insert name] plan as a bribe for joining my community.” –  I do the same thing. I offer a “guide” as a giveaway to join my mailing list.

Get $10 off on Thursday.” – Typical kind of bribe you get from restaurants

“The first ten people to buy get a free consultation. A $500 value.” 

This last one is pulled from a real ad. The business that sent it called it a gift. A gift implies you expect nothing in return.

Do Bribes Work?

They do. That’s why we all do them. Try asking someone to join your mailing list without giving a free gift. Your conversion rate plummets. Just about every digital business does it.

Here’s the thing.

Bribes are just transactions. They get people in the door. They fail to keep people in the door.

You can call your bribe a gift, enticement or token of appreciation. It doesn’t matter. They help bring people into your business.  The bribe buys you their attention. You gain a small window of opportunity. Now you have a chance to persuade and sell.

Most marketers agree. Once the transaction completes, your prospects no longer feel the need to reciprocate.

Here are a few things I do which seem to help with retention after “the bribe.”

  1. Keep in touch with customers. Obvious, I know. So few people do it.
  2. Ask for feedback on your giveaway (bribe). People do respond. Some will never bother to look at your bribe. The act of downloading it seems to satisfy them enough.
  3. I give away a bullet writing guide. I often ask my subscribers to send me examples of bullets they work on for feedback. It creates extra work for me. People appreciate it and become fans.

In short, don’t take your customers for granted just because you bribed them with a free pdf.



Read More →

Any student of persuasion, marketing or sales needs to spend an hour a day observing people.I love coffee shops for that purpose. They offer a perfect setting to observe human behavior.  Yesterday, I stopped at the local Starbucks. It was packed. I made a mobile order so I wouldn’t have to wait on line.

I took out my notebook to note anything interesting. Here’s what I found.

The Guy Who Wouldn’t Shut Up

At least ten of us huddled around the bar where Barista’s prepare and serve the drinks.  The Barista was busy. There was a backlog of orders. She appeared flustered.

Most of us stood there, staring at our phones. One guy followed a different pattern. He tried to make small talk with the Barista.

She gave subtle hints that she lacked the time to chat. A few of us noticed. I have no way of knowing what everyone else thought. I can make an educated guess.

“Why can’t he just leave her alone and let her do her job. Isn’t it obvious, she’s too busy to talk?”

Lesson one: Sure, it was obvious to us. The guy doing the talking failed to notice visual and verbal queues obvious to everyone else. Or, he noticed but didn’t care.

Lesson two: I know other people noticed too. I saw a few other patrons roll their eyes and shake their head. We all wanted to scream “can’t you see she’s in no mood to chat?” None of us said a word. Why? We might need a book to explain that. Uncomfortable with my own silence, I made a comment when she served my drink.

“Thanks, Lorraine. Busy day today. They need to give you some help.”

Did the guy connect the dots? I’ll never know.

The Helpless Tech Expert

As I sat down to enjoy my coconut mocha macchiato, a woman next to me snagged my attention.

“I want to get a drink but I don’t want to wait on that line,” she said.

“Why don’t you do the mobile order? They call your name when it’s ready.”

“It just gets charged to your card, right? I always have trouble using the app. I’m supposed to be a tech expert too. ” she said with a giggle.”

I showed her how to order using the app. She thanked me after she placed her order. Then, she asked me to watch her stuff so she could go to the bathroom.

Lesson: People seem more comfortable to engage with strangers in coffee shops than other settings. I helped this woman order her drink. She then felt comfortable enough to ask me to watch her things so she can use the restroom. For all she knew, I could have run off with her laptop. She concluded I was safe after a two-minute interaction.

My Number 1 Persuasion Lesson

To become a  persuasive writer, one lesson beats all others. Observe people. Take note of their actions. Ask yourself why they do what they do. Then, write about it. You won’t find the answers on day one. Over time, you’ll make the connections.


Read More →

The “Magicians Trick” Hides Your Weakness In Plain Site… Nobody Will Ever Accuse You Of Covering It Up

He just served us hot rosemary infused bread with sea salt butter. Soon after my first bite, the sound of broken glass startled us. The impact caused small shards of glass to land on our table. I’ve never seen a glass break like that.

At once, a manager came over. She told us not to touch or eat anything. She talked with us while other workers cleaned up the mess. A busboy came over and replaced everything on our table while the manager distracted us.

Before we knew it, a new tablecloth, silverware and bread appeared on our table.

Giving Away A Magicians Secret

This restaurant manager used a technique perfected by magicians. She exploited the power of diversion.

Let’s suppose a magician performs a trick with his left hand. He won’t try and hide his left hand behind his back. That only draws attention to it. Instead, he diverts your attention to his right hand.

The same principle holds true in persuasion, sales and marketing.

When you make an effort to hide a weakness or fault it only draws more attention to it.

Your audience senses something amiss.

“What is he trying to hide from me?”

Instead of hiding your weakness, divert attention away from it. Hold your weakness in your left hand and focus their attention on your right hand.

How Does This Work In Practice?

This sounds great in theory. Like all theories, you need a practical example of how it works in real life.

To use this, we make use of some basic writing techniques and taking advantage of human memory quirks.

First, state your weakness in clear, but unemotional words. Keep it fact based, stripped of emotion.

Surround your weakness with emotional, diversionary statements. Your reader recalls emotional items at the expense of logical, fact-based items. Here’s an example of how it works:

Diversionary statement: Our smart software slashes your workload. It cuts processing times from one hour to four minutes and twelve seconds.

Weakness: It requires two weeks of training to use.

Diversionary statement: Our AI feature cuts errors by 98%, saving you $37,655 per year in fees. (Plus, if our software fails to detect an error, we’ll cover the costs)

The middle sentence is the weakness. I didn’t hide it. I put it in plain site. It sounds dull and forgettable. The surrounding sentences pack more emotion. Plus, I added specific numbers. This captures even more attention.

When your reader recalls your piece, the emotional statements stand out in her memory. The dull statement never gains a foothold.


Read More →

Marketing With Soft Lies Or Hard Truths. Does It Really Matter?

As a content writer, I sometimes struggle with the soft lie, hard truth balance. A soft lie is something your prospect knows is false, but they prefer to hear it anyway. You prefer to tell it. It relieves both of you of discomfort.

I told a soft lie yesterday. I did it to avoid an uncomfortable situation.

Here’s what happened.

I’m on vacation at a spa. I decided to try something new. I never had a Thai massage before. It looked interesting. I figured, why not? I’m on vacation. This is the time to do something new.

After it ended the practitioner asked me how I liked it. I told him it was great. My body feels much looser.

One of those statements is true. The other is false.

My body felt looser.  That was the truth.

I hated the massage. Admitting that would create tension, so I lied.  I didn’t want the discomfort of giving bad news and then dealing with the fallout.

Telling hard truths feels uncomfortable to both parties. We hate to give it. They hate to receive it.

Lies In Marketing

Soft lies permeate every form of persuasion.

  • Businesses selling complex enterprise software never tell prospects to expect a long and complicated implementation.
  • Internet marketers, with few exceptions, never tell their prospects to expect a hard climb to success.

Here’s a hard truth of my own.

Lying brings in more customers than truth.

When that business sold their complex software with the promise of a smooth implementation, they lied. It was a soft lie. The ones doing the selling aren’t the ones doing the grunt work. The sales people remain ignorant of those details. It makes hiding the truth easier.

They know that once their new customer is in the thick of things they won’t back down. They know their customers will be subject to the sunk cost fallacy.

“We’ve already sunk so much time and money, we can’t back out now.”

Content That Competes With Lies

When we write content, where do we draw the line between soft lies and hard truths?

My analysis is anecdotal. I can’t claim any science to back it up, but here’s my conclusion.

Going heavy on the soft lies pulls in more but lower quality customers.

Promising to make millions online with little effort entices hordes of people with dreams of riches. Many of them become disgruntled when they realize it takes work.

Going heavy on the hard truth brings in less but better customers.

The software company will bring in more customers with their lofty promises. Those customers complain and make life miserable for the grunts when those promises fail to materialize.

The opposite holds true too.

Telling your prospects to expect a hard-fought climb scares off customers. Competitors who give lofty promises win out. The customers you do gain with the hard truths are better quality. They know what to expect. They prepare for it.

In reality, it’s hard to survive only telling hard truths. You’ll scare too many people away. To win, you need to do both. Tell enough soft lies (tell them what they want to hear) to win their business. Tell enough hard-truths to manage their expectations.

Read More →

With three hours to go, a flurry of activity took over. We had questions, doubts and concerns. A special discount expires in a matter of hours.

Stress levels approached a boiling point. I’m a low-key kind of guy. I still find the hours leading up to a big decision stressful. We’re about to spend a lot of money on a home improvement.

The deadline approached. We failed to pull the trigger. In our minds, the cost did not justify the benefit. We could live with the windows for now.

Those same feelings invade your prospects and customers.  It follows a familiar pattern when they’re “in the market” for a high priced items.

How Buyers Progress From Excited To Frightened

He starts in the shopping phase. Excitement takes over. He’s eager to see you. You’re his best friend. He acts like your partner, not a vendor.

It makes sense. He’s just shopping. There’s no commitment. There’s no risk of regret or pain from just shopping.

As time goes on, he knows you’ll expect an answer. Now, he turns it into a professional relationship. He creates distance, keeping you an arm’s length away. He may even use more official-sounding language. It now takes days to return emails. In the shopping phase, he got back to you the same day.

Next, the excuses roll in. Here, he avoids the pain of telling you no. Instead, he makes you read between the lines.

My personal favorite:

“We’re going through a realignment. We’ll need to put this on hold until things settle down.”

In reality, you failed to sell him on your product or service. You fell short on the basic math.

The Universal Buying Formula

Buying expensive products or services involves pain. It’s not just the cash. Fear of regret, failure and judgment add to the pain.

Your buyer adds all of this together and uses the universal buying formula. It goes like this.

If the pain of buying is less than the pain he wants to fix -> BUY


If the pain of buying is greater than the pain he wants to fix -> DO NOT BUY

As marketers or sales people we often overlook this basic principle.

Here’s a simple example without that shows you the formula in action.

Let’s suppose my doctor calls me up to schedule some tests. He says they’re routine tests. Nothing to worry about. I agree to the tests. He then tells me the cost is five thousand dollars. How do I reply to that?

“Let me get back to you.”

Now, let’s pretend the story plays out a bit different. My doctor calls me up and says he wants me to come in for tests. He says it costs five thousand. He then says

“I saw something on your initial test that worried me. Don’t worry if it comes back positive. We can treat it. But it needs to be done fast.  How soon can you be here?”

At that point, five thousand dollars means nothing. The pain of this possible medical issue far exceeds the pain of spending the money.

That’s an extreme example of the universal pain formula. Make no mistake, your prospects always evaluate this formula for any sizeable purchase.

Read More →

Put Your Ego Aside. Let Everyone Else Feel Superior To You… And Win More Customers, Fans And Friends

Out of nowhere, she hits me with a surprise question.

“Tell me something I don’t know about you.”

Stunned, I sat there in silence.

My wife and I are on vacation. We’re sitting in a restaurant overlooking a beautiful landscape in Eastern Pennsylvania. After fifteen years, I figure there isn’t much we don’t know about each other.

I ran through a bunch of childhood memories. She knew all of them. She even knew the story of how we had a Beagle for only one week.

The conversation felt forced. Finally, I landed one] that stumped her.

“Do you know the part time jobs I had in high school?”

One of those jobs was at a video rental store. Middle-aged always crept in just before closing.  They rented adult films. You could see the embarrassment on their faces.

The conversation improved from that point on.

Revealing something new, unusual or embarrassing about yourself helps you bond with people.

The Superiority Effect

It humbles you and tips the balance of the superiority effect:

Pointing out a  relevant struggle or a weakness you face gives others a feeling of superiority. When others feel superior to you, it improves likability.

It’s true. Let’s suppose your best buddy texts you about his promotion. You think to yourself

“They gave it to him? Now he’s a level above me.”

It feels uncomfortable. If, instead, he texts you

“Dude. They turned down for that promotion.”

Now, the balance of power remains. Everyone’s happy.

I’m reluctant to reveal my flaws. Most of us are. Get over that fear and you gain an advantage over your competitors who portray a facade of perfection.

Where Everyone Screws Up

Using the superiority effect to your advantage requires subtlety. There’s a tendency for writers today to go too far. A lot of publications want their writers to bleed on the paper. That may be fine for literary fiction. As a content writer for your business, you need to display some professionalism. Your audience expects competency for the service you sell.  Nobody wants to do business with a basket case.

Keep It Real

The other common mistake is irrelevant struggles. I saw a sales trainer try and show his humble side by revealing a struggle. He wailed about his failures in setting up his home sound system.

“I was forced to call in the pros”

Who cares? It’s not relevant to what he sells. He could have tied it in by explaining how he turns to experts when he struggles with something. It’s an easy segue to selling his training. Instead, he inserted this orphan story.

Better than the tie-in, show me how you struggled to reach the top of the sales profession and how you overcame the struggle. It adds more relevance. Your audience comes to a predictable conclusion.

“Heck, if he struggled like me and reached the top, then I could do it too.”

Put aside your ego. Let your audience feel superior to you. Avoid the two mistakes. Don’t overdo it. Your audience needs to see competency. Keep it relevant. It needs to tie into whatever you sell.

Read More →