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  • Writer's pictureSarah Butler

Marketing Psychology: 15 Tips & Tricks To Engage With Potential Customers & Sell More

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Marketing is a combination of art and science that requires continual refinement as the world around us changes.

However there are some researched, proven psychological hacks that you can incorporate into your marketing. To do this, you need to think creatively and use the psychology behind marketing to your advantage. The result? Increased engagement, trust, loyalty, and sales—with very little cost involved.

Check out these hacks to give your business the edge.

1. Be exclusive

People want what they can't have.

"Exclusivity and uniqueness are most critical to wealthy consumers." Milton Pedraza, The Luxury Institute.

This premise applies to service businesses - think trying to get into the hottest restaurant in town or best hairdresser - the fact that it is difficult just reinforces the appeal. Exclusivity also works with products - the only evidence needed of this is the relative scarcity of luxury brand products to cultivate an elite image that pulls the customer to you instead of you pushing out to reach them (which also costs you a lot of money in marketing.)

So think about restricting the supply of your products or making customers jump through a few hoops to secure your service for example "Sorry, we only accept new clients referred to by existing ones."

2. Promote scarcity

One of the oldest tricks in the marketing book. Scarcity, exclusivity, and urgency go hand in hand. It uses scarcity to persuade people that if something is in short supply, people will want it more. As a rule, if an item is rare or becoming rare, it is viewed as more valuable.

In fact, when a desirable item is rare or unavailable, consumers no longer base its fair price on perceived quality; instead, they base it on the item’s scarcity. Opportunities seem

more valuable to us when they are less available. Limited number type messaging plays on this tip.

3. If it is expensive it is 'good'

Without any other evidence or knowledge, consumers often use a fallback belief that

buying: expensive = good. Research shows that people who are unsure of an item’s quality often use this stereotype. Price alone can become a trigger feature for quality.

4. Give them choices - but not too many

With the advent of hybrid shopping we are given more choices and options than ever before; which people love. To a certain extent.

More choice isn't necessarily better, as variety is beneficial, but too many options can make day-to-day consumer decisions more difficult. This is known as the paradox of choice by psychologists.

Psychologist Barry Schwartz contends that consumers have become less satisfied, not more satisfied, as a result of an excess of choice. Choice paralysis is the unfortunate outcome of having too many options. A well-known study showed that people were 10 times more likely to purchase a jar of jam from an in-store display when the number of varieties was reduced from 24 to six. Other studies have indicated that less is more as well.

According to Siegel+Gale’s 2017 Global Brand Simplicity Index, brands that embrace simplicity tend to enjoy increased revenue, brand advocacy, and engagement. Consumers are overwhelmed, and those that provide a clear need and simple experiences are more likely to succeed - think Aldi or Apple.

If you need more evidence researchers from Columbia University found that shoppers who tried exotic jams, only 3% who tried one of 24 varieties purchased as opposed to 30% who tried one of six varieties.

When consumers are given two choices, they often become immobilized and unable to choose. Marketing Professor Joel Huber discovered that providing a third, less desirable option allows customers to make a choice.

The types of choices people like to have include:

  • Methods of getting in touch

  • Methods and terms of payment

  • Content or information channel - reading, video, audio, webinar, instore, phone etc

  • Upsells or bundles that provide additional value or relevant enhancements

Take outs for your sales and marketing strategies:

  • The most effective direct mail promotions have one clear action - not the choice of many.

  • Special offers should highlight just one deal on one product.

  • Pointing different types of customers to their best option, not providing them all available options makes their buying easier leading to more conversions but also reduces the likelihood of buyer's remorse because they are not thinking about option that they forewent.

5. Men and women purchase differently

You are shocked aren't you (not)? Here are some quick facts and how you can use them to your advantage.

65% of men will purchase something they try on and they are less likely to look at the price tag than women (86% of women vs 72% of men). That means if you can get your male customer into the fitting room there is a good likelihood you can make a sale.

Men rarely ask for directions while in store so if they can't find what they are after they will just leave - same goes for your website so make it easy to find things and have customer service mechanisms in place to orient the customer when they need it.

Almost all women have a shopping list in a supermarket as opposed to only 25% of men making them prime candidates for impulse buying. End of aisles and the checkouts are great places to entice the add on sales from men.

6. Use your customers' words

When you use the words, categories, and reasoning your most likely buyers instinctually use, marketing succeeds almost effortlessly. Keep track of the questions they ask and their exact terminology - you will probably find that this is quite different to your inhouse vocabulary, which may include unfamiliar words and jargon.

This information is invaluable to your SEO strategy and using customers' own words forges a connection.

Advertising guru David Ogilvy sums up this common mistake by marketers and business owners:

"I once used the word obsolete in a headline, only to discover that 43% of housewives had no idea what it meant. In another headline, I used the word ineffable, only to discover that I didn't know what it meant myself.”

7. Tap into today's motivators

Every marketer knows there are 10 main motivators for making a purchase. Tap into these to increase your chances of connecting with customers and converting them to a sale.

1. Need

Steve Jobs once said, "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

The same applies to needs. Consumers may not know that they have a need until you show them the end result of having a need or pain point satisfied. Some customers know precisely what they want and how to get it, but others need a little bit of assistance. You must raise their awareness of a problem, describe how it relates to their situation, and outline how you, specifically, can solve it better than anyone else.

2. Acceptance

Consumers buy a product or service so they can be like everyone else or in today's vernacular FOMO (fear of missing out). This is a powerful motive for salespeople to use.

3. Fear

When it comes to driving sales, fear is a powerful motivator. Companies rely on scare tactics—whether subtle or overt—to create urgency behind their messaging and sales efforts because no one wants to leave problems unresolved.

4. Health

Consumers who care about their personal well-being may be interested in taking steps to protect it, so if you can convince them that your product or service will make them live better or longer, they'll be eager to learn more—at least.

5. Impulse

Impulse purchases are based on creating excitement Urgency can help facilitate purchases. A particularly enticing offer might tip a prospect into conversion. In addition to being a powerful starting point for potential impulse purchases, promotional pricing tactics such as flash sales can often be effective.

6. Pleasure

Sometimes consumers purchase items and services to satisfy their desires rather than their needs. Sell by this motive if you are selling a luxury product or service. Additional motivators in the luxury category are:

  • Taking care of me

  • Connecting with friends and family

  • Questing for adventure, fun, learning and mastery

  • Style

  • Status and ego

7. Financial gain

A B2B prospect with this motive wants to gain by leveraging your product or service to improve their business operations. They may want to increase employee productivity, increase revenue, eliminate unnecessary expenses, or achieve other objectives. You must show credibility and cite real results if you're trying to sell to someone with this motive. Show, don't tell. Mention other businesses or current clients who benefited from leveraging your product.

8. Aspiration

Some consumers are buying based on the belief that purchasing a product will help them improve themselves. Gym memberships and online course subscriptions are often not purchased out of fear or desire, but rather desire for self-improvement. If you're selling motivated by aspiration, the key is to emphasise what the result might be after their purchase.

8. Create a sense of urgency

Move your product or service up the product the priority list by creating a sense of urgency. From the book 'Persuading People to Buy' by Marcia Yudkin:

  • Detail the long-term savings experienced by acting now.

  • Explain the competitive edge achieved by taking care of what rivals are letting slide.

  • Use news tie-ins, such as new laws or instances reported by the media, to dramatize the problem you solve.

  • Emphasize the emotional benefit of being able to cross it off their task list.

  • Connect what you sell with activities that have an appropriate season, such as spring cleaning, back-to-school shopping, new-year goal-setting, etc.

  • Relate your product or service to a trend people care about and act on, like getting healthy, reducing waste or shopping locally.

  • Motivate the purchase by creating a one-time deal with a deadline.

9. Use statistics

To increase credibility in the eyes of your customers include relevant statistics in your communications. Stats break up blocks of text, can be shown visually and are usually easily accepted by consumers without even fact-checking your data (of course you will fact-check your stats before publishing them though.)

10. Give something away

Introduced in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, 'Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,' the concept of “reciprocity” is simple -- if someone does something for you, you naturally will want to do something for them. When you offer something first for free, if it's helpful, people feel a real sense of indebtedness towards you.

According to Cialdini, when servers bring a check to their patrons without a mint, the diners will tip according to their perceptions of the service given. With one mint, the tip jumps up 3.3%. Two mints? The tip jumps "through the roof" to roughly 20%.

This indebtedness is a real phenomenon, and it has a significant effect: Your subsequent requests would make them much more likely to return the favour. For example offering a small gift or samples for free before purchase to potential customers,you can create a social obligation for them to return the favor.

There are three factors that will make this principle more effective:

  • Offer something first - allow them to feel indebted to you

  • Offer something exclusive - allow them to feel special

  • Personalize the offer - make sure they know it’s from you

11. Be likeable

People are more likely to buy from someone they like. So how can you make people more likely to like you? Here are some key factors:

  • Physical attractiveness - research suggests that physical beauty may provide a greater advantage in social interactions than previously thought. Physical attractiveness, in addition to being attractive, generates a halo effect that causes other characteristics, such as talent, kindness, and intelligence, to be assigned to the individual. As a result, attractive people are more successful at getting what they want and altering other people's attitudes.

  • Similarity - according to Dr Caldini, "We like people who are like us, and we are more willing to say yes to their requests, often in an unthinking manner."

  • Compliments

  • Increased familiarity through repeated contact

  • Be associated with likeable things - by connecting your brand or products with positive things, you can seek to share in the positivity through the process of association.

12. Provide social proof

Consumers are engaging with customer reviews more than ever before, and brands with less than 4-star ratings are at a disadvantage. Consumers don’t trust brands with lower ratings, as they don’t like them. Social proof is a principle of liking. Because we are social creatures, we tend to favour things that other people like, whether we know them or not. References to the popularity of your site or products can be psychological triggers.

13. Emphasise benefits not features

Consumers are constantly bombarded with information about new products/services and features. But what they really care about is the benefit that a product or service offers them.

For example, you aren't buying a phone because it has a billionMP camera - you are buying it so you can take amazing photos of things you love that you will treasure. You don't buy jeans because they cover your legs - you buy them because you like the way they make you look when wearing them.

14. Sell the end

"People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!"

Professor Theodore Levitt

In your marketing communications sell the end result that the customer will be in after purchasing your service. Describe their current state or pain point and clearly and concisely show how with the help of your service they will be able to satisfy their needs, frustrations, dreams, wants etc. Your business is the solution.

15. Remove the risk

Fear of purchasing the wrong thing and having buyer's remorse is real. Alleviate these feelings by taking away as much of the perceived risk as possible.

For example, if you are selling a product, you can use anchoring by offering a free trial or a money-back guarantee. You can also use anchoring by running ads that feature customers who have used your product and been happy with the result.

Wrapping up

These psychological tips and tricks to sell more are nothing new - they have been around since the middle of last century. However, they have stuck around because they work - online and offline.

You can use them to engage customers, generate leads and drive sales for your business but remember to conduct yourself honestly and ethically so everyone wins.

Check out other articles for more psychological tips and tricks and the science of getting your pricing right.

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