Any salesperson worth their salt will tell you that selling the detail is never as effective as selling the benefits. Communicate how something improves lives or solves a problem, and you’ll make the sale.
Why? Because people buy into things that make their lives better, simpler or more enjoyable. Sell the vision or the impact to sell the product.
Think about car makers peddling the idea of escape on the open road, roof down, or perfume adverts enchanting us with a sophisticated romance, or beer brands selling the idea of quality time with your mates.
None of the products in these ads directly make these things happen. Owning a convertible in rainy, traffic-locked London doesn't help you escape, spraying yourself with eau de toilette won’t transform your love life into something out of a French film, and beer doesn't get you mates.
What these ads do is trigger an emotional response associated with travel, love and friendship. They make us feel. If those brands tell us the car has GPS, the perfume has top notes of vetiver, or the beer is an IPA, we don’t feel anything much. And we’re also more likely to forget those details.
But emotions stay with us. They are memorable. It’s why businesses are obsessed with storytelling. Stories stay with us and emotions linger, while facts, figures and details escape us.
It’s why John Lewis’s much-hyped Christmas ads barely touch on what’s for sale, but the evoke the magic of it all, or make us cry. By plucking on our heart strings with precision timing, the John Lewis brand has become synonymous with the festive season.
Enhancing emotional connection can be a viable growth strategy, according to a 2015 report on Harvard Business Review on the New Science of Customer Emotions which showed that "fully connected" customers spent annually twice as much as customers that were just "highly satisfied".
It also cites the story of a condiments brand which found that 60 per cent of its customers who were affiliated with the company through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest were "emotionally connected" to their brand, versus just 21 per cent of all customers. It quickly accelerated its growth by turning its attentions to social media.
Clearly, if you can get results with strong content and careful execution on social media - as well as multi-million dollar TV and billboard advertising campaigns - the playing field is open for small businesses without big budgets.
We did it at Time Etc. We changed our strapline on our homepage from "Do your best work" to "Get home for your kids’ bedtime" and, that one change was enough to increase the average sale by 50 per cent. The concept really mattered to customers - getting everything done at work so they could go home to their families and do something meaningful.
Four ways to get business emotional
- Rethink your sales patter. Get away from your business, and imagine what it’s like to be your customer. Think about how they feel, what they're struggling with and why they've come to you. What does your product or service really do for them? Make sure any sales material you create sells the solution you’re offering, not the product.
- Know your customer. Emotional marketing doesn’t rely on intuition. Who is your customer? If you don’t know the answer to that question, make it your mission to find out. Collect data at the point of sale, or speak to the people in your business who have the most contact with customers. This will help you pitch your content correctly.
- Use social media to share stories. What inspired the founder of the company start the business? What was his/her biggest challenge? What stories can you share from customers and employees? Don’t underestimate the power of great photography - or video if budget allows - to illustrate and tell those stories visually.
- B2B businesses can be emotive too. Think outside the box. Perhaps your software helps employees collaborate, which makes them happier and more engaged. Perhaps your insurance product offers peace of mind to business owners so they can get on with the hard task of growing their company. Maybe one of your business customers would share their story as your brand ambassador.