The Golden Rule Of Marketing (And Persuasion)

Some of the best rules are also the simplest.

Like this one – you can’t create desire, you can only channel it. You don’t know how often I’ve met business owners a bit too in love with their products. They were trying to convince others why they need the product when there is not a need for it. I don’t think I need to mention – it doesn’t work this way.

Top copywriters know this. They know that if a person doesn’t show a preference for a particular desire, then it is not a good prospect. That idea with “selling ice to eskimos”, forget it. People buy what they think they need, even if that “need” is a Porsche 911 or a $2000 TV on credit.

However, let me make this a bit more specific. I’ve said a preference for a particular desire. I haven’t said a product. We all have a set of desires. Among them are the desire to be loved, the desire for sex, the desire for respect, for variety and adventure and so on. Some are more intense than others in individuals. Also, they tend to oscillate. A few weeks ago my desire for adventure was 9 / 10. Now my desire for safety is 10 / 10.

Your products met these desires. It is like a desire is a “pain” and your product is the “painkiller”. Right now, I’m trying to quit smoking. There is a strong desire to smoke. If I smoke, then it will met my desire, making it a perfect purchase.

Several classes of products can met a single desire. For example, when it comes to sex appeal it can be anything from a shirt to cosmetic surgery. When it comes to adventure it can be anything from a game console to hunting in Africa.

And here it gets complicated again. Different folks based on their background, genetics and environment have different preferences for how to satisfy that desire. A “daredevil” will respond positively to a safari invitation but may not see the value in playing a video game. Even if both solve the need, people have different preferences on solving those needs. On the other hand, a teen may prefer listening to music than going out on a date, and in theory both offer similar payoffs – emotional stimulation.

The key to writing great copy is to narrow it down to who is this product for and target it through your advertising. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Mercedes targets a different demographic compared to Porsche. Hilton aims to serve other people compared to Holiday Inn.

Let’s take a simple example. You’re trying to sell me a vacation package and you’re also trying to send to a female friend of mine which is more or less opposite to me.

In order to buy I would need to know that the travel will be fast. I don’t want to visit churches since I’m an atheist and you would make a huge disconnect there if you would try to pitch me otherwise. I would like a location that is quiet and inspiring. I don’t want to be in a party town since I’m not really feeling comfortable. However, I would enjoy being on a beach and carrying a discussion about philosophy with a beautiful girl and in the evening, talking about life with my future mentor while playing chess. These traits would feel my need for significance, companionship, mental stimulation and fit my introverted nature.

Now let’s take this female friend with whom I’ve had the pleasure of spending a holiday. The trip would not be that important. It can be by plane, boat, road, she would have fun anyway and make 50 friends by the time she reached the destination. There, she wants as many clubs as possible, to try new foods, shopping and places to have fun. The hotel room is not that relevant as long as it is clean and cozy.

Do you see the difference? There are many people like me (introverts with over-cognition biases) and many people like her (extroverts with over-kinesthetic biases). If you would try to sell her package to me, maybe you would make 1 in 1000 sales and in reverse. But if you would sell my type of package to a demographic like me, you would sell all of them in minutes – the same to her.

Yet, very few marketers understand this. For me, a night out means being in a quiet place in a 1:1 or maybe 3 – 4 people in a conversation. More than this overwhelms me as I need to focus and I can’t disconnect with ease. For many other people is loud music and more people than it should be legal in a room.

And the rule here is simple. If you remember only this from the entire article, then it is enough.

“As long as I have the available resources or I can get them, the closer you provide me with a mechanism to stimulate my need, to fulfill it that is congruent with my vision, the higher the conversion rate”.

And the further away you are from what I know I need (not what I really need but my perception of this), the lower the conversion.

I guess if there would be an unified theory to human persuasion, this would be. In the moment you feel the need and you can get it fulfilled (and believe me, when we have the chance, we borrow, steal, whatever it takes to fulfill it), you act. As simple as that.

In marketing, you do not try to change people. I repeat this. You do not try to change a person. You leverage existing needs and thoughts.

How are these thoughts created? How are these biases and preferences? Nature and nurture but that’s beside the point. You’re not going to change decades of programming, 24 hours a day through a marketing campaign. You can just be congruent with that programming.

That’s about it. Hope you find this useful.

Take care,
Razvan