If you’ve watched the show "Mad Men," you may have thought that you, too, could be an advertising executive, drink old fashioneds during the day, chain smoke cigarettes and come up with cool campaigns that persuade the American public to choose one brand over another with a snappy slogan.
Well slow your roll, Nancy.
Mad Men made advertising look easy because it was easier back then.
If you’re a marketer today and need to persuade an audience to do something, you have to be a lot smarter. And you have to skip the drink (as she cries into her drink).
Compared to the 1960s, marketing in today’s environment is like winking in the dark at the cute girl across the room and hoping she sees you. It’s dark. And there are 10 other guys winking. And she’s distracted and staring at her phone. And the Russians hacked her social media feed and convinced her not to talk to you in the first place.
In the 1960s, the lights were on, she was paying attention and there was only one other guy winking. And the Russians were doing normal spy stuff, not screwing around with our social media feeds.
So how do today’s marketers cut through the clutter and persuade audiences to our way of thinking? Here are five messaging techniques.
1. Make it simple, stupid
No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you probably think the other side’s candidate is an idiot. It’s safe to say there are a lot of idiots in public office. Why is this?
Today’s world is complex. We are pushed to do more and more, and we’re flooded with information. This has made us shun the complex and focus on the simple. “Make America Great” anyone?
When I’m working with a client on any marketing or communications challenge, the first step is to simplify it. If we can’t make it understandable to an 8th grader or the client’s grandma, it won’t penetrate the defenses of an information-saturated, stressed, uninterested, unfocused, highly resistant audience.
2. Compare it to something
“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
“A simile is like a metaphor.”
“A bikini is like a barbed-wire fence. It protects the property without obstructing the view.” — Joey Adams
Analogies — whether metaphor or simile, visual or written — are powerful. They compare the unknown to the known, make the abstract concrete and make dry topics entertaining and fun.
However, analogies are difficult to construct. Here’s a great post to stimulate your thinking.
3. Tell a story
I don’t mean a long, drawn-out, “in a land far, far, away” story. I mean a relatable, character-driven story. The perfect medium to do this? Case studies. Another great place: your “about” page on your website. However, skip the long, historical timeline — because no one cares, really. (I’m looking at you, 100-year-old law firm who keeps telling everyone that you’re 100 years old).
We used the technique for our 2014 holiday card to explain what we do in a fun, entertaining format (and to wish our clients, partners and friends a happy holiday season).
The card, which can be viewed here, told the tale of a young boy named Timmy who used content marketing to persuade Santa to give him the gifts he wanted for Christmas. As you can guess, Timmy got what he wanted (smart boy).
4. Follow the crowd
When you think of crowds, you probably don’t think, “Yay, put me in the middle of one right now!” But let’s say you walked into a new restaurant you’d been dying to try out, and it was empty. You might turn around and walk out. But if it was crowded, you’d stay.
That’s the power of “social proof.”
Herd mentality is (unfortunately?) a mental shortcut that we use to make decisions today. We use ratings, reviews, endorsements, testimonials, celebrity and expert endorsements, awards, badges, certifications, seals, “as seen in” media logos and the “wisdom of the crowd” (whatever that crowd may be) to make decisions.
A home shopping program shattered a nearly 20-year sales record by employing social proof:
Writer Colleen Szot replaced the call to action "Operators are waiting, please call now" with "If operators are busy, please call again."
We’re all just part of a herd, apparently. Use it.
5. Haters gonna hate, so address the objections
You do all the hard work convincing and persuading, and still someone has a “yeah, but…”
This is why you must address objections tail up and stinger out, as my grandma would say.
If you sense a potential objection and ignore it, you are likely ignoring a potential client. And you don’t want to ignore someone who is considering buying from you.
While business-to-business companies experience customer feedback differently than consumer brands, addressing “haters” is still important. In his book “Hug Your Haters,” Jay Baer argues that customer service is now a spectator sport. Because of this, companies cannot afford to not respond to every single negative comment or review.
Consider the silent observers. Those who are on the fence, still in the research phase, and not asking you questions or actively voicing their concerns, hesitations or objections. This doesn’t mean they don’t have them.
By addressing objections in your marketing, you may not convince your “haters,” but you may persuade your silent observers.
So don’t put your head in the sand just because something is uncomfortable. Brainstorm all the likely objections and counter them proactively in your marketing copy.
Need help persuading an audience? Contact me to discuss these and other powerful messaging techniques at firstname.lastname@example.org or 904-374-5733.