Illustrated by Elly Walton
Door-to-door salesmen have a few things right. It’s hard to say no to someone who’s standing on your doorstep with a rusty Dodge in your driveway and a “Baby on Board” sign in the window. “I’ll listen to what this guy has to say,” you think. An hour later, there’s a new vacuum cleaner in your living room.
More than that, door-to-door salesmen don’t walk up with the new Power-Hoover-Sucker-Upper-in-Titanium-Blue and say, “Look at this vacuum cleaner! You totally need one! Everyone else has one, shouldn’t you?!”
No, they walk into your living room, find the dirtiest piece of the rug, and show you what you’re missing. That wine stain you haven’t been able to get out for ages? Gone! That dog hair that couldn’t have been removed with a rake and some rubber gloves? Outta there! What they want is a cleaner house, and now they’ll buy this vacuum because it solves that problem.
Good salesmen don’t tell you what they’re selling; they show you how it makes your life easier.
Humans have more wants than needs, but attend to any of them, and you’ll sell more products:
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- Love: We don’t want to be lonely. We want a movie-made relationship where men are like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook and all women are Zooey Deschanel in every movie ever made. Tell them how your product will help them find un-boring love and security, or at least improve their relationship.
- Brains: We want to be smart, and we want people to think that we’re smart. We want to have great ideas that other people follow and want to be a part of. Tell people how your product will educate them.
- Individuality: We want to be important, have careers and be leaders, not followers. We want to invent the ideas, not be part of a flock of sheep. Tell people how your product will make them stand out.
- Beauty: We want to be attractive in at least one way. We want to be fashionable, or good-looking, or have one trait that everyone compliments us on. We want to resemble a popular celebrity and we don’t ever want to get wrinkles. Tell them how beautiful your product will make them look.
- Youth: We want to act young, but not be perceived as immature. We want to stay young longer, we don’t want to grow up quickly, but we still want to be important and influential in our youth. Tell them how young people are using your product to stay young.
- Money: We want to live beyond our means. We want security more than anything else, but we also want iPads and iPhones and designer clothes. And we want to buy all of these things without appearing to have struggled to get them. We want to go out to eat when we want to and host parties without a limited budget. We like to show off. Tell them how much richer they’ll look using your product in public.
- Adventure: We want to get the most out of our lives. We want to try more things, meet more people, and we want to make and complete our bucket lists early in life. Tell them how this product helps them feel adventurous and makes long-term goals easier to achieve.
- Relaxation: We want all of these things, but we want to relax and feel like we deserve time off. We want shortcuts when there are shortcuts. Tell them how your product will make their days easier and their vacations longer.
Consider this classic ad from Nike. The benefit is front, bold, and center. The Nike air logo is 90% smaller up in the right corner. “Zero gravity” tells you how you’re going to feel when you wear them. And that if you do a lot of jump shots, you should be wearing Nike Airs.
And what about those Old Spice ads? They used humor to convince men that wearing Old Spice = ladies’ man and would result in an adventurous life. They also sought to make other men (and women) feel like wearing other colognes meant smelling “like a lady.” The latest videos call Old Spice “the scent of courage,” and who doesn’t want to be more courageous? “Believe in your Smelf” is their newest tagline.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer for a day and spend time looking at competitors’ websites. Which ones make you want to buy their product? What copy are they using? What kind of brand colors are they promoting (fun? young? professional? serious)? Think about what your customers want from your product and trigger those emotions in your advertising efforts going forward.
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