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Published on August 29th, 2012 | by My Truong

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Emotion vs. Promotion: How to Get a Customer to Buy

Pascal once wrote, “The heart has its reasons, which Reason knows nothing of.” We can easily apply this famed French philosopher’s quote to our marketing studies. When a consumer makes a purchase, is the decision to complete this purchase driven by an emotional want, or a logical need? Has a marketer’s job been reduced to blasting offers to customers, hoping that they’ll bite at “great savings”? While sales promotions can be a part of the marketing mix, they represent one variable in the equation, while the actual solution might lie more on the emotional end.

Promos: Lowering the Barrier to Entry

According to Kotler, sales promotion is a “diverse collection of incentive tools, mostly short-term, designed to stimulate quicker and/or greater purchase of particular products/services by consumers or the trade. Where advertising offers a reason to buy, sales promotion offers an incentive to buy.” In other words, promotions are an excellent way of boosting sales over a short amount of time by offering something exceptional to your target audience. The most commonly seen type of promo is of course the discount, and with good reason: according to the PMA (Promotion Marketing Association), over 76% of the population usescoupons or promo codes. The rebate allows you to lower the barrier to entry that may have prevented potential customers from purchasing from you earlier.

Offering discounts on a regular basis has its limits though. Even though they’re a great tool for meeting your sales quota in a short amount of time, they can devalue your product or brand in your consumers’ minds. Offering promotions on a regular basis may cause your customers to wait for the next promotion, instead of buying right away. Also, people may have bought your product during the sale period specifically due to the rebate you offered, and may be slow to return for that next purchase.

Emotional Connection: Cultivating a Positive Brand Image 

Seeing an item going for less than half its regular price may make a potential customer sit back and think, “Oh, this won’t hurt my wallet as much, might as well get it now.” That would seem to be the logical response. However, lower prices don’t necessarily equate higher sales. Would you buy something from a brand you’d never heard of before, even at 50% off? Now what if it were, say, Apple? In a heartbeat, right? That’s because Apple has, over the years, built a brand image of being “cool” and “innovative.” It resonatesemotionally with consumers.

This goes back to my preamble to this post: emotion and logic both play an integral part in your customer’s purchasing behavior. But in order to make a purchase, the consumer must have some kind of emotional investment in the product, making him/her want to acquire it. Per Perry Marshall, “We all fundamentally make all of our decisions based on emotion, not logic. Logic supports our emotions and is used to justify our decisions after we have made them. Logic plays a part, but emotion is the core ingredient.” So if your product and/or the way you promote it is boring, no matter what the price, you may still will have difficulty selling it.

Social Media: Get Your Customers Selling For You

With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, consumers have found a venue to not only voice their opinion, but make it known to the whole world (or at least their friends and followers) if they so choose. Word of mouth has found itself a platform, but more importantly, the relationships between parties can go beyond simple business acquaintances or partnerships, they can be actual friendships. This elevates the degree of trust even more, as the reasoning now becomes: “My close friend/relative likes this brand, and I know him/her to be of good taste, therefore I can trust this brand and purchase their products as well.” Moreover, it can give one bragging rights, resulting in a potential game of one-upmanship.

According to this article in SmallBizTrends, there are many ways to nurture and leverage this trust. Reach out to your customers and engage in conversations with them. Give them reason to write a glowing review of your product/service. Don’t neglect the post-purchase experience either, help customers with any issue they may have encountered while using your product, and respond well to feedback, be it positive or negative.

Obviously, both approaches (delivering deep discounts vs. nurturing trust) are not mutually exclusive, but work best used in tandem. While building trust in your brand and generating positive buzz around it takes time, sales promotions might provide the final push needed to turn your prospect into a customer.

So what say you? Have your customers responded better to price drops, or positive word of mouth? Share away in the comments!

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About the Author

My Truong

is a Marketing Programs Manager at VerticalResponse.



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