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    ARCHIVES: Marketing Psychology Report



    October 2000

      LYNN AND MARGARET opened their dot com site with great hopes of
      selling higher priced products for babies, like strollers and cribs.
      But sales were flat. People were visiting, but not buying.
      Then Lynn heard about a research study that found NEW buyers have a
      much harder time making a decision about products because they don't
      know how much importance to give to each of the attributes of the
      "I see," said Margaret. "Our new moms don't know if they'll be
      happier with a heavy but sturdy stroller or one that's lightweight
      but more flimsy."
      "Right. And if we help them make a wiser decision, we should
      get more sales. We do have good prices."
      Lynn surveyed a group of moms and found over 70% of them
      ranked weight as a more important attribute than sturdiness. They
      ranked six other attributes of strollers, too. Margaret created a
      Web page where visitors could check out how experienced moms ranked
      many attributes of their products, and which products they liked the
      most. And she put a "Buy" button next to each of the choices.
      Within a few weeks they could see that sales were climbing.
      And that a large number of them coming directly out of their
      attribute-comparison page.
      LESSON: People don't just buy products, they buy all
      of the attributes of those products. The less they know about which
      attributes will give them the greatest satisfaction, and which will
      cause the greatest dissatisfaction, the more likely they are to keep
      hunting until they have a "feel" for that information. If you give
      it to them, you're more likely to get the sale.
      LAN AND FRED'S FLORIST SHOP was doing OK, but they wanted to get
      more out of their new Web site. They were getting visits and orders,
      but more at the lower end of the price spectrum. Then one day Alan
      heard about a research study on 'self-prophecy' which found that
      people who BELIEVE they will take a certain action in the future,
      like voting, are more likely to do so than others who aren't
      asked-like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
      "Fred, we can use this idea," said Alan.
      "How? Give discounts to voters?" asked Fred.
      "No. We'll set up a little two-point rating scale next to
      each picture of an expensive arrangement and ask people to give us
      their opinions."
      "What would it say?"
      "Choice one would say 'I'd buy this' and choice two would be
      'I wouldn't buy this.' Keep it real simple and fast for them."
      "We'll get some good information, but so what?"
      "Don't you see? If they consciously rate an arrangement as
      one they'd buy, then they have unconsciously made a prediction about
      future behavior. Like role playing."
      "I get it. They sort of see the arrangement in their home or
      wherever and decide they like what they see. So they're more likely
      to buy it. Pretty clever, Alan."
      Alan and Fred did exactly that, and their Web site sales of
      high-end arrangements took a big jump.
      LESSON: Imagination is a powerful selling tool. Get
      buyers to rate your product, make a 'make believe' decision or even
      guess which product they'd like most. That's a big step toward
      making the sale. Like the car dealers say, "Imagine yourself driving
      this new Cadillac."
      MARIA AND LUIS have a successful online business selling gourmet
      Last year they wanted to increase sales, and give something back
      to the community. They remembered that Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream gave
      a part of each sale to help save the Amazon rainforest.
      "Let's do that," said Luis. "We'll give a percentage to the
      March of Dimes."
      "We're not Ben & Jerry's, Luis." said Maria. "How do we know
      it will work, and which products will we offer the deal on?"
      Luis replied, "Let's ask Roberto."
      Their son Roberto was a senior at the local University. A
      week later he told them about research which showed people are
      several times more likely to buy products tied to a charitable gift
      if they were "personal pleasure" items, like candy, ice cream, visits
      to a spa, etc. When the offer was made on more utilitarian items like
      soap or haircuts, it wasn't very effective.
      The research showed it didn't seem to matter how big the gift
      was - the research used 5% and 50% of the price. "They think," said
      Roberto," that a lot of people feel a little guilty spending money
      for 'personal pleasure' items, and this is a way to make the purchase
      more acceptable. In fact, they'll even pay a little more if most of
      the increase goes to charity. It doesn't even seem to matter which
      good cause, as long as its well known."
      Maria redesigned their Web pages to show that 5% of the
      purchase price was going to the March of Dimes, but she limited the
      offer to gourmet items that seemed particularly "pleasurable," like
      expensive truffles. And sure enough, the sale of those items
      increased. They even got several e-mails complimenting them.
      LESSON: Charitable donations as a marketing strategy
      can pay off, but it probably won't work on auto parts or dog food.
      Picking a "personal pleasure" item is your best bet for increasing
      sales while doing good.
      MONA AND ROLAND's dot com health foods business was struggling.
      "We're getting the hits that could make us a living if we could get
      the sales," said Mona. "What can we do?"
      Later that day Roland showed Mona a report he'd found online.
      "Here's a research study that says just listing the good points
      about our vitamins isn't enough. We need to 'inoculate' our
      "Inoculate them? Why?"
      "What happens is they leave our site thinking our products are
      good, then they're persuaded to buy from someone else."
      "So what do we do?"
      "We pick some of the selling points used by competing Web
      sites. And we show how our brand is superior to them on each of
      those points."
      "In other words, it isn't just comparisons, its like 'search
      and destroy' their key selling points?"
      "Right. Like, if they say their brand of calcium is great, we
      point out that doctors say calcium needs lysine for maximum
      absorption, and their brand doesn't contain lysine, but ours does."
      "So when they get to another site, they've already been
      inoculated against the sales pitch."
      Roland's new Web pages pointed out their competitors' claims,
      then refuted them with backing from independent, scientific sources.
      And it worked. Sales started to climb as more people returned to buy
      their products.
      LESSON: Try inoculating your visitors against future
      persuasive arguments by competitors. Point out the problems your
      competitor's brand causes, then show how yours does as good or better
      a job without the problems. One important point - studies show
      people don't like you to be personally derogatory. Like Joe Friday
      said, "Just the facts, ma'am."
      "POSITIONING: When potential customers think of your
      business, do they have a 'vanilla' image in their minds? Do you
      stand above your competitors in their minds for some significant
      When you think of cold medicine, a variety of products may come
      to mind. But when you think of 'nighttime cold medicine,' it is
      Nyquil that pops into your head. Why? Because in that narrow
      category Nyquil has positioned itself as the top brand.
      Your business needs some factor that makes it stand out from the
      rest, some benefit important to buyers that you can claim as your
      own, whether it is exclusively your own or not. Price is not a good
      choice. Price is often not the most important factor in the buying
      decision. And, as the old saying goes, 'He who lives by price shall
      die by price.'
      Look for one factor that will strike an EMOTIONAL chord with
      buyers(Nyquil's positioning makes buyers think how miserable they
      could be at night if they don't get relief), and hammer it home in
      every ad.
      Volvo stands for safety, McDonald's is the place where families
      go to eat and have fun together; and Mountain Dew has been
      repositioned as the drink for active young people. Our firm is the
      PSYCHOLOGICAL web marketing company. The best factors create some
      mental picture or strong idea in buyers' minds.
      Don't just be 'one of the pack.' Differentiate yourself in an
      appealing way to your key market."
      @@@@@@@@@@@ Back to Top
    November 2000
       TIM AND JUAN own an insurance agency. They decided to
      go online to attract new customers and serve current policyholders.
      "Our site should tell people about all the good features of
      our life and health policies," said Tim.
      "Features are good," said Juan, "but we should emphasize
      emotions, too. Promise to relieve their fears about the future, and
      guilt about leaving their family in a tough situation."
      "Right, but how strong should that be?" asked Tim. "We don't
      want to go over the top."
      A few days later Juan said to Tim, "I think we need to be
      pretty forceful with our fear message. I found several psychological
      studies that show people usually think they are less likely than
      others to have health problems, or to die in an accident. In fact,
      they are convinced that they're less likely than others to have any
      bad things happen to them, even when they have no logical reason to
      think so."
      "So we need to have a message that will jar them out of that
      `it won't happen to me' idea," said Tim. "Otherwise a lot of
      them will continue thinking they don't need our help."
      Juan and Tim decided they needed to force people to look
      squarely at their subconscious belief that they were luckier than
      other people. They used quotes from several clients they had helped.
      Each one emphasized their former belief that `it couldn't happen
      to me' -- until something bad did happen -- and how glad they were to
      have insurance when it did.
      LESSON: If you sell a product or service based
      on something bad happening to your customers (insurance agents,
      dentists, doctors, morticians, lawyers, etc.), be aware that you must
      overcome your customers' `it won't happen to me' bias before they
      will really feel a strong need of your services.


      JANICE AND CINDY have a personal enhancement business,
      teaching people how to network, communicate with others, appear
      more polished in interviews, etc. They have a Web site that gets a
      lot of hits, but isn't making the phone ring.
      "I think we need bigger discounts and specials," said Cindy.
      "Maybe," said Janice. "But are we sure our message is
      getting through? Is it stimulating their real buying motivations
      then promising to satisfy them?"
      The next day Cindy showed Janice some research she'd found
      online. She said, "Look, these studies show people often way
      overestimate their abilities compared to others, and overestimate the
      number of people who share their opinions."
      "So that's our roadblock! They think they don't need our
      "And they really do. They think they have better
      personalities than others think they do, and believe they are more
      skilled and popular than they really are."
      Using that information, Cindy changed their Web site message
      to strike directly at those false beliefs. The message emphasized
      how overconfident their clients had been, until they blew an
      interview or first date. They even quoted some clients as saying
      they had been certain they were `cooler' than most other people,
      until they found out the hard way that they weren't.
      The strategy worked. Now Cindy and Janice are getting
      calls as well as hits.
      LESSON: Our self-flattering social comparisons
      are the flip-side of our beliefs that `it can't happen to me.'
      Most people believe they are better than others in order to create a
      positive self-image. If you have a product or service that people
      know they deserve for being exceptional, you can play off of that
      image in your marketing message.
      But if you're like Janice and Cindy, you've first got to
      convince them they need what you're selling.
      PAUL AND PAULA own a dot com company that sells household
      cleaning products to consumers. As Paul says, their problem is
      they've got a lot of lookers, but not many buyers.
      "What's wrong?" cried Paula. "We've got great prices and
      name brand products!"
      Paul did some research and told Paula, "One problem may be
      that we're too dull. Evidently, people see companies as having a
      personality as well as an image."
      "Personality? Like people?"
      "Right. Take Microsoft. It has an image for high quality
      software, but a lot of people also see it is a powerful and arrogant
      company. That's its personality to them."
      "Since our company is just a Web site," said Paula, "the
      personality it conveys is the one people give to our company, too."
      "And that personality is dull, dull, dull."
      Paul and Paula got busy changing their site to create the
      sort of personality perception they thought buyers would like. They
      brightened the look and sparkle of the site, inserted a couple of
      humorous stories about their struggles to get started, created a
      cartoon character for their best product ("Hey," said Paula, "it
      worked with Mr. Clean!"), and emphasized their honesty by offering a
      money-back guarantee.
      Now they hear good comments about their site, including
      their favorite, `Your site seems so friendly.' They've got an
      online personality that works for them.
      LESSON: Sometimes a factor that seems insignificant to us
      can play an important role in turning lookers
      into buyers. What sort of personality does your site convey? Is it
      one that makes people pleased to do business with you? Most folks
      still prefer to do business with companies they like and trust, even
      in cyberspace.

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