It’s easy for marketers to get in their own heads when they think about customer experiences. They apply their own thought processes to how they would react in specific circumstances, then expect the results to be the same for everyone else.
Unfortunately, this human sample of one is seldom accurate, leaving marketers with lackluster results and disengaged audiences.
You don’t need an advanced degree in psychology to bite into your audience’s brains and discover what they really think. With a little analysis, you can breathe new life into your marketing strategy.
First, Get Comfortable Appealing to a Range of Human Emotions
Most audiences use two parts of their brains when making a purchase decision: the logical part and the emotional part. While many high-ticket and B2B purchases require logical research, many brands still make sales based on emotional appeals.
“People won’t become more inclined to buy from you just because you educate them about your product,” John Rugh at Relevance says. “They won’t be persuaded by features and specs alone. They’ll be persuaded to make a purchase because they are convinced you will help them solve a nagging problem or reach a goal. Emotion is a critical driver of that decision.”
Many cars offer similar safety ratings, and most smartphones have a similar level of performance, which means brands such as Audi and Apple need to sell the lifestyle and status of buying their products.
“Marketing teams use association learning all the time, and both negative and positive emotions can be effective,” Molly Geipel at Imagewerks Marketing says. “Fear can be used as a powerful call-to-action by demonstrating the hardships of a problem to highlight the need for your solution. Conversely, humorous or heartwarming commercials make consumers feel positively toward a product and therefore more likely to reach for it in the store.”
Not only will eliciting emotions help your sales in the short run, but it will also set the stage for building long-term customer relationships.
We Form Emotional Relationships With the World Around Us
Regardless of the emotions channeled, audiences are forming relationships with the brands they interact with. They might have a treat-based relationship with brands that make them laugh, or a comfort-based relationship with brands that help conquer their fears. Either way, humans move about the world while trying to decide what kind of relationships (if any) they should have with people, places, and brands they encounter.
“When you first meet a person (in a professional context), you begin to connect with that person on an emotional/human level,” Jonathan Cohn at CompuKol Communications LLC says. “With a lot of effort and a little bit of luck, you will eventually share a relationship with the other person that is satisfying and mutually beneficial.
“… Of course, before you can actually connect with anyone in any sort of meaningful way, you need to understand the way that the person thinks as well as having a keen sense of that person’s wants and needs.”
Even on a basic level, your audience is trying to determine whether you’re a friend or foe, and how this will affect their lives.
“There’s a reason that casting villains has been a common marketing and advertising tactic for many years,” Vinay Koshy writes at Unbounce. “Decades ago, sociologist Georg Simmel argued that we create common enemies because it unites us with groups of people we believe to be like us. … Have you seen any advertisements featuring annoying co-workers, boring jobs or mean bosses? Relating to prospects’ pain in your marketing campaigns can also help you call attention to the benefits that your product or service brings.”
Extend a Little Goodwill to Tap Into Those Emotions
Now, not every brand has a story of dashing princes slaying evil dragons, but we have seen the power of an established narrative seep into the marketing world — even on a B2B level.
“One of the most crucial marketing trends ruling 2016 is human relationships, on which you can certainly base other elements of your marketing strategy,” Jennifer Hakim writes at Business 2 Community.
“A good example is social media storytelling, which creates a personal interest and bond between brand and audience. Remembering your audience is made of humans is especially true when it comes to online marketing, an industry that sometimes forgets users have brains, feelings and needs.”
One common tactic in building relationships is gift-giving, either in the form for knowledge or free trials.
“Favors, gifts or concessions typically generate a feeling of indebtedness,” Katie Carlson at ReadyPulse says. “This means we get something from someone else and automatically feel that we should give them something back in return. If someone does something nice for you, naturally you’d like to do the same for them.”
In a world where relationships dictate our daily behavior, brands need to focus more on these long-term connections instead of pushing for an immediate conversion.
Casey Meehan is the founder of the finance blog Stock Hax (StockHax.com) as well as the founder of a content marketing agency in Chicago.