The winter holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year for small retailers … or not. As you navigate the season’s overcrowded retail space — both online and off — things can get a little overwhelming. Big-box stores are bombarding consumers with holiday sales, and many large online stores are offering fast, free shipping.
What’s a small retailer to do?
Being the low-price leader can lead to a dangerous, slippery slope. You want to be noticed, but it doesn’t mean you have to give your products or services away in order to stand out.
So what can you do? Well, you can sell the way people actually buy — with their emotions. That’s right. It’s all the buzz to be the “cheapest,” but dollar signs don’t always make memories. I don’t know about you, but when Christmas morning rolls around, the most important moment is the smile on my family’s faces — not the savings in my pocket.
Here are a few important tips to help you sell with emotion:
1. Understand your customers’ emotional triggers.
What motivates them to purchase? I’m always amazed with the conversations about “deals” and “bargains” at the holidays when this whole buying experience is based on emotions.
The most successful brands are great at tugging on our heart strings with their advertisements. Dove soap says all women are beautiful; Kleenex shares the tissue; Coke gives a bottle to a friend in need — the list goes on. There are plenty of examples, but one thing remains constant: they all have an emotional appeal.
Pro tip: Use an emotional appeal to make a connection with your customers.
My good friend, Linda, was recently approached by a woman selling green, household cleaning products. As someone who is conscious of the environment, she was intrigued; yet, when the saleswoman pressed the issue of laundry detergent, Linda politely declined. No matter the features and benefits, she simply wasn’t interested.
When Linda told me this story, I asked why she was so adamant about sticking to her laundry detergent:
“When I was a girl, I would help my mom with the chores — one being laundry. My mother always used Tide. When my clothes came out of the laundry, they smelled like … my mom, my childhood. She’s gone now, but once a week I get to remember that time.”
That’s the kind of emotion you want to sell. Whether you have an online or brick-and-mortar store, understanding your customers is important. The last thing you want to do is set up a great product, only to have it passed by because it doesn’t speak to your shoppers.
2. Find ways to tell a story.
I’m absolutely amazed by The J. Peterman Company. They started a catalog several years ago using long copy to explain their products. Sometimes, the copy digresses into exotic stories explaining how the catalog writer came across the product, or how it makes the wearer irresistibly attractive, such as:
“When a man puts on this authentic French farmer’s shirt, he may very well find that his hands look bigger … Is that woman over there giving him the eye and nodding toward the haystack? Yes, and he knows what to do.”
This copy is both comical and memorable — something your customers might appreciate. The story might not be realistic (how often are you going to find yourself near a haystack?), but the emotion is relatable, and that makes for a great buying experience.
3. Understand why your customers buy.
People don’t buy a pair of jeans — they buy a way for their derriere to look amazing. Or a pair of glasses to make them more sophisticated. Or a dress to feel elegant. Do you display your products in a way that speaks to your customers? How will they feel if they use your product? What is the outcome?
Pro tip: Your advertisements should speak to how your customers will feel when using your products.
You want your customers to be able to envision themselves actually using your wares. No matter what you sell, there’s always a human appeal you can use to speak to your audience (i.e. think back to that J. Peterman Company copy — that shirt is offering an experience in addition to being an awesome article of clothing).
4. Spread your message.
There’s a lot of noise out there, and consumers are savvier than ever — in order to stand out from the crowd, your must find a message that resonates with your shoppers. You already believe in your products, so finding a way to honestly communicate that to your clientele should be a top priority.
Pro tip: People buy products based off of their emotions and justify their purchases with logic.
As copywriter Joe Sugarman points out in his book, Advertising Secrets of the Written Word, people might tell their friends that they bought a Mercedes because of an impressive list of technical features, but really they just wanted a prestigious car for the label.
People buy for all sorts of reasons — name brands, benefits, features and more. Your job is to understand your customers desires and project a message that speaks to their wants. Mercedes sells luxury vehicles. Payless advertises footwear for less. Wal-Mart wants to be your one-stop shop. Each of these companies has crafted a message that resonates with their target market.
5. Remove risk.
This is a simple fix: create an iron-clad return policy. If your customers don’t like it, they can return it. Without a well-defined policy, you’ll have skeptical customers on your hands. You don’t want your shoppers passing you by just because of an unforgiving return policy. Do yourself a favor and make it easier on them (and you) this holiday season.
Remember, the story you tell about your products (and your business) is your best chance at convincing people to buy from you. It’s at the heart of selling with emotion.