The Subtle Art of Selling

From the principal of reciprocity, to the subtle and artful use of clever humor, marketing techniques have come a long way from their heavy reliance on human resource and informative text based advertisements.

With the advent of social media, marketing has taken on a whole new meaning. Everything is so fast-paced and user attention span is so momentary that marketing has become a very competitive.

There is a fierce need to capture the users’ attention and pique their interest before they move on to the next thing. This is why big corporations and firms put in so much resources to research newer and more efficient ways of marketing.

Let’s take a look at some of these

Have you ever felt that whatever you are trying to get your hands on is running out fast?

Emphasizing scarcity is a time-honored psychological marketing tactic, used by travelling salesman in bygone centuries, your favorite flight comparison website today, and countless marketers in-between

It’s no surprise that marketers try to manufacture this feeling of urgency that makes their products feel more valuable and scarce than they actually are. This is in fact a very tried-and-tested technique that has been in use since time immemorial by travelling merchants of the medieval times to modern day high tech digital marketers.

Although little message saying, “hurry up! The offer is ending soon” may not actually be quite honest, by creating a feeling of urgency they make us attribute more value to the product. After all, gold wouldn’t be so valuable if it was a common occurrence would it?

In modern digital marketing, a sense of scarcity is produced by using a technique called, yield management. This means that stocks are released strategically in small batches according to the demands of the market.

Scarcity-based tactics capitalize on the implied understanding of the supply-demand rules of economics. By constricted supply in controlled amounts, they can increase the demand for their products and hence, the product flies off the shelves

Used in moderation, scarcity tactics can increase sales and help tap deeper into the market, but if it is used without restraint, it produces an ethical dilemma

The principle of reciprocity

Imagine you are shopping at the mall and out of nowhere a smiling sales-representative comes out and hands you a free sample of a perfume they are selling. What do you do? A voice in your head is fervently pushing you to refuse the offer but you don’t want to be rude so you take the free sample. Now the sale-representative swoops in for the kill by starting to show you their products and starting a sales pitch. But you feel obliged to listen to their pitch and for some inexplicable reason, you find it difficult to refuse when they ask you to consider buying their products.

What the sales-representative has essentially done is offer you a small favor by the principle of reciprocity you feel compelled to return the favor. The greater the initial favor, the more willing you would be to go to greater lengths to return it.

This is a very popular use of a relatively unknown psychological principle and most people are not aware that the “free” samples are often just a ruse to lead you into buying higher value good. In this way the marketer makes more profit than their “initial investment in the free gift”.

Social Proof

Social proof, or informational social influence, is defined as “psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation”. Or in simpler terms, “monkey see monkey do”

This phenomenon is brilliantly highlighted in the case of iGrill, a wireless app and thermometer that tracks food temperatures and also provides relevant products like temperature sensors. Its website enjoyed substantial, but not overwhelming traffic of around 70,000 hits per day until Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, updated his Facebook status praising the app.

This led to so much traffic being directed to the site that it crashed! App downloads escalated to new heights and brand awareness increased a million-fold!

This adequately shows the power of social proof. When we see someone else demonstrating a particular trait or habit, it reinforces in us an urge to follow them and do the same.

While Zuckerberg himself might not be rooting for you personally, you can also use other types of social proofs to increase your brand awareness and sales. Social proof does not necessarily has to come from famous celebrities, it can come from friends, acquaintances, experts and even the crowd itself. Once customers see that a lot of people use your product, they will feel compelled to at least try it out for themselves. Word of mouth from friends and relatives goes a long way too.

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