24 Mental Triggers That Sell

No fluff, let’s get going.

  1. Reciprocity: People tend to return a favour. Explains why gifts are exchanged, and why free samples work so well.
  2. Commitment and consistency: If you can get someone to commit to something publicly, then they are more likely to follow through.
  3. Social proof: When lost at a busy airport terminal, why do you tend to follow the crowd? We’re far more likely to take actions that we see other people taking.
  4. Authority: When we see figures in authority (real or faked), we tend to obey them.
  5. Liking: How much we like someone contributes greatly to how willingly we’ll listen
  6. Scarcity: If it’s rare, and hard to get a hold of, then it must be good!
  7. Anticipation: The wait is sometimes more powerful than the actual gift. Think Christmas.
  8. Common Enemy: United against a common cause.
  9. Surprise/Novelty: In 2004, Oprah gave away cars to everyone in her audience. They’re still talking about that.
  10. Credibility: How do people know that you really know what you’re talking about?
  11. Authenticity: Is what you say congruent with what you do? If not, we’ll notice.
  12. Purple Cow: A normal cow never gets noticed. But a purple one would. For a while. Be interesting, or be invisible.
  13. Controversy: We like to gossip, we like to gossip about scandals. It’s not for everyone, but engineering a controversy could create a lot of buzz.
  14. Testimonials/Proof: Give us testimonials from people we trust. Better yet, give us testimonials form people who are just like us. Give us a live demonstration. Prove to us that what you sell works.
  15. Celebrity: I mean, they gave Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian their own TV shows. We like talking about interesting people (or at least people who act in… interesting ways).
  16. Community: Humans are social creatures. Given the right community, we’ll conform to the actions of the members (their actions, their beliefs, the stuff they buy).
  17. Emotions: People buy on emotions… 
  18. Reason Why: … but rationalise with logic. Give them both.
  19. Stories: Give your product and company a story. A story that engages an audience with a very specific worldview.
  20. Conversation: Give your audience an outlet for discussion. Marketing is no longer just a broadcast. Not even a two-way dialogue. It’s a conservation between all your fans, often at once, and they’ll talk with or without you. So join in.
  21. Ease of use: It’s counter-intuitive, but your product is often an obstacle. What they want when they buy is a solution to their problem. The harder your product is to use, the more difficult it is to get from A to B. Easy-to-use stuff sells.
  22. Avoid pain: We are an irrational species. Studies have proven that we are more likely to take action in order to avoid pain than to get some benefit.  
  23. Specificity: Information Bias describes a psychological tendency to favour options/decisions/products that we have the most information on. So don’t hold back, don’t be general. Be painfully specific, because people that are in pain can’t possibly hear enough on how they can solve it.
  24. Short-end of the stick: Eben Pagan is fond of the phrase “love getting the short-end of the stick”. Let your customers think they’re taking advantage of you. Let them think that the deal is so great, that you’re stupid to offer it. Watch this.

What do you really sell? (It’s not what you think)

What sells kids cereals is the same thing that sells Happy Meals; not the food, but the toy.

What sells American Express isn’t a credit card, it’s the community.

What sells at Zappos isn’t the shoes, it’s the customer service.

What separates Tiffany’s from the cheaper shop down the road, isn’t a higher quality product, it’s the blue box. The box is such a big deal that they sell a porcelain version of it for $75.

What keeps a little restaurant in Tokyo, Japan in business (and thriving) isn’t the quality of the food, it’s the monkey waiters (not a joke).

The stuff that separates the invisible from the remarkable often isn’t the core product you offer. It’s the extra stuff. The special bonus. The story. The free prize inside. The little irresistible nugget that makes you worth talking about.

What do you really sell?

How to capitalize on your competitor’s mistakes

As you may have heard, the world’s largest gaming exposition E3 is currently on. Microsoft’s new console Xbox One was announced with some unpopular features. Namely, potentially paying a fee to play used games, jumping through hoops to lend a game to friends, strict digital rights management, and a requirement to be online to play the games you already own. These are added costs and inconveniences for their customers who gain… nothing.

Needless to say, the fans took their undeserved punishment poorly. But Sony (and the upcoming Playstation 4 console) was listening. Question: how do you generate word of mouth after your competitor made a bad call?

With a smile:

A sense of humour gets you a long way. Making angry fans laugh turns that attention positively to you, and they respect you for it. When that sense of humour comes from a multi-billion dollar company during the biggest showcase of the year… well, that deserves over 2.1 million views in less than half a day.

Generating word of mouth is not hard, but sometimes it does require you to drop the corporate shield and talk to your customers as a person.

Give your customers the gift…

My favourite restaurant of late is Mamak in Sydney’s CBD. While the food is spectacular, that is not the best thing about this restaurant. The first sight that greets you every night is the long line of customers snaking outside the door and into the street. As you approach for a closer look, you see a kitchen through a large clear window; cooks flipping, twisting, turning and stretching the next roti canai to serve a customer.  It was almost mesmerising. If the line wasn’t enough proof of the quality of the restaurant, that certainly was. This is a diner that has nothing to hide and openly flaunts its popularity. Everytime I eat at Mamak, I join the queue, accompanied by the doorside kitchen. By the time I’m seated I’ve already gotten my money’s worth.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid to show your potential customers that you are the real thing. Build it up. Give your customer’s the gift of authenticity and anticipation.

Favourite Stories from ‘The Big Moo’

The Big Moo is one of my favourite marketing book. Filled with good ideas. Admittedly some of the ideas are conflictling, though I believe that is point. Nevertheless, here a few of my favourite ones:

  • Real Artists Ship. Don’t aim for perfection during the development stage. Compromise, make it good enough (remarkable) and get it out the door before someone else does it with competitor product.
  • “It takes 99 percent of the time you spend just to be average. The remarkable stuff can happen in a flash.” (Spend 5 minutes and do something special. Become remarkable)
  • “But” Or “And”. Don’t say “but”. Give it a chance. What if you had to say “Yes, thanks!” or “Sure, how” every time someone had a suggestion”
  • Google has a policy for employees to spend 20 percent of their work time on projects of their own choosing (which often evolve into new features and product lines for the company). Understanding the value of cultivating these personal passions.
  • Ask customers about various business ideas. “Your customers are you best advisers”. Pick 3 of your best customers and call them this week. Ask them what you’re doing right/wrong and what can be done better. What else do they wish you would do. Tell them your biggest ideas about your company’s future.
  • Keep an “idea wallet” – record any ideas, insights and inspirations in a notebook. Carry it with you.
  • Capitalise on what you’re good at. Don’t compromise to be like the other guy.

Boring presentations; the world says no.

Okay, lecturers and presenters of the world, pay attention.


No more of these sleep-inducing and text-filled bores.

1. We don’t like your dull PowerPoints

2. We don’t like the text-dumps on said PowerPoints

3. In fact, we don’t even read your text-dump slides, you’re just wasting your time. Instead, apply the Seth Godin Law: no more than 6 words on a slide. Ever.

4. Pictures are awesome on PowerPoints. Use them a lot.

5. It takes 1.5 seconds to disengage yourself from the lecturer/presenter and take notes, and another 1.5 seconds to get back on track with the talk. That’s a 3 second round trip. Just think about how many times a listener does this…

6. Which leads us to this: stop asking us to take notes. Instead, do the presentation without requesting note-taking and then give us a detailed info sheet afterwards

7. Yes, we know you’re tired, it’s your 47th presentation of the day. Guess what? We don’t care.

8. Be passionate when presentating. If you’re not energetic about your material, then why should we? For lecturers: you’re directly influencing the lives of thousands of students. Sound alive, please.

9. Be brief. Humans have short attention spans so get your point across quickly. It makes it easier for the audience to follow and helps you identify the most important points of your presentation.

10. Leave plenty of time for Q&A. For the lecturers: you should know that discussion about the material is one of the best ways to learn, so make that a priority during you lectures. For presenters: whether you’re selling an idea or a product, people often don’t buy it just by logic. We don’t decide to go on holidays because it makes logical sense, but because our emotions tell us we want one. But if we later need a reason, our emotions are it. Q&A will contribute to making an emotional connection with your audience.

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Welcome, New Marketing

Just as aluminium tennis racquets replaced wooden racquets, and modern physics took over from classical physics, New Marketing is here to give our outdated marketing practices the almighty boot.

Old marketing doesn’t work as well any more. Our market is over-cluttered with too many solutions for problems that we’ve already solved. We’ve got more and more products, but less and less time to go through them. Now that our economy is in a downturn we have less money to throw around as well. The old system of the TV-industrial complex (see Purple Cow by Seth Godin) is no longer effective. Interruption media is no longer effective. We’ve gotten too damn good at ignoring every ad that comes our way.

Our modern interruption marketing is dead. New Marketing is the baby we need to nurture.

Seth Godin calls it being remarkable. Hugh MacLeod calls it the Social Object. But it’s just two ways of describing the same thing: the new currency for marketers is what we’ve always wanted – ‘that little somethin’ special’. That little somethin’ that gets people talking, that something’ interesting, new, different, special etc. That little somethin’ built into your product, rather than creating the common stock pig good. It’s the ‘remarkability’ of the product. It’s the ability of the product itself to get people ‘socialising’ about it. New Marketing is a shampoo whose bottle’s texture feels like smooth hair (or maybe that’s just tacky).

New Marketing is the future and I’m solidly in. How about you?

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