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Emotions Trigger the Right Moves

  |  January 2, 2001   |  Comments

How much -- or how little -- do we use emotional appeals to help customers buy? Learn your customer's most important emotional reason to shop for your product, then tailor the message to highlight the product's benefits.

We pump out a lot of information about product features and benefits on the web, but have you taken a look at how much -- or maybe how little -- we use emotional appeals to help customers buy our products?

Sure, we know that benefits are supposed to be directed at the emotional level so people will buy our products. But many times our benefit statements just describe a higher level feature and do not address the customer's emotional needs.

I think we sometimes forget that buying decisions are an emotional response to what we want. Once a customer knows what he or she would like to have, then additional information is gathered for reassurance that the right choice was made. In other words, emotions drive the customer's moves throughout the site in making a decision, and information creates the pathway toward making that purchase.

Many products have features that automate various functions. The benefit typically used in marketing copy is that the product saves time. Saving time is clearly a benefit, but what emotional impact does it have on the customer? If you know a little about an individual customer, it's possible to phrase the benefit in such a way that it has more emotional appeal to that individual.

For example, if the customer is a parent with small children, then anything that reduces the time spent on mundane tasks can give the customer more quality time with the kids or spouse -- or quality time alone. We're so busy these days that everyone can benefit from true time savings, but each of us has a different emotional reason why we'd appreciate that benefit.

A generic benefit statement only goes halfway in delivering an emotional sales appeal for a product, and this isn't enough to motivate customers to act! To really drive home a message that packs an emotional appeal, it's necessary to understand and address the purchasing mindset of each individual consumer.

Consumers have only two or three different emotional needs that drive their search for most products (such as love, power, safety, and belonging), which means you can address all of those buying motives in a few paragraphs.

However, some products are bought for a wide variety of reasons, so it helps to have at least a little information about an individual's interests to tailor promotional copy on the web or in emails.

But how do we know which emotion-based appeal really works? The best way is to run tests and compare the results of different approaches. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to run controlled tests on a web site that uses static pages, but email is a different story.

Many email list management products make it easy to do split-run tests by sending a new promotional message or newsletter to a small group of subscribers while sending the traditional control message to the rest of the list. Different links in each message to different web pages make it easy to compare the response of the test message to the control message. Though this may result in improved promotional copy (including several emotional pitches in one message), it still doesn't necessarily maximize results.

By interacting with a customer to ask questions and observe his or her web behavior, it's possible to turn standard marketing messages into personal comments and suggestions. As interactive as the web can be, it's still limited because visitors are reluctant to share emotional feelings with a web site. This requires marketers to make inferences about which emotional motivations are driving their customers to act.

By combining creative marketing techniques with today's technology, we can encourage customers to provide insights into why they are shopping for our products. When you learn a customer's most important emotional reason to shop for your product, you can then tailor the message to maximize the benefits to that customer -- and make a sale in the process.


Cliff Allen

Cliff Allen is President of Coravue, a company that provides content management software and application service provider (ASP) hosting for Web and email. Allen is coauthor of three books about Internet marketing, including the "One-to-One Web Marketing, Second Edition" (John Wiley & Sons, 2001).

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