…And 5 more ways to bust through the biggest sales stumbling block that’s keeping your profits low…
In my travels from office to home to office, and back again, I often stop in at the local Tim Hortons Donuts for a cup o’ the black juice from hell.
If you’re a foreigner, Tim Hortons is the Canadian equivalent of Starbucks — sort of …
The coffee is much better (IMHO)…
And instead of a bunch of debonair dudes and dudettes lounging around with laptops, spouting hip phrases like “so”, “like”, “oh my god”, and “get out”… all you’re likely to see for wildlife are a bunch of lumberjacks and Mounties grunting at one another.
Timmy’s — as it’s affectionately known — is THE dominant donut franchise here in Canada… by a country mile.
Within a 10 block (or so) radius of my office, there are 4 of them, all owned by a gentile retired executive, and run by he and his equally gentile son.
I frequently marvel, as they personally serve customers… clean up the trash in the parking lot… and cheerily perform other $10 an hour tasks from time to time. Not because they have to, but because they know the value of leading from the front and setting a sterling example for their employees.
And the marketing support they get from their franchisor is equally impressive…
There’s always some new promotion going on and the copy on the signs and billboards is usually half decent.
Obviously somebody at head office is thinking.
Which brings me to that miracle of marketing… that paragon of persuasion… that icon of influence — The Wheel of Donut Delights.
Recently a cardboard thingy appeared on the counter, reminiscent of the Wheel of Fortune.
Lodged in the center, is a spinnable arrow capable of coming to rest on any one of sixteen different varieties of donuts — honey glazed, lemon filled, apple fritter — you name it.
As attentive as I am, I figured it was a contest of some kind. Until recently I realized the word “WIN” was conspicuously absent.
And so I asked the girl behind the counter, “What’s the purpose of The Wheel of Donut Delights?”
She looked at me with an air of superiority, as though thinking — finally, here’s a twit I can teach a thing or two. And she told me …
“It’s to help you decide what kind of donut you want, silly”.
“Of course”, I said, slapping my forehead in mock embarrassment. “That IS a tough decision, isn’t it?”
You may laugh. I certainly did…
But don’t miss the marketing lesson.
I asked my cheeky server if many people actually used the Wheel of Donut Delights to choose a donut. And she said, “Oh yes, many people do. It’s fun. Would you like to try it?”
“I don’t eat donuts”, I replied. “And if I did, I don’t think I would spin the wheel of donut delights unless I was half baked.” And with that, I made off with my cup of Java. But I couldn’t help but thinking why anybody would…
I mean, you can chalk it up to sensory overload, I suppose. This might be a partial explanation for why people spin the dial. But I think there’s much more going on here…
You see, throughout human history, society has been overwhelmingly dominated by a tribal mentality.
Only in the last several hundred years has the concept of individuality been given much credence. And even today, the concept is largely misunderstood and underappreciated.
The essence of a tribal society is that it places the good of the tribe ahead of the individual. Such a society tends to regard individuals as interchangeable units, and minimizes the importance of differences between one human being and another.
In a tribal society, the unspoken message is this: You don’t count. By yourself, you are nothing. Only as part of us can you be something.
Thus, any society, to the extent it is dominated by this tribal mentality, is inherently unsupportive of individualistic self-esteem — which is essential to effective decision making.
In such a society, the individual is socialized to hold him or herself in low self-esteem relative to the group. Self-esteem is a function of self-sacrifice to the collective good of the group.
If children are taught in church:
… Don’t be willful — self-assertion is the sin of pride …
… Don’t think. Don’t question. Believe …
… Faith (submission to things you cannot understand) is the beginning of morality …
The implication is that only by sublimating reason and self-assertiveness is one worthy of approval. The consequence of such belief is the annihilation of healthy, internally-inspired self-esteem. I repeat, this is a critical prerequisite to efficient decision making.
If children are taught by their parents and the media:
… Go to school and get a good job …
… Government is responsible for educating you and making sure you have a job to go to…
And while in school:
… Don’t ask questions. Just learn the material …
… Your accreditation is the only valid symbol of your worthiness to receive greater compensation in the workforce …
The implication is that only by acquiescing to the pre-defined roles and responsibilities set out by the tribal leaders does a person deserve to share in the rewards of society.
Conform or be cast out.
What do these ideas do to a person’s sense of self-responsibility and self-determination?
And more specifically, to their aversion to accepting the burden-of-decision at the donut counter?
Tim Hortons is right on the money when they experiment with lightening this load. How much more so for weightier, higher-ticket decisions you may wish to inspire? This is something you should be thinking about actively in your marketing.
I am philosophically opposed to the “click send, get money” type of promotions that promise to remove the burden of decision and responsibility entirely from the purchaser. (They may convert well, but tend to gather low quality customers with serious self-esteem issues… resulting in high refund rates, chargebacks, customer service issues, and low lifetime customer value.)
But there’s no denying that minimizing the burden of decision is good for business. Here are a few tactics for you to consider:
- From a young age, we’re all conditioned to defer to authority. To capitalize on this fact, be sure to communicate how your track record as a recognized expert benefits the buyer. Even better, have others do this for you. If you’re low on authority, borrow it.
- Having assumed an authoritative position, use it. People are looking for someone to tell them what to do… to take some of the burden of decision and responsibility off of their shoulders. So tell them exactly what to do in your sales copy — explicitly and emphatically.
- Minimize choice. Too many websites are a cornucopia of alternatives, and as a result, few people take any action at all. Limit options at each step in yours sales funnel to one, maybe two (never more than three) choices. Your response rate will rise.
- Make the buying decision tentative. Use free trials or your guarantee to annihilate the perception of decision. Say to your customer, “Don’t Decide Now! Put it To The Test — And Then Decide …”
- Be pro-social. In a tribal society, conformity is a virtue. Any evidence you can show your prospect that other people who are just like them are gobbling up your product is comforting. It minimizes the burden of having to think.
These are all irrational, right brain appeals. Abdicating responsibility for one’s decisions is in fact, the epitome of irrationality.
But the presentation of logic and hard truth — while necessary to a stable and enduring business — are not easily accepted in a tribal society. I’m all for giving the customer the “blue pill”. But you have to be realistic.
Appeal to the tribal mentality first… and the individualistic aspects of personality second.
What about YOU?
Is it time to smell the coffee?
What could you be doing to lighten the burden of decision for your customers?
What can you do to remove the sales-preventing friction that so many businesses pile skyhigh in front of their customers?
Sound off in the comments box below.
Until next time, Good Selling!