I had a conversation this week with a fellow business owner about those offer deadlines and red flashing countdown timers, that pressurise customers into buying. If you’ve been on the internet in the last 5 years, I’m sure you’ve seen the ones I mean.
There's no denying that tactics like this work in the short term, but does that mean it's a good idea? Does a quick sale lead to more profits in the long term?
Why do these tactics work?
These tactics both work by getting the primitive part of our brain to wake up and take action. This part of our brain is responsible for 2 things: survival (it activates your fight, flight or freeze response) and procreation. In his brilliant book The Chimp Paradox, Prof Steve Peters calls it our “chimp” brain. When it wakes up, it completely takes over our behaviour and we end up making irrational, emotional decisions. This is why sex sells and why FOMO (fear of missing out) sells.
These high-pressure "countdown to the end of the deal" sales tactics are really just the 21st century equivalent of the "bikini-clad women in a hot tub" adverts we used to see all the time. The rational part of our brain has become wise to gratuitous advertising and we can now see it for the unhelpful manipulation it is. Unfortunately we don't always notice the manipulation when we see a countdown clock telling us there are only a few minutes left to get this amazing deal.
So should we always avoid waking the “chimp”?
Actually no. There's a time and a place for waking up the "chimp" part of your customer’s brain. For example a headline needs to cut through the clutter of advertising messages. If you speak about the problem you solve then your buyer’s chimp will wake up and take action to resolve the problem, if they have it. This is effective and helpful to customers because it starts them off on your buyer journey which will lead them to solve a problem they currently have.
Countdown timers, in contract, act at the end of the buyer journey, to try to get someone to take action to purchase.
What's the problem with waking up the chimp here then?
If you wake the chimp just before the point of purchase then it'll override the “human” decision-maker (or at least, the rational part of their brain) and they'll act impulsively. The buyer may have valid objections that have not been overcome by the companies marketing. If they go ahead and purchase at that point, without having their logical objections overcome, they'll likely end up regretting their decision.
As we all know, a customer who regrets their buying decision is not a profitable one. They'll either ask for a refund and never come back or they'll complain about what they've bought and turn off others from buying.
Not only that, but you may end up putting off customers who would've bought if they hadn't felt pressurised by such tactics.
I believe that excellent marketing helps your customer make good, rational decisions. Decisions they'll be happy with long after they've bought. There's so much psychology in marketing and it pays to really understand what's going on in our buyers heads. The purpose of that understanding is not to manipulate people into buying stuff they don't need. It's to help people make good choices that'll benefit them and give them value.
If you'd like to learn how marketing actually works and how you can help your customers make good buying decisions, join my Marketing Machine Programme. Ironically, there is actually a deadline to this, but that’s because I don’t want you to miss the beginning of the course! Book a call with me to find out if it’s the right course for you.
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