Earlier this week, my colleagues at the 7 Graces Project and I hosted an information call about our upcoming Foundations of Ethical Marketing course. At the top of the call, I assured our listeners that I wasn’t going to do a ‘hard sell’ about the course or try to push them into signing up for the course with manipulative marketing tactics.
The reason why I said this right at the top of the call is that all too many of us have come to EXPECT to be ‘sold to’ during an online call. I wanted to dispel that expectation so it wasn’t the elephant in the room throughout the call. I explained that using hard selling was antithetical to the ethos of our social enterprise. After all, how can we teach courses on ethical marketing if we use unethical marketing strategies to promote them?
Today, I thought it would be interesting to explore this topic in a blog article, taking a look at what we mean by ‘hard selling’ and why so many old-school marketers condone it (and even teach it). We’ll look at how hard selling is guilty of many of the 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing we talk about in our courses and books. And finally, we’ll look at why its alleged effectiveness is illusory and how it fails to help you, your business or your customers in the long term.
What Do We Mean by the ‘Hard Sell’?
Simply put, the hard sell is when we try to coerce buyers into buying something before they’ve had time to think about it.In fact, old-school marketing methods typically try to bypass cognitive thinking altogether and trigger your emotions instead. More specifically, the aim of hard selling is to trigger the most primordial part of your brain – the amygdala. This is where your body responds to fear.
Typically, we react to fear in one of three ways – fight, flight or freeze. When we see adverts that tell us we’ll be losing out on a great deal if we don’t act RIGHT NOW, the fear centres in our brains are being triggered. Because fear is generated in the amygdala, it actually arises before conscious thinking kicks in. And it’s a good thing, too; if a tiger suddenly leaps out in front of us, we have a much greater chance of survival if we ACT NOW rather than sit down with a cup of tea and think about it.
When marketers use hard-selling tactics, they are actually launching an emotional tiger in front of you. Here are a few of the common Deadly Sins you’ll see in a typical hard sell:
- The Deadly Sin of Scarcity, where the marketer tells the audience they’ll have to pay a lot more for a product if they don’t buy it right there on the spot, or that they’ll suffer in some horrible way (stay fat, get ill, lose money, be lonely, etc.) if they don’t buy this product RIGHT NOW.
- The Deadly Sin of Persuasion, where the marketer concocts a convoluted argument for a product, offering a zillion reasons why you need this thing you’ve never heard of before to solve a problem you never knew you had.
- The Deadly Sin of Invasion, where the marketer SHOUTS REALLY LOUDLY AT YOU…USUALLY FOR A REALLY LONG TIME.
- The Deadly Sin of Deception, where the marketer spews a pile of so-called scientific or statistical information that is so nebulous, complicated or meaningless that it (deliberately) puts the mind into a state of confusion.
What is important to understand is that ALL of these Deadly Sin strategies have the potential to trigger fear (unless, of course, the audience is very switched on and aware – like our 7 Graces community).
Why Old-School Marketers Believe in Aggressive Sales Pitches
If we are shouted at, made to feel stupid or threatened with loss, we are going to react emotionally, not cognitively. And that’s exactly what hard-sell marketers want; they don’t want you to think – they want you to feel afraid.
Why? Because when you are afraid, you will always want to do something to relieve the discomfort of your fear. As long as they’ve got you in this position, there’s a chance you will click the big red ‘BUY NOW’ button.
Internet marketers know you are not a captive audience. They know you can click away at any time. That’s why so many of them intentionally aim to trigger fear right from the get-go and hold on to you like an emotional hostage. If they can bypass your cognitive brain and make the sale before you’ve had a chance to think, they’ve won.
Or have they?
Why Hard Selling Will Eventually Backfire
Hard selling works.
Well…it sort of works.
Admittedly, hard selling can sometimes result in faster sales than a marketing campaign that doesn’t use it. But what happens to us as customers AFTER the fear wears off, the amygdala calms down and the rest of our cerebral cortex comes back to life? What happens after we are no longer emotional hostages but thinking human beings?
We get pissed off, that’s what happens.
We get angry. We get angry at ourselves. We get angry at the marketer. We might start looking for flaws in the product. We might even ask for our money back. We feel like idiots for spending our hard-earned money so impetuously just because someone made us feel like losers. We feel like we’ve been coerced. We feel like we’ve been disrespected.
Then, we start to lose trust. First, we lose trust in the company from whom we bought the product. Or maybe we didn’t buy their product at all, because we started to lose trust in them the moment we began to feel manipulated during their sales pitch. Over time, we may start to mistrust marketing (or businesses) altogether. Worst of all, we may start to mistrust our own ability to discern fact from fiction.
Then, the next time we sit in on a webinar (if we ever trust them again), we find ourselves spending half the time not being fully present on the call, because we’re so busy waiting for the big sales pitch to hit us in the face. We don’t listen carefully, because we already know there’s going to be some ‘fine print’ we won’t like. We already anticipate the uncomfortable feelings of manipulation, even before they happen. We might even switch off halfway through the call because we know the bomb is going to drop any moment.
Really, when you look at the bigger picture, hard selling creates two kinds of customers:
1) Passive, disempowered, frightened ones and
2) Angry, mistrustful, disengaged ones.
Personally, I’d rather have no customers than either of those.
You Don’t Need More Customers. You Need Smarter Ones.
To me, ethical marketing is not about making sales, but about attracting your ideal customers. In my view, an ideal customer has these qualities:
- Confident (in their decisions)
- Able and willing to express what they think and feel
- Trusting in themselves; clear on when to trust others
Give me 10 customers with those qualities over 1,000 passive or aggressive ones any time. The amount of work, money and energy that is involved in supporting disempowered and angry customers is enough to send any business owner to an early grave.
On the other hand, it is a sheer delight to support smart, informed, empowered customers who have come to trust you for one simple reason:
You respect them and see them as people rather than sales figures.
So how do you do that? How do you grow and attract smarter customers?
Well, first of all, you stop spinning your wheels chasing after more customers through hard selling. True, you’ll have to learn how to be patient. No longer will you get the adrenaline rush of instant sales, the rush that’s kept you hooked on hard-sell marketing for so long. But when you’re in the middle of the rush, you forget that it’s always followed by the crash-and-burn of bad reviews and requests for refunds.
As you wean yourself off hard selling, you’ll eventually realise that your marketing has kept your business on a roller coaster that has taken it nowhere. You’ll start to see that you’ve been repeating the same process over and over without any true business growth and that the results you thought you were getting from your hard-selling were pure illusion.
Then, when you’ve finally gotten off that roller coaster and put your feet on solid ground, you’ll realise that – possibly for the first time ever – you’ll be able to see your customers. No longer will you be chasing after them, or planning your next manipulative strategy. Instead, you’ll finally be seeing them face to face and talking to them like the people they are.
You will stop talking at your customers and start talking to them. Then, over time, you’ll find you’re not just talking to them, but with them. You’re listening. You’re answering questions. You’re enjoying their company. You’re showing you know, like and appreciate them. You’re showing you trust their wisdom and opinions.
And then, one day, your customers will realise they know, like, appreciate and trust you too.
And THAT is when they’ll press the ‘Buy Now’ button (hopefully not a big red one).
We at the 7 Graces Project consciously chose to market our courses in a way that is radically different from what the hard-sales gurus teach. As ethical marketing is what we’re all about, it’s essential that we walk the talk.
With that in mind, I’d love to invite you to listen to the replay of the free info call we gave earlier this week about our 7 Graces Foundations of Ethical Marketing course, which is starting in October. This course is for independent business owners (new or established) who are ready to bring a greater social focus into their businesses and become true changemakers through their work, and who seek to leave a legacy for the world through their ethical business and marketing practices.
If that sounds interesting and you’d like to access the replay of the call,
just enter your name and email at:
The call is just a bit over one hour long. A slideshow accompanies the audio. We also answered a few questions from the audience at the end.
After you register, you’ll also get a link to download a very comprehensive information packet that tells all about the course. That way, after you’ve listened to the call, you CAN sit down with your cup of tea and engage your heart AND mind to make your decision about whether or not to join us on this course.
No tigers on the path. No elephants in the room.
I look forward to hearing from you.
26 September 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.