Hard Sell, Soft Sell … Which Option Works Better?

Selling cover/ Photo credit: Miladypro

It’s not the strategy that matters it’s the execution. Let’s consider hard sell and soft sell.

Recently, a student of ours asked whether “we” (content-based marketers who might prefer a more subtle approach) can learn anything from “those” marketers who use somewhat obvious tactics like silly quizzes or hyped-up headlines.

In the course of answering this question, the phrase “orange hat marketer” occurred to me. (Don’t worry; this has nothing to do with politics.) “Black hat” and “white hat” are, of course, terms that some marketing and SEO professionals use to indicate how willing they are to bend rules.

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For me, it’s not “black hat” unless you’re lying to your audience, in which case don’t try to tell me what a cute, little gangster you are. It’s illegal and it’s wrong, so go away. But orange hat … that one is a little more complicated. In my made-up definition, an “orange hat” marketer is one who’s exceptionally comfortable with cheese. What’s cheese?

Well, we know it when we see it.

  • It’s a third-grade-level math problem with the headline that “97% of people will get this wrong!”
  • It’s a pushy headline that Claude Hopkins himself would have found a little old-fashioned.
  • It’s an aggressive, “salesy” approach that’s typically defended with the statement, “Well, it works.”

Some real talk

If a “salesy” approach works for you, and you’re not lying to your audience (or yourself), keep doing it. I don’t think it’s immoral or wrong to use cheesy sales and marketing techniques.

I just don’t happen to believe that “it works” all that well for most audiences today. But if your tests are demonstrating otherwise for you, more power to you.

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Human communication evolves

Human nature doesn’t change very fast, or very often. We’re more or less working with the same brains as our Paleolithic ancestors. Maybe a little less hangry, since we have carbs now. But human communication style changes all the time. Words go in and out of favor. One culture loves an ornate, embroidered writing style — another culture scorns it.

And in a diverse culture like ours, one person’s chuckle is another person’s cheese. Maybe I’d see a piece of content and call it silly, clumsy, or annoying. Another person would see the same content and find it funny, entertaining, or convincing.

That’s why pretty much everything we’re teaching these days starts with our favorite three-letter word: Who. Who are you talking to? Who’s your perfect customer? Who is this complicated human individual you’re trying to reach?

If your Who loves cheesy quizzes, give them some really gooey ones. Find out which Hogwarts dinner entrée they are, and embrace it. Don’t be cynical about it. Find a writer who can revel in it and genuinely have fun. If your customer likes cheese, give them great cheese.

Don’t throw the baby out with the cheesy bath water

It’s also easy to say, “My audience is too sophisticated to respond to quizzes.”

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Really? Your audience is so sophisticated that they won’t answer questions so you can address their concerns in a more relevant way? They are, perhaps, a Star Trek futuristic alien race who can telepathically transmit their needs and concerns directly to your brain?

Don’t dismiss quizzes, or story-based content, or any other tactic because you think it’s inherently cheesy.

It’s not the strategy that’s cheesy. It’s the execution.

Quizzes can be inane and fluffy, or they can be well-thought-out, branched content that lets you respond to the specific needs and preferences of that individual. Story-based content can be rambling and shallow, or it can be well written and insightful.

Some customers like Velveeta and some like Asiago. Find out. Then serve what your particular people are hungry for.

We have a resource coming for the cheese-intolerant

If traditional aggressive selling makes you feel a little bit … cheesed, we have something coming up that you might like.

We’re partnering with a masterful salesperson who has a pressure-free, low-cheese approach to selling that could be right up your alley — and help those of you for whom selling feels uncomfortable or even impossible.

I should have more details for you next week.

Copyblogger

Surge It

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