We all like to think we’re rational animals. The truth, though, is that we buy based on emotion and intuition, not reason or deduction.
In fact, according to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, 95 percent of our buying decisions are made by our subconscious mind. Our subconscious craves simplicity; it’s impulsive, decisive, and emotion-driven. Because it isn’t swayed by figures or feature sets, we in the tech industry often struggle to speak its language.
But take a look the most successful tech companies’ marketing materials. What do you notice about Apple’s iconic ads? They’re colorful, happy, and emotion-driven, featuring punchy phrases like “Think different” and “Say hello to the future.” Now think about what’s missing. There’s no jargon, expert interviews, RAM numbers, or much of anything that a layperson couldn’t comprehend.
No, you can’t co-opt Apple’s ads for yourself. But you certainly can tweak your sales and marketing strategy in similar ways:
Talk about your technology with two customers, and you’ll likely get two totally different responses. One will bow down at the altar of processor speeds; the other will stare blankly, wondering what a processor even does.
Knowing who’s interested in your product and what they know about technology is key for resonant marketing. Your first task should be to conduct market research. Listen to your toughest customers and build your own vocabulary around theirs.
Kick off your next sales and marketing strategy session with empathy mapping. Empathy mapping challenges your preconceived notions about your buyers. Start by drawing outlines of your current and potential customers. Plot what they think, see, hear, and feel as they encounter your product.
You may have fallen in love with your decision tree algorithm, but no nontechnical buyer ever will. Look back at your empathy map. What are your potential buyers feeling when they see or use your product?
Let’s say that you’re selling career-development software. Now, they may not come right out and say it, but you suspect that your users are scared of failing. Choose words like “safe” and “try” and “we” to let them know that you have their back.
Especially if you’re selling a B2B product, build emotional connections during sales conversations and through online content. Check out Chris Voss’s “Never Split the Difference” and Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on decision-making if you’re feeling stuck.
When telling your partner how you feel about him or her, you don’t say “I experience a neurochemical rush in my limbic system when I look at you.” You just say “I love you,” right?
The most emotionally charged, effective words in the English language aren’t technical terms. They’re short, everyday words. “You,” “free,” and “because” are three of the most persuasive words to a buyer’s ear. Why? They act as emotional signposts, signaling ideas like generosity, customer-centrism, and purpose.
Stick to short, simple words whenever possible. Keep sentences and paragraphs brief as well. Try summing up your product’s value proposition in 25 or fewer words. If you can’t explain it simply, then you’re going to have a tough time selling it.
The primal brain is powerful. Even the most technical whizzes among us are guided by it. So, if you’re speaking to a nontechnical buyer, skip the tech talk. They likely won’t understand it, and they certainly won’t be swayed by it. Simplicity sells; data doesn’t.
Prior to his work with Node, Greg led sales and business strategy at several startups. He graduated from Stanford University in 2004 with a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. When he isn’t working, Greg can be found playing poker, attending Giants games, enjoying vegan food and wine, and advocating for social and political causes he cares about.