Winning the Customer, Part V0
By Frank J. Rich
Little is better understood than the simple model of market demand by the buying public, its essential influence on trade, and the fundamental equation that joins buyer and seller. Scarcity may be first among the six pillars of market influence, ensuring that buyers will follow market shortages and attractions with the gyro and determination of a carrier pigeon. Another of its essential planks—urgency—has long been the market catalyst to greater sales. Though a well-worn tactic of advertisers, too many lack the behavioral nuances that make this philter work best. The result—buyers sense the false sense of urgency in many products and services, causing a kind of Peter and the Wolf syndrome that has the effect of encouraging them to exit the exchange.
Done well, imputing urgency to the advertising message can add twenty-five percent to sales when the message of concern it raises also includes both “how” and “where” to go to solve the problem. For instance:
“Snow is on the way!
Don’t be caught without a good shovel and a bag of ice melt. The following stores have what you need, and some guarantee they will not run out, even if they have to buy it from a competitor.”
No matter the level of urgency, poor results follow unless the details on how to solve the problem are included. Also, “solutions ads” engage buyers more fully, increasing the memory for ad details. The reason is simple. People dislike threatening news, so they naturally put it out of mind, preferring to believe it won’t affect them. We are not different from the ostrich in this way. When presented with the antidote, we are quick to relieve ourselves of the pain and uncertainty in the threat. When we can take action against the things that threaten us—“Act now or face the loss of product should you decide later,” we put the threat in the path of relief. When I have difficulty finding shelf foods I like to use, I buy them quickly when found, and often buy extra to relieve the panic in a short supply of them.
Consider the casual health offerings of Walmart and drug and convenience chains across the land. At a recent stop at a CVS store in NYC, I was greeted at the door by an employee, whose friendly invitation included an offer to direct me to the shelf location where whatever I needed was waiting for me. The interruption was a welcome efficiency at finding what I needed, without delay. The items I sought were exactly where she said they’d be, which made my stop quick and efficient.
Fundamental to a successful exchange between buyer and seller is the model of “interruption, engagement, informed value, and delivery on the promise.” When accomplished, price becomes a secondary consideration in favor of customer satisfaction in the relationship between people. The method of urgency in a seller’s appeal to buyers should not be the everyday use and abuse of persuasion, nor its “moral” counterpart, suasion. Rather, it is the dutiful addressing of issues facing the buying public for self-selection, and the further information that provides real solutions to urgent alerts. In the end, we do best when able to develop a relationship between people and a good experience for both.