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Persuasion Point 6: Sales Letters - Persuasion & Favour Reciprocation

Sarah Jamieson - Friday, March 28, 2014

This blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points.


Your sales letter or verbal sales pitch is an important culminating point of your reciprocal relations, persuasion strategy, and sales process.

Sales letters are the last of the major persuasion points that I show in my previous eight blogs – that is, my series beginning at Buyer Persuasion Points.

Selling to prospects with whom you have built a relationship - is much easier than a “cold call” prospect reading a sales letter.

By the time your prospects reach your sales letter you should have addressed a number of issues and ensured that you have established TRUST.

In this next series of blogs I want to review all of the persuasion psychology techniques mentioned in my colleague’s and my series of articles on Persuasion Psychology.

The sales letter itself is where you can really use those ideas - to make sales.

Persuasion process begins when you first meet your online prospect. See Seller Persuasion Actions. Then, you must use every possible avenue to state your persuasion message – in blogs, videos, web content, social networks, email campaigns and so on.

Then, last of all – you complete the persuasion process in your sales letter.

Your sales letter should NOT be written as a document in and of itself. It is really the last page of a series of documents all of which have a purpose which culminates in the sales page.

And of course, the whole educative, social, and eMail process should be consistent and work as a whole.

All prospects – no matter whether they arrive at your site through search engines, a social site, or PPC - should be presented with a message consistent with that search medium’s needs but also consistent with your overall persuasion strategy.

That is, don’t present sales messages IN your social network and search content– but rather guide your prospects to the sales pages through email and persuasion principles.

Favour Reciprocation

It’s quite possible that your prospect’s journey to the sales letter has been initiated by some form of FAVOUR you have done for your prospect. We are all deeply conditioned to treat favoursor gifts as something we must reciprocate - so it does not hurt to have your prospects feel that they owe you a favour.

Reciprocation is a valuable tool in getting prospects to the sales letter.

You can do so via all sorts of gifts and free samples. Helping a prospect in some way or giving them a personalized service of some kind should engage the reciprocation rule in a strong way.

If you’ve done a favour for your prospect he or she will feel indebted to you - until that favor can be repaid with one of their own. This often means buying something from you.

With some prospects, the feeling of indebtedness is quite unpleasant and can often trigger a LARGER repayment than the initial small gift would suggest. How you trigger indebtedness in your prospects is a matter for you to think about long and hard.

Another way to employing the reciprocity principle is by making a concession to your prospect. Concessions work in a simple way. It may well be that the initial offering to your prospect is quite high priced – but you can offer your prospect a “personalized special” which is a very steep reduction.

The smaller less expensive offering can be presented as a concession. The concession activates the feeling of obligation to reciprocate. Of course, your lower-priced product may actually be the target of the sale all along.

If prospects are then presented with a lower price - that price can be presented as a concession – which should activate the reciprocity rule. So, think about how you present pricing – before the prospect gets to the sales letter.

Show Expensive Items FIRST

There is extensive proof and data that showing the most expensive price FIRST results in higher sales if a less expensive alternative is later provided.

If you have two expensive items and an expensive item is offered first, a lower-priced article that is seen immediately afterwards is perceived of as considerably less expensive.

With the internet, it’s super easy to test different versions of a concession – for example, does a 30% discount produce more sales and profits than a 15% discount?

You can have many different sales letters for the same product – just create a special link for each concession as it’s created. It’s a win for you because if the prospect buys at the higher price then you’ve done well.

You can also employ the concession persuasion principle in your ultimate pricing on the sales letter. You could start out with a somewhat exaggerated but still plausible price – from which you then “retreat” by offering a discount – over say the next day or so or other time limit.

There is also plenty of data to show that concessions on the part of a merchant increase customer’s satisfaction with the purchase. Thus reducing product returns.

The favor reciprocation principle is easy to misuse and so it should be exercised in an ethical manner.

In the next Persuasion Point blog I look at “Commitment and Consistency in Sales Letters”.


Persuasion Point 5: Prospects Respond to an Action Call

Sarah Jamieson - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

This blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points.

In this series of blogs on Persuasion Points, have shown that there a number of points at which an online business can influence and persuade searchers and prospects. Persuasion Points are predictable and can be discovered through market research.

These points are excellent places at which online sellers create and begin ‘reciprocal relationships’ with searchers. The right types of reciprocal relationships eventually lead to sales.

I have earlier discussed the following entry Points:

  • Prospects have a need or desire
  • Prospects start researching online
  • Prospects start an educative process
  • Prospects engage in social relationships.

Thus, knowing the ‘Persuasion Points’ of buyers in their marketplace a business can then “convert at all the bases” so that the entire search-to-sales continuum is covered. To put it another way – you should publish content that allows searchers to FIND your business no matter which Persuasion Point the searcher enters the search-to-sales continuum.

I now move to the fifth of these points – Prospects Respond to a 'Call to Action'.

When a prospect wants to solve a need, desire, or problem they’ll often seek or encounter an online ‘call to action’ offer. This is where many sellers BEGIN their sales process. You of course know better!

In online jargon, sales relationships are often referred to as “direct response”.

What is direct response?

It’s an offering that demands a direct response. For example, the seller / marketer seeks an opt-in to an email list or directs you to a sales letter then seeks a buy response. Thus for more information the prospect may: click on a Google Adwords, join an email list, click from an email to a sales letter, click a BUY button on a sales letter and so on.

All eBusinesses MUST incorporate direct response attributes which is another way of saying you need a sales process.

In internet marketing, the terms “direct response” and “direct market” appear to mean the same thing. But there are qualitative differences. So, I want to briefly discuss two aspects of direct response marketing

1. The direct response as internet marketing ‘norm’

The use of the direct market model EXCLUSIVELY – without the benefit of surveys, prospect segmentation, SEO, and Social Marketing is the most prevalent online business model and is widely taught by internet marketing gurus as the only eBusiness model that works!

Because it holds a ‘normative’ position, this type of direct marketing causes many systemic dysfunctions in markets.

When I was learning internet marketing, I used the direct market model exclusively and extensively. The old model WORKS – though it is expensive to operate and you need to be very wary of advertising costs – especially Adwords.

Strictly speaking direct response by itself is a MARKETING system, but many eBusiness owners would consider direct response as their primary eBusiness “model”.

This form of online marketing is practiced by many large corporations and individuals who appear to function from a “making-money” point of view. This type of activity may eventually lead to a form of systemic dysfunction in particular marketplaces.
For example, in the “internet business” market, GREED and “making money” drip through the pages of endless emails and sales letters.

Wary buyers eventually turn off the hype and conversion rates drop below 1%. Put another way, 99% of potential customers are not really “listening” and the cost of doing business in a market becomes prohibitive.

The direct marketing standard is actually an offline business model. I’m sure you’ve encountered this model. All that junky paraphernalia stuffed into your mail box is one part of the model. The online model uses the same techniques adapted to the internet.

It works, but it’s becoming less & less effective, more & more expensive - especially now that Google and other search engines are shifting their search algorithms towards shared social relevance.

2. ‘Call to Action’ as a necessary part of a sales process

This facet of direct response is simply the sales process part of my system. It is the fifth of the Persuasion Points that I show above.

All online businesses must have some form of direct response ‘call to action’ sales process. This is one of the advantages of running an internet business. It is relatively easy to set up these systems – such as obtaining an eMail opt-in, directing prospects to a sales letter and so on.

The model allows a great number of areas in which persuasion principles can be built into your sales process.

The internet is a wonderful place to establish “like-minded” communities. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive. When you “sell” in a community environment – you are tapping into a long-established way of doing business.

Picture a hardware store in a small town - run by a Mr. Jones. When you want help to fix a leaking roof you go to Mr. Jones. He advises you how its done and provides all the necessary materials. He does not try to “sell” you a bunch of unnecessary goods.

You have a reciprocal relationship with Mr. Jones. He advises you and he knows you’ll buy what’s necessary to do the job. Reciprocal relationships - this is the best way to sell.

For more information of how our Persuasionworks system functions please see: Online Marketing Strategies.

In the next blog I’ll look more closely at various ‘calls to action’.


Persuasion Point 4: Prospects Engage in Social Communities

Sarah Jamieson - Monday, March 24, 2014

This blog is adapted from a series of articles I wrote with my colleague James Atkinson entitled: SEO Strategy: Buyer Persuasion Points.


This is the fourth Persuasion Point in my series. Please see my earlier blogs on the topic.

Your goal in the social networks is to gain trust and build a community. By doing this you create the ideal conditions for sales.

There seems little point in spending time and money building sites and relationships if you don't have a sales and back end sales process. You want prospects and customers – not thousands of online friends.

As the image below shows, sales persuasion does not occur 'clear space':

The picture illustrates some of the many factors that influence the buyer - in addition to the psychology issues raised above in Why Buyers Buy.

Online social relationships that are imbued with Meta Narratives are an excellent way to affect your persuasion strategy. I'll explain Meta Narratives in a later blog.

Social networks are a Key Information Point where conversations are happening in your market, opinions are being formed, and buying decisions are being made.

Social networks are a powerful vehicle to create traffic, persuade, and influence the decision to buy. Online social media has a huge user base that is rapidly increasing all the time.

The reality is that if you're not influencing your prospects in the social networks, then your competitors will. Social networks are different from traditional internet marketing – users want quality information and interactions with like-minded people.

Sales pitches in social networks are ineffective.

The way to create traffic and sales through social networks is by building reciprocal relationships with prospects. Persuasion research shows that familiarity makes people more likely to find what you say credible and convincing. Familiarity makes prospects like you more, another driver in creating influence. These are compelling reasons to engage with your market regularly.

Google is also paying attention to social networking. Your level of social influence now has a direct effect on your search engine rankings. Social networks are a Key Information Point where you can exert enormous influence to gain more traffic, sales, and even higher search engine rankings.

Social Networks and Persuasion

Social networks give you a valuable way to engage with prospects and shape their views throughout the buying cycle. You can join in the conversation and shape prospects' views about your market.

This extends all the way from pre-buyers who are researching a market to existing customers with whom you want to deepen relationships.

Before the internet, marketers didn't have much influence in the buying cycle until a prospect was actually ready to buy – at which time their opinions had of course already been formed. Shaping opinions in the pre-buying stage was tough.

Prospects got their information from a small group of friends and that was what influenced buying decisions.

Likewise, we didn't have as much influence on the backend to keep customers buying. Contacting customers to deepen relationships, build loyalty, and reinforce our unique benefits was difficult and expensive.

Social networks have also made business a lot more transparent. Bad products and service are discussed and word spreads very quickly. Good products and service will also get 'talked about'!

The information prospects find in social media influences their opinions about the market, their needs, and the features and benefits they want.

You need to have a voice in that conversation and engage your market on social networks. If you don't, you can be sure your competitors will.

The Future of Social Influence

As an interesting aside, haute couture has over the years recognizes the importance of the internet for sales. At the Dolce & Gabbana show in Summer 2009, CEOs of the major cloths retailers were pushed back from their normal position in the first row.

Who displaced the executives? The CEO of an online retailer!

In a show for the high-end Dolce & Gabbana line a few days later, bloggers occupied front-row seats. In the ultra-hierarchical world of high fashion, this was a significant shift towards the internet. Online high-fashion retailers Net-a-porter and Yoox have proven that haute couture sells online.

Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are full of brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, and audiences at the European shows were Tweeting about the runway action as it happened.

Dolce & Gabbana now have their own online magazine and create web content by having their European shows filmed from multiple angles to be released online – everything from the street outside, guests arriving, and the designers inspecting models backstage, to the runway show itself.

Traditionally, fashion magazines - like Vogue - are the media where audiences for designer labels seek information. Magazines create a seamless blend between advertising and editorial content. The content exists to support the advertising and give it third-party credibility.

However, this is clearly changing. Now the Key Information Points are also found online, in the search engines, social networks, and blogs are starting to shape the audience conversation.

The Goal of Social Marketing

Your social marketing goal is to build relationships with a loyal community of people who regard you as a trusted authority.

You do this using a two-pronged approach:

  • Quality, relevant content
  • Two-way interactions

This is where persuasion principles come into play.

Giving people content that is of value to them and helping them through personal interactions activates the reciprocation principle. They will subtly but powerfully feel obligated to repay you by buying or taking some other action like sharing your content or joining your email list.

A community of people who are engaged with your content is a very powerful force for influence. People who enjoy your quality content will share it to the farthest reaches of the social networks.

Content sharing creates an ever-increasing influence ripple effect for you as your content achieves more prominence and produces more followers, traffic, and sales.

Google now considers social network prominence – for example: how much your content is being shared, voted for, and bookmarked – as a primary factor in rankings. Social factors have largely replaced the old link-building model, which was too easy to manipulate, as the main criteria for off-page relevance.

The biggest asset you can gain from social media is a community. Quality content and personal interactions are investments you make to build your community.

This is how you establish trust, loyalty, and a following. Once these elements are in place, the benefits of social networks flow naturally.

Communities = higher ranking = more sales!

Social Networking is Very Different from Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing tactics don't work in social networks – period.

If you want to be successful in social media, you'll need to unlearn much of what you know about marketing.

Here's the difference in a nutshell:

  • Traditional internet marketing is about going out and pitching your sales message to a cold audience that has never heard of you. Hype, sales resistance, and lack of trust are familiar features.
  • Social networking is about building relationships to position yourself as a trusted expert through quality content and two-way interactions. People naturally come to you when they're ready to buy because they see buying from you as being in their own best interests.

People on social networks are not receptive to overt selling. They want information and relationships with people they trust, not a sales pitch. Any attempt to sell on social networks does not work, and could damage your reputation.

Social media is about building relationships with an ever-expanding community of followers. The first step is to gain trust. You do this with quality, relevant content that is of value to your audience.

Once prospects associate you with quality again and again, they will start to trust you. This giving and helping approach leads to a position of influence, trust and authority in your market. From there, traffic and sales follow naturally.

With the social networks, you don't have to go out and try to sell prospects that have never heard of you and don't trust you. As I already mentioned, trust is a condition that must exist before a sale can be made.

But a sales letter is not the ideal place to establish trust. Trust is best earned slowly over time with quality content and two-way interactions. With social networks, you build relationships to establish the ideal conditions to make sales: people already know and trust you by the time they are ready to buy.

You are not trying to sell anyone, per se. You are simply using the leverage of social networks to shift their mindset so they grow to trust you as an expert who is on their side.

Once prospects see you as an advocate who is on their side, they will view it as being in their own best interests to buy from you. Once prospects have made this change in their perception, they have an internally-generated motivation to buy. You don't have to try to sell them with hype and marketing pitches – they will sell themselves on your products because they believe they are the right choice.

People will come to you when they're ready to buy rather than you having to go to them. You have achieved a position where what you want and what they want are the same thing – a win-win situation.

Their perception of you has changed from someone they know nothing about (the position marketers are in with traditional internet marketing)to someone they know and trust as their advocate.

And the speed with which this can be accomplished online is astounding!

My next Persuasion Point is Prospects Engage in a Call to Action.

Hey … What’s “Persuasionista”?

Sarah Jamieson - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Well - that’s what I’m called around here.

My colleagues and I have created an online marketing and eCommerce system. We’ve been working on the software for years and now we’re ready to take it to market. Persuasion is at the heart of the system.


Yes, persuasion!

Software is important, but it’s just a means to an end – like cars, phones, computers, and so on.

“Hey Persuasionista … phone call - client!”

I still have to talk to them, sort it out, fix the problem, convince, persuade. One of most important qualities ANY business needs is the ability to persuade.

What My Blog is About

So, that’s what my blog is about – the points at which an online business interlaces between software, persuasion, and SALES. The software allows you to measure and manage your business but you still need persuasion to get sales. That’s why our system is called Persuasionworks!

Online Relationships and Persuasion

Look at it this way: Buyers and sellers are simply two sides of the same coin.
When you provide what your buyers want – they’ll buy! And to get them to buy or to keep buying – you need a reciprocal relationship with your prospects and customers.

Online relationships are NOT face-to-face personal sales relationships – such as occur at say a local electronics shop. In this situation, the salesperson gets to know you face-to-face and then uses various persuasion techniques to encourage you to buy. If you've been shopping there for a while, he or she may know all about the stuff you own, what you'd like to upgrade, and which new gadgets you've got your eye on.

On the other hand, the means by which you effect all your internet relationships are via written and spoken words delivered on a SCREEN.

This may seem a somewhat thin basis for creating sales relationships – but really all the influential principles of persuasion can be woven into the fabric of online relationships.

Internet interactions are powerful motivators of online sales when the relationship is built on reciprocity – creating Reciprocal Relationships.

The relationship is an exchange - a give and take. You give something of value to prospects who in turn eventually give something of value back to you – in this case money. In addition, value provided by the online entrepreneur can also be built on other persuasion principles - for example:

Commitment and Consistency

Free downloadable ebooks or white papers may act as more than a favor that needs to be reciprocated. That paper can provide prospects with valuable information shortcuts built around commitment and consistency.

Tailor your message so that prospects see the market in a way that suits your own business model.

Social Influence

An online social network can be used to show prospects social proof that many people use your products to solve their problems.

Liking and Partiality

Online narratives like videos and written content can be utilized very effectively to make yourself likeable and relateable and to show a strong understanding of your prospects' problems and their desired solutions.

Authority and Influence

The internet is a wonderful tool to build authority and influence. The web is a tireless medium that's open for business 24/7.

Scarcity and Exclusivity

This is one of the most commonly used persuasion tools online. The number of ways in which you can drum up scarcity and exclusivity is only limited by your ability to engineer shortages and construct uniqueness.

All internet commerce occurs through relationships created by words. These are what I call words of connection, social association, and persuasion.

You are judged almost entirely by what you write and what you say:

Online shopping is now the fastest-growing retail sector. Shoppers go online for a number of reasons including:

  • Convenience,
  • Ease of purchase,
  • Product research, and
  • An ever-increasing comfort level with the internet

Consumers go online to research a particular product or market. A merchant can take prospects “off the market” at a very early stage in the “search pathway” and eventually lead the searcher through to purchasing a number of related products. I show you how to research here.

In fact, the economic downturn may be boosting online sales growth. In the search for value many buyers are shopping online rather than driving to the store. Consumers believe buying online is often cheaper than offline.

So, online sales, as a whole, are forecast to experience explosive growth in the next few years. I believe the trends driving this growth will continue for a long time yet.

In addition, there are unique differences between offline and online businesses that create remarkable opportunities for the online entrepreneur. For example, ultra-relevance is one of the most decisive advantages offered by internet marketing and you won’t see its equivalent in offline marketing. I'll explain this in later blogs.

In every market, people search online for information to educate themselves - their fears, desires, and everyday ideas.

Searchers also explore specific product types for information or comparison before they buy. This research happens in the search engines and social networks. I call this information / education period the “pre-buying” phase.

My research indicates that many internet marketers ignore “pre-buyers”. Pre-buying prospects are simply looking for information - and they aren’t ready to buy. An online survey gives you the ability to stop prospects searching and as a consequence, stops prospects finding your competitors. You can take people off the market with ultra-relevant content. For more see: Prospect Segmentation.

Put another way, you can inoculate yourself against your competition. Your ability to give each segment exactly what it needs can position you as an authority and build huge trust and loyalty that is very hard for a competitor to defeat.

You can deliver online content that BOTH:

  • Meets the immediate needs of prospects
  • AND

  • The needs they DISCOVER after searching.

There is a huge opportunity for marketers who are prepared to provide pre-buyers with ultra-relevant content. You can engage, educate, and create trust and loyalty with your ultra-relevant content - until prospects are ready to buy.

And, when prospects are ready, you present them with a sales funnel that completes the entire persuasion process you have built.

In my next blog I am going to take you through what I call Persuasion Points. This will help you understand how you can interweave software and persuasion to make SALES.

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