When you think about your business, how do you approach sales? Public relations and marketing strategies like pitching the media, blogging for SEO, connecting with consumers via social media and distributing email newsletters are powerful tactics for selling your products or services, but in reality these activities are tools to reach potential customers to reinforce your message and reiterate why they should work with your business.
With this in mind, it’s important to consider the messages you’re sending through your marketing channels. Are they effective? I recently read The Science of Selling, which shares research behind how buyers make decisions, and it comes down to an overarching theme we emphasize all the time at Three Girls: make it about them – your clients, consumers, readers, followers and anyone else you’re targeting. Everything you say, write, share or post should be about serving the people you’re trying to reach.
About the Book: Using Science to Increase Sales
The Science of Selling shares a fascinating, revolutionary approach scientifically proven to dramatically improve sales. Author David Hoffeld has decades of experience in the industry, working with organizations of all sizes – from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. He took a look at research from social psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics to develop an evidence-based approach to closing sales. In his book, Hoffeld explains the science behind each component of his approach and provides examples for how to frame readers’ conversations with potential buyers.
As a small business owner, this book would be incredibly valuable. You may not have a dedicated sales team, but you can take the advice Hoffeld lays out in the book and apply it to your conversations with potential clients as well as your marketing strategy. In fact, I noted 6 tactics that seamless apply to marketing and public relations as a whole, including content marketing, pitching the media, etc.
6 Tactics From The Science of Selling That to Apply to Marketing
1. Form a relationship and make it about them.
“Despite the undeniable role that technology plays in selling and buying these days, people still buy from people” (page 5). Email, blogs, social media accounts – these are all tools to connect person A to person B.
“The way most salespeople are taught to sell is grounded in selling, not buying. Salespeople are shown sales activities and behaviors and then taught to make their buyers conform to the their model of selling. It’s the exact opposite of how it should be” (page 24).
In fact, one strategy Hoffeld shared is to start the conversation with, “How are you feeling this morning/afternoon/evening?” Research actually showed response rates doubled when the Hunger Relief Committee asked this question first. It makes sense, though: you establish right away that they’re the focus of your conversation (page 27).
As you use various public relations and marketing tools in your strategy, how do you make it about the person with whom you’re trying to connect?
- For Journalists: Read what they’ve written and check out their social media accounts. Pay attention to what they’re interested in and the types of stories they cover. When you write your pitch, show them you did your homework by personalizing it, and then clearly connect your story idea to their readers, listeners or viewers.
- For Blog Readers: Pick topics that provide value to them. Answer common questions you hear. Write a “how-to” article. Share insider tips for success. While it may feel like you’re giving away the farm, Beth Adan summarized it well in her post about blogging for stellar customer care: “Giving away some of your secrets can have a positive impact not only on your customers’ perception, but also when blogging for SEO.”
- For Social Media Followers: Don’t only talk about yourself! Instead of inundating users with self-promotional posts, make sure that about 80% of what you post provides value they’ll appreciate, such as a thoughtful article, an inspiring quote or helpful tips.
2. Establish yourself as an expert.
“A meta-analysis that analyzed fifty years of research found that expertise is a primary component of trust. Cognitive psychologist R. Glen Hass maintains that when the brain recognizes that someone is an expert, it is far more likely to comply with that person’s suggestions” (page 65).
Whether you’re pitching the media, writing a blog post or publishing social media updates, you need to establish your credibility. Why should journalists, readers or followers listen to you? You can share your expertise in a variety of ways:
- Showcase your experience by sharing a recent project that finished
- Share industry news alongside your thoughtful commentary
- Provide tips, tricks and helpful advice for those that don’t know as much about the field as you
- Share client testimonials or editorial media coverage you receive as a third-party endorsement in your blog, e-newsletter and social media channels (Note: make sure you don’t pitch a reporter with other coverage you’ve received; journalists want the scoop on a story, so chances of them writing about your business greatly decreases if you send them past articles you were featured in).
3. Stay positive.
“There are a slew of scientific studies showing that experiencing positive emotions boosts comprehension, enhances the mental capacity to make decisions, and increases receptiveness to persuasive requests…these upbeat emotions predispose buyers to be more likely to take your call, agree to a meeting, affirm your value propositions, or even purchase your product or service” (page 80).
As you put your public relations and marketing plans into action, remember that keeping your company’s messages positive will put consumers in a more receptive mindset. Keep your social media updates hopeful and optimistic. Write blog posts with an underlying message of optimism. Keep emails friendly, helpful and positive. Despite all the negativity we’re exposed to, research shows positive emotions will serve you and your business best.
4. Ask questions.
“Questions have such potency that behavioral scientists have found that just asking people about their future decisions significantly increases those decisions” (page 101).
How often do you ask your current and potential customers questions? In addition to sales, this can be a very helpful marketing tactic. Asking questions lets consumers know you care about them. Their answers can be extremely helpful too, from simply increasing engagement and connecting with them more effectively on social media to collecting valuable insight to areas your business can improve.
5. Don’t overwhelm consumers by diluting your message.
“Many salespeople frequently hinder the effectiveness of their sales presentations by engulfing buyers in a plethora of options…but as we’ve seen, too much information obstructs the brain’s capacity to make a decision” (page 184).
While The Science of Selling is using this data to recommend salespeople only offer potential buyers with a few options to choose from, the same principle applies to your public relations and marketing. If you send too much information in a media pitch, your email is actually more likely to end up in the trash. If your social media updates aren’t focused on one point, users will glaze over the text as they skim through their newsfeeds.
The lesson here is, before you create any new content, determine the primary message you’re trying to communicate. Then, as you craft the media pitch, blog post, social media updates, e-newsletter, infographic, etc., keep that message the primary focus so your message doesn’t become confusing and convoluted for your target audience.
You might think: How do you do this for a longer piece of content? Think about this blog post, for example. Although it’s quite lengthy, there is one consistent topic throughout the article: public relations and marketing lessons from The Science of Selling. If I turned around and started writing about tips gleaned from the Super Bowl in the middle of the post, you’d likely find it jarring and confusing.
6. Use images regularly.
“Because the brain thinks in terms of pictures, it is able to process and retain them more easily than words” (page 195).
This concept is backed up by slews of studies. As you execute your public relations and marketing strategy, think about ways you can include clear, crisp, high-quality images. Easy ways to do this include sharing them in:
- Social media updates
- Blog posts
- An electronic press kit for your company
- Your website
If you have the time and resources, infographics and white papers are also great ways to share helpful information alongside images.
Learn More About The Science of Selling
The quotes I shared from The Science of Selling only scratch the surface of the fascinating facts, strategies and examples throughout the book. Although every small business owner needs to know how to sell effectively, Author David Hoffeld does a great job of providing helpful ways to influence consumers that can be applied to a wide range of activities, including public relations and marketing. Check it out here.
Read more: Sales Tactics Do Create Customer Experiences