Subconscious Selling

Subconscious Selling: Your Customers Won’t Buy Without These 3 Elements

Subconscious Selling: Your Customers Won’t Buy Without These 3 Elements

Your customers are social, plugged-in, and savvy.

Selling to them (even with high-impact direct response) isn’t easy. Which is why today, I’m giving you some contrary advice…

Stop focusing on features and benefits. Stop hyping up your copy. Instead, sell your product on a subconscious level, and you’ll have customers drooling with desire before they know what hit them.

Keep reading and I’ll give you 3 ways to do just that. Plug these essential elements into your marketing to drive customer sales naturally and easily.

1. Social Proof

Think benefits sell? Think again. To sell your product, you need to build trust. Seth Godin says it well:

Without trust, marketers know that there are no sales. Trust means the prospect believes not only that the product being sold will actually solve his problems, but that if for some reason it doesn’t, the company will make good on its reputation of performance.

Today’s consumers assume marketers are trying to take advantage of them, so it’s important to establish credibility in all your marketing. But here’s the thing: You don’t actually have to prove you’re trustworthy if you can show that other people already trust you.

This concept, called social proof, was made popular by Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. In it, he explains that we “view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

To see how powerful this concept is, we have to take a quick dive into biology.

In 1992, scientist Giacomo Rizzolatti noticed that monkeys’ brains would fire not only when they performed an action, but when they saw someone else perform that action too. He later discovered the same tendency in humans.

Sell your product on a subconscious level, and you’ll have customers drooling with desire before they know what hit them.

This phenomenon, dubbed “mirror neurons,” explains why you laugh when everyone else in a meeting laughs (even if you didn’t hear the joke), and why you wince when someone falls or hold your breath when your kids are learning to swim underwater.

It also explains why, when you see an actor dressed in the newest fashion, you want to wear something similar. When you see them getting second glances, your brain starts firing as if you were getting those looks. And your subconscious brain tells you that you’ll be just as sexy and successful if you wear the same type of clothes.

As Martin Lindstrom says in his book Buy-ology, “It’s as though you’ve just bought an image, an attitude, or both.”

What This Means for Marketers

Social proof isn’t just smart marketing, it’s a mandate if you want to more customer sales. And it’s as easy as showing other people enjoying or benefiting from your products. While there’s no limit to the number of ways you can do this, 3 come immediately to mind.

a. Case Studies

Share stories of real people using and enjoying your product. How you tell the story doesn’t matter: use written case studies, videos, and interviews. What’s important is that you show how your product or services are helping people reach their goals.

The secret to powerful case studies is this: site real numbers and specific details. Notice the headline in this case study for LinkedSelling. It doesn’t site “massive growth” or “impressive returns.” It spells out “400% ROI.”

Case study about how's LinkedIn Campaign Resulted in 400% ROI

b. Endorsements & Testimonials

Make it a regular practice to ask customers for a testimonial. Then use them liberally to sell your product.

Ideally, you’ll collect enough to create a “Reviews” page. This one, from Boom! by Cindy Joseph, starts off with text reviews…

list of testimonials from moisturizer company

…followed by a collage of images showing how well the product works on real women:

 images with testimonials for moisturizer company

When you get a testimonial from someone with celebrity status—either because their name or the company they work for is easily recognizable—by all means, feature it. On Single Grain, this testimonial by the Director of Marketing for Amazon Alexa carries weight because we believe anyone who works for Amazon knows their stuff.

Single Grain ad with testimonial from Amazon employee

As you can see, when other people show confidence in you—especially if it’s someone well-respected by your community—it’s easier for others to trust you too. That makes it easy to push people off the fence and increase customer sales.

c. Customer Logos

Another way to communicate trust is to pull back the curtains a bit and let prospects see who else uses your product. When they see brands they respect on the list, you gain instant credibility.

For example, this impressive list shows you how many big brands trust Single Grain.

spread of company logos with button at bottom that says "view case studies"

Notice the link to “view case studies” prominently displayed below the graphic. This makes it easy for prospects to get even more details about how Single Grain works.

PRO TIP: Any time you can add specifics to your marketing, you boost your credibility. So turn all general statements into specifics by adding precise numbers, brand names, and facts.

2. Scarcity

As soon as you hear something is off limits, you want it.

Cialdini calls this “The Rule of the Few.” He says:

The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.

It’s true. As soon as you hear something is off limits, you want it. If a book is going out of print, you want to buy it. And if a product is only available until midnight tonight—even if you don’t need it right away—you’re inclined to buy it… just in case.

That’s how scarcity drives customer sales. It makes you aware that you might miss out if you don’t take action.

What This Means for Marketers

Consider Black Friday offers that promote just 100 electronics at 75% off or an 80% discount only till 10 am The fact that the offer is limited drives people to stand in line for hours before the store opens or to physically wrestle with one another for the prize.

How can you do this in your digital marketing? Check out this email from DigitalMarketer’s Founder and CEO, Ryan Deiss:

Email containing several examples of scarcity

Ryan is a master at leveraging scarcity in his marketing. Look at how he piles it on in this email:

  • There’s a “special link” that gives you a discount. “Special” makes you believe it’s not available to everyone, which creates a feeling of exclusivity.
  • The discount is only available through Monday at midnight. So there’s a time limit pushing you to respond now.
  • Seats sell out every year. If you don’t act quickly, you could miss your chance to attend.
  • And if you don’t honestly believe the event will sell out, you might be motivated by the “best seats” reference. Again, a bit of exclusivity makes you feel you might miss something if you don’t click through and buy your ticket.

Scarcity can be achieved through limited inventory, a deadline, or making something only available on certain dates or times. You can use it in emails to make people click through, in your sales pages to make people take action, and as a value-add offer before or after purchase.

PRO TIP: Any time you can reduce or reverse risk, you’ll improve response rates. Absorb as much of the risk as possible with a strong guarantee, lengthy trial period, or ridiculously low price.

3. Sensory Language

Deep in your brain’s temporal lobe is an almond-shaped cluster of neurons that some experts call your lizard brain. Known as the amygdala, this primitive part of your brain is both pre-verbal and pre-logical. So it can trigger action before you have time to think about it.

Neuromarketers also call it a “buying brain,” because pushing its buttons leads to a Buy Now response that’s almost instinctive. Here’s how Dr. A. K. Pradeep says it in his book The Buying Brain:

The basic lesson is that human brains process much of their sensory input subconsciously.

Our senses are taking in about 11 million bits of information every second.

Our thinking brains—that part of thinking in which we are aware of thinking—can only process, at best, 40 bits of information per second.

The subconscious level of the brain is where elements that are essential to marketing success such as initial product interest, purchase, intent, and brand loyalty are formed, and where they reside.

In other words, spark desire by connecting with people’s primitive brain, and you can generate a buying response without manipulating anyone. People want to buy without knowing why.

The result? More customer sales.

What This Means for Marketers

Research shows that mirror neurons (that’s the monkey-see-monkey-do thing we talked about a few minutes ago) can be stimulated by reading as well as observing. For example, read this:


Just reading the word makes you want to yawn.

That’s especially good news because you can’t pump smells and velvety softness over the internet. But you can stimulate the subconscious with sensory words.

Engaging the buying brain is as simple as tickling the five senses in your writing. Sight is easy (pictures). But you can also evoke scents, touch, sounds, and taste. Let me show you what I mean in this example from Lawrence Bernstein.

Copy containing several sensory language examples

“Like the windows in a store” creates a mental image. (I visualize a big display window with mannequins in high-fashion dresses.)

“Created on the fly” gives you a sense of speed or motion.

Circled words—meltexplosiveverbal dynamite—are sensory. You can see, feel, or hear them.

He could also have said something like this:

  • Pepper your writing with these irresistible words and your prospects will feel compelled to buy.” (Taste)
  • “Build a rock-solid foundation for your sales pitches by using words that hit hard as nails.” (Touch)

Now notice how naturally these words fit into the copy. Sensory writing is nothing more than good writing. It reads naturally and isn’t likely to be perceived as hype or manipulation. But it excites people’s primitive brain and makes them more likely to respond.

PRO TIP: After you’ve written your sales page, go through it to find places where sensory language could be added naturally. In particular, replace being verbs (is, was, are) with active verbs and make sure you help people see themselves using your product.

Selling to the Subconscious

Your customers may love to buy, but they don’t want to be sold.

Your customers may love to buy, but they don’t want to be sold. Your job, then, is to sell your product to the subconscious brain, so you trigger desire before they know what hit them.

Fortunately, it’s easy if you sprinkle your sales copy with social proof and sensory language, then mix in an element of scarcity.

Before you know it, you’ll have people drooling over your products without ever knowing why.

Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn Aragon

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