Learn Buyer Psychology
15 Marketing Lessons From Infomercials
The following is an excerpt from Max Altschuler’s new book Career Hacking for Millennials: How I Built A Career My Way, And How You Can Too.
All this will help you learn about and interact with people. So will studying buyer psychology. As you spot opportunities and work your way up in your career, you’re going to need people to “buy” what you’re offering — yourself as an employee, your idea for the business, the reason you should get the promotion, etc. So take some time to dig into this.
You know what’s a great source of wisdom on this? Infomercials. I love watching good ones. Most infomercials have 30 minutes to wow buyers. Viewers can’t ask questions, so they prepare with tons of market research to predict what the viewer is likely to think and want to hear next. Watching QVC or “As Seen On TV” commercials has taught me more about buyer behavior than any book or college class.
One of my favorites is a 28-minute Ronco video pushing a “food dehydrator and veg-o-matic.” It provides a perfect blueprint for things to hit on when creating any kind of marketing — whether a product pitch or a resume. In addition to following the SCQA storytelling method I discussed, it also includes:
- Social proof: Great marketing includes third-party reviews from respected publications such as Time and Forbes. This infomercial has that, as well as professional chefs, heart doctors, chicken farmers, and even audience members of different ages, genders, and languages. It sends the message that experts recommend this. Apply this same idea to building your career by getting lots of recommendations and endorsements, and by getting colleagues to support you.
- Target buyer segments: Buyers with similar profiles to target consumers are shown liking and appreciating the product. In the infomercial, you see a trendy dieter, hardcore foodie, coupon cutter, and busy parent. Words from someone who comes across as being like you are powerful in influencing purchase decisions. In your career, get references from people who match all sorts of profiles, and share those with people in similar positions when you want something.
- Convenience: To sell, always make clear that whatever you’re offering is easy to use and saves time. (Remember, time is money, or even more precious than money.)
- Durability: Whatever you’ve got, show that it’s strong enough to last. In this infomercial we actually see someone using a hammer, ostensibly to try to break the device. In your career, it can mean showing that your idea for a business is proven to make a long-lasting impact.
- Broader good: It helps sway people to show them that they would not only be saving money but also doing something for the broader good. This infomercial says that it leads you to use less power, so your electric bills drop and you can help save the Earth. In your career, show how hiring you, promoting you, or letting you run a project would lead not only to profits and cost savings, but also a chance to advance the company’s values. (These are often in brand statements or corporate statements of purpose.)
- Style: The infomercial makes the device look great, and offers it in multiple colors to fit your kitchen. Whatever you’re offering, always make it look its best. People respond to aesthetics. At Apple, Steve Jobs was obsessed with minute details of design. For you, this can mean “dressing for the job you want” or coming across in other ways — through social profiles and more — as fitting right in with the style of that job.
- Multiplying sales: When the opportunity is ripe, expand your sale. This infomercial encourages you to buy one for yourself and buy more for friends. In your career, if you spot an opportunity, encourage your boss to give you even more projects, resources, or time for learning.
- Upsells: You also expand your sale through offering higher levels or add-ons. Ronco pushes skewers and other implements to make the product even more useful. In your career, this principle could mean telling potential funders for your idea that if they invest more, they stand to gain more.
- Clever pricing models: Rather than selling the product for $100, the company offers “five easy payments of just $19.99.” The use of multiple smaller payments helps convince people to buy. And, yes, all those nines instead of whole numbers help do the trick. They’ve been called “charm prices” using the “left-digit effect” — since we read the left-most digit first, people psychologically feel more comfortable with the purchase. In your career, this can mean, for example, offering to start at a lower salary with scheduled increases over time.
- Payment options: Offering many ways to pay helps. The infomercial let’s people use credit or pay straight from their bank accounts. As you build your career, particularly when you do freelance or consulting work, giving people many convenient ways to pay you can make a big difference.
- Guarantees: Offering money-back guarantees can be a big help in selling. They “evoke a positive emotional response, thereby increasing consumers’ purchase intentions and willingness to pay a price premium,” three researchers reported in the Journal of Retailing. Think about applying this to your own career by saying something like, “If I don’t do a fantastic job for you, we can always part ways. But I will.”
- Scarcity and urgency: The infomercial drills in the idea that the deal being offered won’t last long. How many times have you heard something like, “While supplies last,” and, “You’d better act now!” These tactics work, with help from “FOMO” — the natural psychological fear of missing out. In your career, it can always be helpful to make clear that you have multiple opportunities, hear from headhunters, and are considering options.
- Memorable: You want people to remember what you offered. The more you do that, the more likely they are to eventually buy. The Ronco infomercial, like most product advertisements, uses a tagline designed to stick in your head. This same idea applies to marketing yourself, through your own resume and interview. Hiring managers who remember you and think of you positively are more likely to hire you.
- Repetition: Repeating key points can drive home a message and boost sales. There’s a so-called “Law of Seven,” suggesting that people need to hear something seven times before they take action. It’s also known as “effective frequency.” But it can lead to fatigue, making the consumer or hiring manager never want to hear about what you’re offering ever again. So be careful not to overdo it.
- Clear call to action (CTA): “Call to order now!” The infomercial pushes you to buy, and buy now, with no meetings or next steps necessary.
They know their audience, and they’ve researched this sales process to a T. This is buying psychology at its finest.
Enjoy this article? Grab a copy of Career Hacking for Millennials by Max Altschuler! Learn how to:
- Build your brand and expertise
- Choose the right company and boss
- Negotiate for promotions and raises
Max’s proven strategies will help you achieve greater success and earn more money in less time. Check it out.