The goal of every business, in every channel, is to capture the customer’s attention, and convert them into a sale. In other words, convince them to give you their money instead of giving it to the next guy.
Ever wonder why some people can just sell while others flounder? Why some businesses have very high conversion rates while others in the same industry (with the same products) stare at their single digits in confusion?
Why can a business like Apple literally change the world while making the same type of product other, larger, businesses have pioneered?
Well, let’s ask Mr. Jobs then…
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close, in fact, that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs
The human mind is a complex and powerful thing, and it holds the strings to the purse you want to collect from.
The keys to those purse strings are far deeper than you might imagine…
The following is a real-life example of buyer psychology in action, along with a dissection of what the pieces are and why they make or break the buyer decision.
What Can Two Surgeons Teach Us About Marketing?
This lesson will be housed right inside my own personal experiences.
My wife has breast cancer and is currently going through the long journey towards being cancer-free. At a certain point in her fight, she will have to consider the possibility of a mastectomy to completely remove the cancer, and prevent it from returning.
Now, the breast center she goes to has very talented surgeons on hand to remove her cancer, and all associated tissue, so she can have cancer free life. What those surgeons don’t specialize in is cosmetic reconstruction so she can mentally have the best quality of life possible.
For that, she needs a plastic surgeon.
In many cases, the plastic surgeons work side-by-side with the breast surgeon, so we naturally went to the breast surgeon first for recommendations. After walking out with a list of plastic surgeons the breast surgeon was familiar with and had worked with in the past, we got down to the regular consumer approach of looking at each surgeon’s website.
This is where the wheels fell off for these surgeon businesses.
Our first digital stop was at the website for the surgeon the breast center had the most experience with. Note: the plastic surgeons have no affiliation with the hospital or the breast center. They are private practices.
His website was nice and modern, with clean images and easy navigation. There were images of a very nice office front, and a lot of copy explaining the professionalism of the surgeon and his team, their experience, and the many places they have trained and worked. All in all it was well put-together and very professional; exactly what you’d expect from a surgeon who is paid a substantial amount of money for their high degree of skill.
And it didn’t sell my wife, at all.
The next surgeon on the list had a mediocre website that was sort of clunky. Navigation was adequate and the copy adequately explained the surgeons prowess, training, and experience. He was clearly qualified and had an excellent support team to ensure his patients received the best care possible.
There were no images of his office building, and the copy was sparing on talking about the surgeon. The site itself lacked the modern appeal common with more expensive developers, the text was a bit over sized, and the font choice was less than ideal. All in all, it felt…ordinary in design…
…And it immediately captured my wife’s trust and confidence.
Well, what the hell?
Good web developers command a hefty salary! Why are we paying them all this money if their product doesn’t sell??
Design is not the problem friends…
Both websites reflected a talented and experienced plastic surgeon with a well-trained team. Both surgeons were more than capable of performing the work on my wife with excellent results she would be happy with. Both were local, both had worked with her breast center in the past (with good recommendations) and both had a website capable of explaining all these points.
The critical difference between the two was:
The first surgeon’s site told my wife what their capabilities were with words.
The second surgeon’s site showed my wife what their expertise meant, with before and after images.
Well, that makes sense. But so what? Well, you can’t play the song if you can’t read all the music…
There is a lot at work here, so let’s get deep.
Marketing Success Hinges on Your Audience's Core Needs
Let’s examine this problem in context.
For the most part, a plastic surgeon has a very specific job: make people look and potentially function better through surgery. That’s about it. (Please don’t send me hate mail)
Their function, as a business, is nearly always not critical for survival. Their patients can survive with disfiguring injuries, they just might not be happy about it.
So their core audience, their potential customers, are primarily looking for the professional solution that will fix their appearance or function.
They are afraid of feeling disfigured, of looking like ‘a freak’, and they deeply want to feel ‘normal’ following a traumatic event or disease.
These are very deep and powerful emotions, which means these are also the emotions that drive buying action.
They need a professional solution so their appearance does not make them feel disfigured.
Well, why do images work here and not words?
My favorite topic! Psychology!
Part 1: Always Meet Your Prospects Where They Are
Reaching back to our two potential surgeon’s websites, the first explained in great detail how the surgeon would prevent a patient from feeling disfigured, which means they adequately addressed the prospect’s need.
Where the wheels fell off is they didn’t meet the prospect where they were…in the visual world.
Like we discussed already, the plastic surgeon addresses concerns over appearance, which is entirely visual in nature. Taking it a step further, the prospect who is seeking a plastic surgeon to have an appearance item corrected, is primarily concerned with how others see them.
Ready for the really interesting part?
You’ve experienced this first hand before if you’ve ever gone food shopping while hungry.
Which brings us to part 2…
Part Two: Always Meet Your Prospects How They Are
We’re a few steps deep here so let’s do a recap.
Both plastic surgeons in this example are imminently qualified to perform plastic surgery…Plastic surgeons primarily correct disfigurements that are not critical for survival…So the people seeking plastic surgeons are looking for a solution that makes them feel better, not survive (heavily simplified).
These prospects need to feel better because their disfigurement changes how others technically see them…
…which is actually how they see themselves!
Now, we’re not talking about a prospect looking for a solution to correct how others see them…
…We are managing a prospect that is really (deep down) looking for the solution to how they see themselves (even when completely alone, in the dark, buried under a giant blanket.)
THAT is the deepest buyer power possible!
Time to Put the Puzzle Together
Surgeon #2’s website showcases extremely raw before and after images.
Knowing what we know now, we can understand that when the prospect looks at the before images they don’t see an objective study of post-surgery healing.
They see each horrible scar, terrible divot, and twisted flap of skin. They soak in the blasted battleground that was once the soft, life-giving, essential element of being a woman.
They. See. Themselves.
In that brief moment of temporary transformation, all the feelings of loss, shame, embarrassment, fear, and worthlessness crash down around them with incredible intensity.
Until they look to the next pane…
…And see a truly stunning metamorphosis from hell on earth to…almost normal. A normal that subtly bears the scars of it’s experience but is undeniably, passably, normal. A normal that can reframe their understanding of how others view them (translation: how they view themselves).
That image picks them up from the depths of their shame and shoots them into the sky with potential, possibility, with hope that offers them protection from the darkest parts of themselves.
While I was writing this piece, I asked my wife what the names of the two surgeons were.
She can remember surgeon #2 with complete clarity and conviction, and couldn’t even tell me what surgeon #1’s name was.
Guess who we’re consulting with?
Avoid the Marketing Pitfall: Know Your Audience
So, do I think surgeon #2 purposely set up his website with the maniacal belief that breast cancer survivors would hire him because of his ingenious insight to their minds?
Honestly, I think he just got lucky and figured people wanted to see pictures instead of words.
Despite the probable luck involved, it still worked and now you have a bit of insight into why. In reality, we can’t always rely on luck in sales and marketing. Sometimes, we need to nail it right off the bat and nail it good.
That means knowing our audience on a very deep level, and meeting them where they are and how they are.
In this case, it was the difference between a minor glance and a five-figure service.