Do you know Geico’s tagline?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you can say it by heart:
“Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.”
It’s a strong tagline because it clearly and simply offers the customer something they want: a better deal on car insurance.
Just like Geico, when you identify what your customer wants and communicate it simply, you show them how they fit into your brand’s story. Forging this instant emotional connection with prospects is key to making sales down the road.
But this is about more than just a catchy slogan.
When we communicate a true understanding of what our customers want, they can immediately see their role in the story. Next, they begin to wonder if we can help them achieve their desire. Once they see us as a trustworthy and reliable guide, they are more likely to make a purchase.
But how can you define that desire? Here are three strategies you can use to hone in on what your customer wants, make that emotional connection early, and boost your sales.
Strategy #1: Open a Loop
Try singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” – without singing the final note on the word “are.” It will bother you to no end.
That’s because your brain is hardwired to pay attention to what we call “open loops.” It’s called the Zeigarnik effect, and the idea is that we pay closer attention to those things which aren’t completed. Quite simply, our brain holds onto them, waiting for a resolution.
The opening and closing of loops is a magnetic force that drives much of human behavior. Feeling cold is the opening of a loop and shelter is its closing. Hunger is the opening of a loop and a sandwich is its closing.
They’re also the reason you binge-watched Gilmore Girls last Saturday night. You were trying to close the loop with Luke and Lorelei! Not that I know. Anyway, it’s powerful stuff.
Defining what our customer wants and featuring it in our marketing collateral opens the loop and gets our customers’ brains seeking to close it.
When we don’t open a loop in our customer’s minds, they have no motivation to engage us. There is no tension that demands resolution.
Here’s an example from a real estate agent we’ve consulted with at StoryBrand:
“The Home You’ve Dreamed About”
If you’re a prospective customer, that tagline opens a loop by speaking to your desire for the perfect home — and it’s not the one you’re in now. To close the loop, you need to buy a new house. Better call the agent.
Strategy #2: Pare Down the Customer’s Ambition to a Single Focus
A critical mistake many organizations make in connecting with their customers is trying to make too many connections.
I’ve had countless conversations with frustrated business leaders who push back at this point and say, “Wait, we provide about 27 things our customers want. Can’t we focus on all of them?”
The answer is no. Well, not yet. Until we’ve defined a specific desire and become known for helping people achieve it, too many open loops will just create confusion, not connection.
There’s a reason that screenwriters keep their stories focused.
If Jason Bourne wanted to know who he was, and also lose 30 pounds, and also win the heart of a girl and also adopt a cat, the story would lose the audience in the first half hour. Why? Because we’d be forcing the audience to burn too many mental calories trying to close all those hopeless story loops.
It’s best to focus on one simple desire. Then, as we create campaigns for specific products and services, we can break things down a little further.
The most important challenge for us as business leaders is to simply define what our customers want and then become known for providing it.
Until we are known for solving one problem, scratching one itch, helping our customer achieve one singular ambition, we risk losing them in the myriad of other corporate messages they encounter every day.
Defining too many desires for our customers is akin to defining no ambition at all. Both paths will bore an audience and they will tune out.
Strategy #3: Choose a Desire Relevant to Their Survival
When you’re defining that singular ambition, make sure it relates to your customer’s sense of survival.
What do I mean by that, exactly?
When I say survival, I’m talking about that primitive desire we all have to live and thrive. If we live in a developed country, survival simply means that we have the economic and social resources to eat, drink, reproduce, and fend off any foes. It’s the stuff we’re hardwired for, and that’s why it’s such a powerful force in your messaging.
We’ll get into some examples in just a minute. But first, let me tell you a story.
Recently, a leadership expert asked me to review his website.
It was clean, clutter-free and didn’t use too many words. Still, he was making one critical mistake, and it was costing him enormous amounts of business.
This guy strove to impart knowledge to potential leaders. He saw himself as a storehouse of leadership resources and wanted to be the guy everybody went to so they could achieve excellence. In fact, his tag line was “Inhale knowledge, exhale excellence.”
How does that ambition relate to someone’s survival? It doesn’t.
Instead of saying “inhale knowledge, exhale excellence,” I recommended he change his tagline to “Helping you become the leader everybody loves.”
Thankfully, he liked the idea, mostly because that’s what he was already doing. Still, defining the desire and connecting it with his customers’ desire for survival — to develop a strong, loyal tribe — made for a much stronger hook.
Let me define a few more examples of desires that are relevant to our survival.
Conserving financial resources
In order to survive and thrive, I may need to conserve resources. In simple terms, this means I may need to save money. If your brand can help me save money, you’ve tapped into a survival mechanism. (Think of Geico from earlier.)
In developed countries, most of our customers have thankfully moved beyond the hunter-gatherer stage of evolutionary development. They are familiar, then, with the notion of opportunity costs. Can your house-cleaning service give me more time to work on other things or more time to spend with family? Then I’m interested.
Building social networks
This is the aspect of survival I leveraged with our business leader’s tagline. If our brand can help us find a loyal tribe or community, we’ve tapped into yet another survival mechanism. We only think we’re being nice when we bring our co-workers coffee, but what if we’re actually being nice because our primitive brains want to make sure we have solid footing in a tribe in case the barbarians come charging over the hill?
Luxury brands like Mercedes and Rolex don’t make much practical sense in terms of survival, right? In fact, spending lots of money buying a luxury car when a more everyday brand would do the trick seems counter to our survival, doesn’t it?
Not when you consider the importance of status. Status, in any tribe, is a survival mechanism. It projects a sense of abundance that we believe will associate us with powerful allies, secure a mate, or repel potential foes. (Think of a lion with a loud roar.)
Side note: this also explains why all fragrance commercials are ridiculous — and yet effective.
The desire for meaning
Viktor Frankl was right when he contended with Sigmund Freud, insinuating that the chief desire of man is not pleasure, but meaning. In fact, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl argued convincingly that we’re actually most tempted to distract ourselves with pleasure when our lives are void of meaning.
So how do we offer potential customers a sense of meaning? We invite them to participate in something greater than themselves. A movement. A cause to champion. Think of TOMS Shoes One for One campaign, and you’ve got the idea.
In business, if we don’t communicate clearly, we falter.
But when we communicate a simple, well-defined desire, everything changes. We can connect instantly with our prospects. We can position ourselves as a trustworthy guide. And we can point to our services and products as the solution that will help our customers resolve the desire and close the loop.
I know these strategies are going to help you uncover what this means for your brand. When you do, it’s going to grow your business like crazy as prospects respond!