For a More Persuasive Website, Sell On Self-Identity

April 11, 20112 Comments

People rarely buy what they buy. Come again?

It’s true — what people buy goes far deeper than tangible products and services. What people really buy are the intangibles beyond what you can see and touch, such as image, security, freedom, peace, and joy.

Are you giving your customers what they really want? Do you know how to?

If all motorcycle enthusiasts wanted was a motorized two-wheel vehicle, then why do some buy BMWs and some buy Harley-Davidsons? It’s not about the steel and the mere functionality; each of these bikes carries an image.

A BMW quietly states sophistication, comfort, and style. A Harley roars, “I’m tough and dangerous, a person to be reckoned with!”

Car buyers want far more than a car; they want a car that proclaims who they are, something that defines them. Mercedes drivers want prestige. Toyota Prius drivers define themselves as sensible and environmentally conscious. Jeep drivers love the image of rugged freedom and virile activity.

Most of our purchasing decisions are made to define ourselves to the world, rather than to fulfill basic survival needs. Abraham Maslow gave us insight into the human psyche with his “heirarchy of needs.”

If you’re trying to fulfill basic needs, you’re way behind the curve of civilization. We’ve conquered survival; now we want self-definition and -actualization.

If you’re selling soap, don’t sell soap; sell environmental consciousness. If you sell food products, don’t sell food; sell health and wellness. If your product is men’s shoes, don’t sell men’s shoes; sell the image of debonair. If your business is women’s hair products, don’t sell shampoo; sell carefree and sexy.

How To Give People What They Want

The how is simple: speak to the intangibles in all of your persuasive website. Help your customers define and enhance their desired self-image by buying your product.

Consider this example of a Bowie knife from Lone Star Cutlery, an online retailer of sport and collectible knives. The current description is nothing but this list of tangible features:

  • High Carbon 440 Steel Sabre Ground Clip Blade
  • Beautiful India Stag Bone Handles
  • Brass Guard and Pins
  • Full Tang Construction
  • Tan Leather Belt Sheath imprinted with “BEAR & SON”
  • Bear & Son Limited Lifetime Warranty

Now watch the knife come alive with the following sample description:

Easy, partner — this 9-inch bad boy bites. If you eat gourmet French food daintily, bask in classical music, and tour in a luxury sedan, this one ain’t for you. This beauty is the Harley-Davidson of cutlery, the rough-and-tumble backwoods brawler for only the toughest of customers.

When you grasp the solid handle and test the balance you’re going to feel the wind in your hair from the plains, see the blue western sky, and ache to be on a wild and dangerous hunt. Yes, sir, there’s power in this broad steel — and only the bravest dare wield it.

And if that’s not you, it’s best if you slowly back away from this here Bowie…

Of course, you and I both know that this knife will never be used on a “wild and dangerous” hunt; it’s going to sit in a display case and rarely be touched, if at all.

But what does it matter — buyers want more than the actual knife; they want the image that the knife represents.

The sample description above sells them what they really want, beyond the steel and bone. They want to feel a surge in their self-image when they pick up the knife.

Ready to improve your persuasive website and explode your sales? For a more persuasive website, sell your customers what they really want — the intangibles of image and feelings.

Speak to their self-definition, rather than to their survival needs. Vividly demonstrate why buying your product is a perfect expression of who they are.

People don’t buy what you see; they buy who they are — at least who they want to be.

Do you know who your customers are? Are you helping them to enhance their self-image?

2 Responses to “For a More Persuasive Website, Sell On Self-Identity”

  1. Delphine says:

    The U.S. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq…$4 TrillionThat’s about $12,578 for every US citizen….. $18,433 for every US tpaaxyer.2011 subsidies to AMTRAK1.485 billion$4.66 for every US citizen.Cost of Curiosity … 2.6 billion$8.16 per US citizen

  2. FastLorene says:

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