Last summer, in Boston for a few days on vacation, I wandered into a local mall.
I ended up in a store that specializes in soaps and bath-type products that look handmade, and have very basic packaging.
Here’s what happened.
It’s a little embarrassing, actually, because I know a lot about marketing and how it works, and I still fell for this approach.
The marketing process begins
When I entered the store, I was approached by a salesperson who asked if I needed help with anything. I deflected her offer, and continued to peruse the products. She asked if I’d visited the store before, and I said yes. (She established a connection).
I looked around at their soaps, which I had purchased before, but I didn’t see anything that looked appealing. Then I moved to the other side of the store, and the salesperson asked me if I was familiar with their skin care line. I said no, I wasn’t.
For the sake of the story, here’s an important detail. I’m in my forties, and my skin still gets oily. I even get the occasional pimple, much to my annoyance.
The salesperson asked me about my skin type. (Established a connection again). I told her about my oily skin, and she offered two solutions. One was a skin treatment with lavender that smelled great, but probably wouldn’t help my skin. The other was a treatment made with charcoal, which would absorb the oil on my face and clear my skin right up. (Established a connection once again, and made a promise).
So I bought it. It was jet black, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
I returned to my hotel room with its snowy white towels. I splashed some water on my face, and proceeded to smear the scrub all over my skin. I rinsed it off, and looked up at my grey-streaked face in the mirror. I looked like a corpse!
I rinsed some more, and finally grabbed a towel to dry my face. I managed to get it all off (leaving the hotel towel grey). Once I finished rinsing out the towel with soap and water, I had to laugh.
I spent nearly $20 on a jar of charcoal paste to smear on my face. How did that happen?
It happened because that salesperson had been well trained to make a connection with everyone who wandered in to her store.
- Established my level of familiarity with the products when she asked me if I’d been there before.
- Asked me what my specific problems were.
- Offered two solutions, one of which was clearly better.
By the time she offered me those products, they seemed like a personalized recommendation. I was sold!
I was so sold that I sauntered back to my hotel, soiled a snowy-white towel, made myself look dead and — by the way — still get the occasional pimple.
These are great lessons for all of us. When marketing is done right, it is a force to be reckoned with. It’s so powerful, it can push people to make irrational decisions.
As people who are trying to master marketing, it’s important to respect this power, remember to use it for good, and do our best to avoid selling people ridiculous products and services.
What do you to keep your marketing ethical, and assure that you can sleep at night? Let’s hear it in the comments.
About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small business owners grow through the power of great design and marketing. She’s published a quick-start guide to creating great marketing materials, called “Five-Ingredient Design Recipes.”
Grab your free copy here!