I was frantically cleaning my house for a dinner party last weekend when the doorbell rang.
A young girl holding a can of air freshener offered to let me spray the air freshener inside and asked if she could show me something and “ask my opinion.”
I wasn’t born yesterday. It was obvious that she was was trying to sell me something.
The reason I didn’t ask her to leave was I was curious.
I sprayed the apple cinnamon air freshener, and within seconds her partner hustled an enormous vacuum cleaner box down the stairs and into my living room. She swiftly assembled it pushed it across my floor, and after one pass showed me a circular filter covered in dirt from my carpet.
I just bought a vacuum cleaner, and vacuumed my floor ten minutes ago!… I could tell she was trying to get the hook in… and I could sense that this was going to be an expensive vacuum cleaner… I would have told her to leave, but…
For years I’ve been attending AWAI’s annual Bootcamp, where listened to legendary copywriters like Bill Bonner, Drayton Bird and many others talk about copywriting. Year after year, the more experienced (mostly male) copywriters would come back to how they used to rack their brains trying to figure out what “housewives” really wanted.
Because companies were constantly trying to sell things door-to-door to housewives (These days no woman ever calls herself a housewife… but women still buy things from door-to-door salespeople).
Things like cookware, detergent that will get the ring around the collar out, and vacuum cleaners. It is the copywriter’s job to figure out what to say, what emotional buttons to push, to close the sale.
Which brings me to a mind-blowing lesson that I learned from Bill Bonner: Housewives were never interested in products. What they truly want is to be admired for having a beautiful home, envied for having their lives in order, and thought of as someone who is doing things the right way.
I know a lot of people who fit that description, even today.
People don’t want to hear about your products. People are trying to accomplish things in life. If a product will help them accomplish their goals, they will get it.
Which brings me back to the $2,500 vacuum cleaner that I didn’t want.
I didn’t want to buy a vacuum cleaner, but I wanted to admired for my clean and plush carpet. I do not want to be the loser who can’t get the chocolate milk stains out of the living room carpet when guests are on the way. I want to be the perfect hostess, and not a frazzled slob, for a change.
Which brings me to the secret and universal desire of every housewife on the planet. (Honestly, I’m surprised that Bill Bonner didn’t mention this secret desire in his speech. My only explanation for his omission is that he’s obviously not in charge of vacuuming his own house.)
What is the secret desire? Women all want someone else to vacuum living room floor for a change.
Needless to say, I said, “I would love a demonstration!” and pointed my guests to the embarrassing stains.
Sometimes it takes a long time to make a sale ….
Business owners have often told me that they don’t think anyone will read an ad if it’s long. I would argue that if someone is interested in your product or service, they will read as much as they need to before they make a decision.
If you’ve ever wondered why some ads and sales letters are so long, it’s because the writer needs to tell you about every feature and every benefit of the product before trying to ask for the sale.
The saleslady was determined to show us everything that the vacuum cleaner could do, and insisted o shampooing the entire living room floor before she told us the price. She cleaned my ceiling grates and my piano keys. We could tell that this demonstration was going to take awhile.
It took over an hour!
There is a very important reason that I allowed this to go on for as long as I did. I was bribed! The promise of having my carpet cleaned FOR FREE was an enticing bribe for me. It was enough of a bribe that I was willing to put up with an hour-long sales pitch.
Many sales letters can take a long time to read. Video sales letters have a way of sucking you in for a long time too. So why do people read those letters, and sit through those long videos, when they know they are just going to be sold something?
If you are trying to sell one of your products, and you know the sales pitch going to take a long time, find a way to include a bribe.
There are several legal ways you can bribe customers to read on. Here are three ideas.
1. Satisfy their curiosity. Use a headline that piques the reader’s curiosity, but doesn’t give all the information. For most people, it is slightly painful to be faced with an unanswered riddle, and they will read a long letter just to get the answer. An example is the headline, “What never to eat on an airplane.”
2. Offer a premium. In this case, I got a free carpet cleaning. I’ve sat through cookware demonstrations where I was offered a vacation package, have signed up for checking accounts so that I could get a free teddy bear, opened credit cards in order to score a planket (a pillow that turns into a blanket) at the airport, and bought perfume to get the free lipstick. If you haven’t tried using a premium or a giveaway, experiment with it next time you run an ad campaign.
3. Invite them into your inner circle. People love to belong to exclusive groups that allow them to have privileges that other people cannot have. Is there any way that your business can create an special club? For example, if you own a spa, can you create a monthly pampering package where members get a massage and manicure for a fee? I’ve been reading about creating memberships, and increasing profits by coming up with higher priced premium offers (rather than discounts) in Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent. According to Kennedy, your ability to raise your prices is a matter of the language that you use. He said, “When I began simply calling a subscription to my original marketing newsletter a membership in my inner circle, we saw an increase in response to solicitations and were able to inch up the price.” This concept can be applied to any business.
Speaking from one housewife-type to another, your article is spot-on Mandy! I remember those vacuum cleaner salesmen (and they always WERE men) who used to come and offer our family demos in the 60s and 70s. My Mom, no doubt, felt much the same as you did before your dinner party. She wanted her floor professionally vacuumed for free! Remember the encyclopedia salesmen? It wasn’t books we wanted, it was the image of being smart, right? Thanks for the good read!
This time it was two young women selling the vacuum.