Put Your Prospect in the Mood to Buy

Michael Masterson has said many times that great copy succeeds “at the margins.” You can't hope to convert someone who has absolutely no interest in your product. And it's no great feat to make a sale to people who already have a great desire for it.

The difference between a blockbuster package and a mediocre one is persuading the people who are at the margin. So to have a successful control, you have to give these people that extra push.

If the copy is good, this extra push comes from the design of your package.

The design should create the right “emotional context” – the visual selling environment. It should put your prospect in the right mood to purchase by reflecting the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and by reflecting the person you're selling to.

To determine the best emotional context to reach your prospect, think in terms of opposites. Ask yourself the following six questions about your product:

  1. Affordable or expensive?

    Here's a true story from Michael Masterson that demonstrates the importance of this question:

    “Many, many years ago, I walked into a travel agency, feeling I couldn't afford anything. But my bargain-hunting eye spied a cheap-looking flyer selling a Canary Islands vacation for $289. I booked it, and it turned out to be a great vacation.

    “I found out many moons later that my boss at the time had promoted that trip. He told me he'd spent six months trying to promote the package unsuccessfully with fancy 4-color glossy brochures. One day, he realized he was sending the wrong signal and switched to cheap offset on garish yellow stock. The brochure's message was, ‘I'm cheap! Look here!’ And business boomed.

    “He was right. There were dozens of brochures on that rack when I walked into the travel agency that day, but I only looked at one. Had I not been drawn to the tacky look of the advertising, I probably would have turned around and walked out – that's how sure I was that I couldn't afford any of those packaged trips.

    “When people want to buy cheap, they look for cheap-looking marketing packages. When they want to buy quality, they look for quality. You've got to focus on and accentuate whatever your market values.”

  2. Friendly or exclusive?

    If you're trying to convey that the offer is meant for an exclusive group, your design should look elite and exclusive. If you're using a friendly and down-home approach, you'll want a very simple, unobtrusive layout.

  3. Informal or formal?

    The level of formality in your design is usually determined by the price of the product. The more expensive the product, the more formal the design. But not always. Sometimes, if you are selling a cheaper product to an older audience, it's better to have a formal look.

  4. Conservative or contemporary?

    Whether to choose a conservative or a contemporary look for your package usually depends on the age of your prospect. Older audiences are wary of hip designs. Conversely, a younger audience doesn't respond well to anything too stodgy or drab.

  5. Entrepreneurial or corporate?

    Do your prospects see themselves as independent trailblazers? Or, are they more concerned with job security and edging their way up the corporate ladder? Let your design reflect these orientations.

  6. Innovative or established?

    How do you want to present yourself to your prospect? Does your credibility focus on new hot ideas … or established, tried-and-true formulas?

Use these six questions as starting points to help decide on the type and feel of the design you use for a promotional package. You'll design for your prospect's emotional state … and your design will increase the package's success “at the margins.”

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Published: December 15, 2005

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