How to Market Like a Human

It’s tempting to think that our customers are rational – that they make logical decisions about what to buy and why. But since when have humans made decisions solely with their heads?

Researchers have found that people’s emotional states profoundly impact the decisions they make. Even sunshine can affect the stock market.

There are many different psychological triggers that can make a potential customer more likely to become an actual customer.

Here are a few on which you can easily capitalize in your marketing efforts.

Offer novelty

Humans are naturally attracted to new information — in fact novelty floods our brains in dopamine, acting like a drug that leads us to want more and more.

It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful tech companies focus on releasing a constant stream of new or improved products. iPhone X, anyone? Others draw in users by creating information feeds that continuously refresh novel content.

Focus your marketing efforts on novelty to trigger your potential customers to commit. You can frequently release new products or upgraded versions of your existing products, though make sure that these releases are substantial enough to be worth people’s time, money, and attention. Or, easier, simply include a lot of novel info or new perspectives in your marketing.

If you choose the latter, bonus points if your novel approach to selling your business can…

Project delight

Everyone loves to be delighted. Joy and surprise make us feel good, energized… more alive, even. Considering that people will be more likely to do business with you if you make them feel strongly positive, delight has powerful potential.

Pulling the delight trigger usually means doing things a little differently, with a sense of humor and joie de vivre. This is the reason why one of the most popular marketing automation platforms is represented by a cute, jaunty chimpanzee instead of, say, a picture of an envelope.

What do chimpanzees have to do with marketing automation? Nothing. MailChimp founder Ben Chestnut explains the naming decision this way: “We…had this philosophy when it came to our web design projects: ‘If all else fails, add a monkey. Clients love monkeys.’”

The key is to not take yourself too seriously. Sure, be all business. But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Potential clients will suspect (correctly, let’s hope) that you’re more fun to do business with than your competitors.

Another way to stand out as more human and interesting to work with is to…

Tell stories

Our species has been telling stories to each other for as long as we’ve had language, visual or verbal. Those ancient cave paintings as Lascaux tell pretty action-packed tales about the animals we hunted. It’s how we make sense of the world, forge group identity, and anticipate things to come.

And it turns out that customers, being (hopefully) human, love stories too. There’s a reason many content producers brand themselves as “storytellers” these days. Companies have discovered the power in telling a compelling tale.

Luckily, stories don’t have to be complex or profound. For marketing purposes, it’s best if they’re true and if they carry some element of emotional meaning. Customers are more likely to engage with a company that shares the stories of the founders, the business, or the products than those who hide behind a blank corporate mask.

Use a storytelling approach to give a sense of who you really are and what you believe, and your marketing will naturally draw people in. The personal nature of these stories helps people understand your motivations and makes people feel comfortable with you, which can also help you…

Build a community

Of course we all have a built-in need for social interaction and a feeling of belonging. This is why brands that cultivate a sense of group identity or promote a certain way of life can motivate people to slavish devotion. People want to feel like they’re part of something. Better yet if they feel like they’re part of something that most others aren’t.

In marketing a product, you can apply this trigger literally or figuratively. Creating an online community where people can interact with other like-minded individuals or read content that connects with their specific interests is one strategy. Another is messaging that encourages a feeling of belonging to apply to your target audience, such as using in-group terminology or language, offering special deals or invite-only events, or telling stories that speak to particular pain points.

There are many other psychological triggers you can pull to draw clients in. But whichever of them you use will come more naturally to you if you, like your clients, just…

Be a human

Speak like a human to the humans who you want to do business with. Use language that flows. Avoid acronyms and overly technical language (unless you’re consciously doing the in-group thing). Give people something to smile or laugh about, or something they can relate to.

You’ll be surprised how much easier marketing becomes when you internalize that your potential customers are all just… people.

Katherine Gustafson is a full-time freelance writer specializing in content for mission-driven changemakers such as tech disruptors in fintech, healthcare IT, and B2B SaaS. She also does corporate work on business topics including accounting, management, and innovation for companies such as KPMG, TD Bank, Workday, Avalara, and Adobe. She is the author of a book about innovation in sustainable food, and her writing has appeared in a wide variety of sites and publications including QuickBooks Resource Center, Business Insider, and Forbes. Follower her on Twitter @k_m_g.