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Is marketing manipulative?

This is the second part of an article designed to share with you some of the marketing industry’s secrets that can influence or manipulate people’s perceptions of brands or organisations, to ultimately impact on their buying decisions.

Here are three of the marketing tools used to influence or trick you, with tips on how you can ethically use them in your business to help it grow. Hopefully this will also help you make better buying decisions as you recognise what tools are being used to influence your decisions.

Marketing tool 3: Persuasive marketing

On a first date you would make an effort to look compelling and impressive, or you would arrange to go somewhere that was persuasive or memorable.

This is also what marketers do in trying to persuade people to respond to an organisation or brand in a certain way.

For example, marketers understand that consumers are more receptive to food advertising when they are hungry, so they often schedule snack advertisements late in the afternoon when they are likely to be looking for a snack or thinking about what to do for dinner.

Marketers also know people have a preference to turn right instead of left, which is why most supermarkets are designed to be one long journey throughout the entire store from left to right, and cheaper through to more expensive.

How can you use persuasive marketing to encourage people to take notice of your business? Get to know your ideal customer. The idea is not to convince them of something that they do not want or need. If you do that you are being manipulative and are not likely to have repeat business or positive word-of-mouth regarding your business.

However, if you can really get to know your ideal customer and discover what they want, how they want to receive your product/service, what motivates and influences them, and how to best communicate with them, then you can make your marketing more compelling to your ideal customer.

Marketing tool 4: Big claims

Be wary of big claims that businesses make about themselves, such as being ‘the best’, ‘most popular’ or ‘in the top three’. On what basis can they make that claim?

I’ve seen marketing case studies where an organisation has actually not received good success in a particular marketing activity, so they say something like “we received a 40% increase on sales expectations“. Yet they may have only received 10 new customers!

Also be wary of businesses promoting awards and industry recognition that they may have received. If the award isn’t judged by experts but is by the number of nominees, that is a popularity contest, not necessarily a judge of quality. Also, if only 5 businesses enter a category, is that really credible?

Don’t be fooled by claims of success that are not easily backed up with proof or fair explanation.

How can you use this tool to benefit your business? Awards and recognition are a great opportunity to demonstrate credibility and excellence for your business, however misleading claims are leading to people being more and more skeptical. Make sure you include some detail in your claims to prove that they are genuinely impressive and legitimate.

Marketing tool 5: Personalised messages

A marketer that really understands their target audience will know what makes them tick, what concerns them, how they like to receive communication, and what needs to be said to get their attention. To the receiver of these messages, they feel like the business really understands them and this influences their perception of the business.

How can you use this tool to benefit your business? Be very targeted in your marketing approach and give careful attention to your selection of copy (wording), graphics, offering and marketing tools. We all receive so many messages and sales pitches every day, you need to stand out as knowledgable, understanding, approachable and trustworthy.

Have you ever used any of these tools to market your business? What are your thoughts on the ethics of persuasive and influential marketing tools?

What do you think?

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Phoebe Netto

Phoebe Netto

Phoebe Netto is the Managing Director of Good Business Consulting, a business advisory specialising in marketing and public relations (PR) for small-to-medium sized businesses. Phoebe has lead PR and marketing programs for a diverse range of clients, from listed Australian companies, global brands, not-for-profits through to sole operators. She now takes these skills that are often reserved for big businesses, and uses them to help good small businesses grow and meet their objectives by retaining their customers and attracting new ones. Follow Phoebe on twitter for PR, marketing and small business advice, plus a little nonsense! @Phoebe_Netto

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