This past week, someone sent me this question: “Would you take some time to answer how good marketing is not emotional manipulation/controlling?”
Great question. When you really think of it, marketing is simply a process of getting people to respond to you favorably.
You have something of value (hopefully) and you want to get the word out to your prospective clients with the intention of them taking action to find out more, and ultimately buying your services.
Can this be done without manipulation? Well, it depends on how you define manipulation. And there are two main definitions:
Manipulation 1: The action of manipulating something in a skillful manner.
Manipulation 2: The action of manipulating someone in a clever or unscrupulous way.
So, number two may work to get you clients, but it will ultimately backfire on you. This kind of manipulation is based on some kind of deception or hidden agenda. You know it’s wrong and unethical. But still, you see it a lot of it in marketing and probably always will.
It’s the kind of thing where the deal has a catch, where you promise a lot but don’t deliver, where you say one thing and then change what you say.
Yes, many very “successful” people have been doing that kind of thing for eons, but if you want to be able to sleep at night, I don’t recommend it.
So, let’s talk about “Good Manipulation.”
This is where you use skillful means to get what you want but do it honestly, in a straightforward way.
We do this all the time in every aspect of our lives. We ask for things and we give things in return. Ever notice that if you don’t ask, you usually don’t get what you want?
So, in the game of marketing, we make offers.
We offer a certain product or service in exchange for a certain price. And there are always conditions to every offer.
At its simplest, we expect the product or service to be as described and perform as promised. And we expect payment to be made in a timely manner.
So in business, in marketing, you manipulate the situation by making offers for something valuable in exchange for payment. Simple, right?
But, as you know, when it comes to selling professional services it’s a lot more complicated than selling a bottle of face cream on Amazon!
I’ve found there are three kinds of skillful (and honest) manipulations that you can apply to the process of marketing professional services.
Skillful Manipulation #1 – You need to get the attention of a prospective client so that they will want to know more about what you have to offer.
You can do that in any number of ways. Meet and speak with people at a networking event; give a talk to a professional group; post an ad on Facebook; send a personalized email (and a zillion more).
All of those marketing methods are designed to get attention of some kind from prospective clients.
So, getting someone to pay attention to you is the first offer: “I have something of value here, would you like to know more about it?” And to be successful with this you need to present what you have skillfully, in a compelling way.
It needs to be perceived as valuable, interesting, and special in some way. If you are successful at that, you’ll get the attention and response you want. People will want to know more.
Skillful Manipulation #2 – You need to create an opportunity for a conversation, once you have someone’s attention.
And this is also an offer and an exchange: “In exchange for some of your time would you like to explore how I can help you get a result you want?”
So, obviously, if you didn’t get their attention in the first place and they didn’t see some value in what you have to offer, why would they want to talk to you about how your service can help them?
So getting attention is the key here. Once you have that, you simply have to ask for a conversation. No bad, evil or smarmy manipulation is required.
“Would you like to have a conversation to see if what I offer could help you?”
Skillful Manipulation #3 – You need to have a “selling conversation” where the prospective client sees the full value and opportunity of what you have to offer.
And the first step in that process is really learning what your prospective client wants and needs. Selling always starts with listening and understanding.
And the second step is explaining how what you have to offer will help them get what they want and need. In many ways, it’s more like educating than it is persuading.
If you can do both of those things well, you can make a deal, you can turn a prospect into a client. And they will not feel manipulated, they will feel served.
Ultimately, when your prospect clearly sees that what you have to offer is of great value to them and they trust that you can deliver on your promise, they will pay you what that service is worth to them.
Of course, you have to come to an agreement on a price that will work for you both.
So, to summarize:
Skillful Manipulation #1 – Get some attention for what you are offering.
Skillful Manipulation #2 – Ask for a conversation to explore how your offer can benefit the prospect.
Skillful Manipulation #3 – Have a selling conversation where you match the prospect’s wants and needs to the value that you are offering.
Each of these three skillful manipulations take, well, skill! They take some time to learn, practice and attempt a number of times before you can expect consistent results.
But if you understand that there are essentially three steps of skillful manipulation in marketing, you have a good starting point, something to build on.