The Psychology Behind Effective Marketing

Too often, writers and artists look at marketing as a necessary evil. Something that they put off doing until they absolutely have to. Since it is uncomfortable, they look for easy tricks and trends to get through it quickly.

They treat marketing their books like you would take a hot tray out of the oven… in a rush, barely grasping it, and then throwing it down to avoid injury.

But that is a surefire way to never get good at sharing your work in a meaningful way. To never have it connect with real people. To never understand how marketing really works: through deep connections between people who care.

Like me, maybe you have likely clicked on headlines like these over the years:

“The shockingly simple trick you must know to get sales on Amazon.”
“What book influencers are doing on Instagram in 2020.”
“5 tips (and 3 must avoid mistakes) of email newsletters for authors.”

But marketing is not about knowing where the secret buttons are, or some hack that only “influencers” know about.

Marketing is an inherently human activity. It happens in the way we engage; it happens between people we know and like; it happens in deep places in our hearts and minds.

This is what I delve into in my first book, Be the Gateway, and what my next book, Share Like it Matters, takes to the next level. If you want to get good at creating and sharing your work in a meaningful way, look below the surface to understand the psychology of why people take actions. What gets their attention. You have heard me talk about this in the past when I mention the idea of human-centered marketing.

Recently I was chatting about this topic with Tad Hargave. I first came to know him through his website called “Marketing for Hippies.” He works with what he calls holistic practitioners to help them get more clients and grow their business.

There are several things that have always intriqued me about the way Tad talks about marketing. One is that much earlier in his career, Tad worked for a Tony Robbins franchise. He says he learned sales from the teachings of Tony, Tom Hopkins, Brian Tracy, and Zig Zigler. Describing their methods, he says that explicit in that training is that the goal is to get the sale. If you didn’t get the sale, you failed, period. Are you cringing yet? I get it. But I always liked that he had this kind of background, because he was someone who was deep in the trenches of what I would call “high pressure sales,” and then came out the other side of it. That isn’t how Tad works now.

If you want to dive deep into the topic of psychology and marketing, listen to this one-hour chat with Tad and I on my podcast, The Creative Shift.

Here are some key takeaways:

If You Are Uncomfortable With Marketing, Do This…

If you are uncomfortable with marketing, then don’t worry about doing it. Instead, consider who else is really good at marketing you. Who is that? The people who love your work. So then your marketing activities don’t become focused on you shouting about your work, but instead, it is about you making it easy for others to share about you and your work.

Engage a Small Audience, Instead of Trying To Go Viral

Tad and I discussed the concept of filtering: ensuring the person is the right fit for your creative work. This is a really intriguing step, where you only want to sell books to people who will love it, get newsletter subscribers from people who will love hearing from you, etc. It is about embracing the idea of a smaller but more engaged audience, rather than “going viral” online.

Focus on Trust in the Process of Marketing

Lower the risk for someone about to take the next step. An example here is that as someone pulls out their credit card to sign up for one of Tad’s workshops, he pauses and asks “Are you sure?” Since trust is such a big part of this connection, pausing to ensure they aren’t taking too big of a risk on the wrong thing is critical to him. That’s not always common in marketing — where the web is littered with “one-click marketing funnels” where a stray click of a mouse gets you into someone’s email newsletter list, and a sequence of 20 emails meant to convert you from a prospect to a lead to a sale.

The One Type of Marketing That Matters More Than All Others

Tad and I talk about how word-of-mouth is the sustainable approach to marketing. Sure, it is the long-game, the one that you have to invest in over time. But it is also the one that not only feels good, but produces results. It’s the opposite of the boxed cake mix where you just add water. Instead, word-of-marketing is akin to inviting friends over to cook a meal all evening long.

What that means is that word-of-mouth marketing is about the things that humans do best: develop trust. Share. Give. Show up consistently over a long period of time. Share what we create and why in a range of meaningful ways.

The Role of Tension, Seduction, Fear of Missing Out, and Charisma in Marketing

We dig into psychological triggers in the marketing process. A common one is “fear of missing out,” (also referred to as FOMO) which is where someone is more likely to take the action to buy if they feel they will lose something if they don’t act quickly. This is why you will see countdown timers on sales pages, or you will get 3 emails in the same evening before someone’s promotion ends: 4 hours left! 1 hour left! 10 minutes left!

But you also see FOMO in common sales processes. On Amazon they may say “only 16 left in stock!” Airbnb will tell you “4 other people are looking at this property right now!” Reverb (a website where you can buy used musical instruments) tells you that “3 other people have this in their cart right now!.)

FOMO is a part of the offline sales process too. The car dealer who makes a pained face saying, “Gee, I just have one left in stock in the color you want. I actually just got a call this morning from a guy who was looking for that color too.”

Tad brought up other concepts in the marketing process, such as the role of tension or even seduction. He gives examples of someone who goes to a big event saying to themselves “I’m not going to buy what they are selling,” only to end up doing just that by the end of the day.

For many of these psychological triggers, knowing about them can allow you to use them in meaningful — ethical — ways. In ways that actually bring people closer to creative work that they will love. Likewise, knowing about them allows you to be more mindful of what you want to avoid.

A lot of what Tad and I discussed can be summed up in this question: What if marketing wasn’t about trying to convince, seduce, or persuade just anyone from buying, but about you sharing what you have with the people for whom it would be a great fit?

For the full conversation, you can listen here!