It is estimated that fully 84% of purchase decisions today are based on word of mouth, or how other people talk about your products and services amongst themselves. The whole purpose of advertising is to get people to try your products or services initially with the hope that they will be so satisfied that they will buy again and tell others.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence, explains that “social proof” is a major influence factor determining whether or not people buy or don’t buy from you. The most important part of social proof is the perceived similarity of the person recommending the product to the person hearing the recommendation. For example, if you are an executive and you learn that “other executives” rate a product or service highly, you will be more influenced to try it that if you heard that “doctors” or “lawyers” had used it and approved of it.
Successful companies give a lot of thought to the way they want customers to think and talk about them. They organize all of their marketing and selling activitiesaround generating and creating a perception in the mind of the prospect that leads to purchases and repurchases.
What Words Do You Own?
Professor Leon Festinger of Harvard developed a concept that he called “attribution theory” to explain how people make decisions and come to conclusions. He found that people usually think in terms of a phrase or even a single word when they think of a particular product or service. Whatever this word happens to be has an inordinate impact on their decision to buy or not to buy.
For example, IBM means “excellence.” MacDonald’s means “convenience.” Nordstrom’s means “service.” Federal Express owns the word “dependability” in overnight delivery. Deliberately or accidentally, each product or service develops a reputation that positions it against its competitors. What is yours?
Choose Your Words Carefully
Reis and Trout suggest that you select the word or words that you want to own in the mind of your market and then do everything possible to seize and take control of those words, defending them against all comers.
For example, my teenage sons have a single criterion for movies. It is the word “Action.” If it is an action picture, they will see it. If it is not, they are not interested. My older daughter prefers movies that are designated as “Romance” movies or what she sometimes calls “Chick Flicks.” My youngest daughter, ten years old, only wants to go to “children’s” movies. If you want to attract them, you have to position your movie with those words.
Mercedes owns the words “Quality Engineering.” BMW owns the words “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” Dominos Pizza owns the words “Fast Delivery.” In every case, they have built their success on creating and maintaining this perception in the minds of their customer markets.
Create Your Own Cheat Sheet
Here is the question. What words do you own? What words should you own in the hearts and minds of your prospective customers? What words could you own if you were to reorganize and redirect your marketing efforts?
As an exercise, imagine one of your prospects meeting with one of your customers. Imagine that your customer called you and asked you what you would like him to say to your prospect to convince your prospect to buy from you?
If you could put together a “cheat sheet” with the exact words or phrases that you would like your customer to leave in the mind of your prospect, what words would you choose? Would you choose words like excellent quality, high integrity, friendly service, nice people, quick responses to problems, easy to work with, great prices? How do you want to be described by your customers and potential customers? Of all the words and phrases that customers could use to describe your products and services, and your company, which would be the most helpful for you and your business?
Once you are absolutely clear about the positioning that you want to achieve, you must then organize every customer interaction, every product and service, every element of sales, delivery and distribution so that those words are the final impression left in your customer’s mind. This is the key to positioning yourself for great success in a competitive marketplace.
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