What’s your “emotional” selling proposition?

USP-to-ESPWhat’s in a brand? To some, branding is company’s logo. To others it’s the product or service sold. Further, it could mean how, where, and with whom a brand is talked about or mentioned, and how readily a brand is referred to someone else.

Neuromarketers and psychologists have found from various studies that 90 percent of what we do is driven by our unconscious minds. Yet marketing, branding, promotions and sales initiatives have always been targeted toward the conscious mind, meaning that we are wasting 90 percent of our efforts and budgets by appealing to only 10 percent of our customers’ decision triggers.

Psychological relevance is manifest through words, offers, colors and projected values of a brand’s communications, iconology, marketing campaigns and so on. Even the fonts used in an ad can unconsciously influence our attitude and perceived value of a brand. As we align with people and brands that we believe have our same values, it is critical that all aspects of your promotions—the materials you use, incentives you offer and more—project the person and values most associated with your customers.

The saying “people buy on emotion and rationalize with logic” has been around for a long time. If you were to stop and think about your buying experiences, whether personal or business, virtually all discretionary purchases are triggered by an emotional trigger at some point in the buying process. It could be the product color, trend, the seller’s stature or reputation, the feeling from an ad, the relationship or interaction of the salesperson, the need to act spontaneously, the satisfaction of being done with it, a sense of accomplishment… it’s endless. Without often realizing it, our subconscious is hard at work pushing buttons and flipping switches in our mind that lead to decisive thoughts and actions taken.

In the typical sales and marketing strategy process, sooner or later we craft and arrive at defining our company or organization’s unique selling proposition (USP); that part of our business or organization that defines us. This is certainly a valuable rallying point, but if our subconscious drives 90 percent of what we do, and we generally buy on emotion, then might we be better served by crafting and defining an ESP (emotional selling proposition) instead?

No marketer can truly deliver psychologically relevant experiences or communications without first understanding the ESP of its product category and then its own brand. It’s critical to put processes in place to monitor the changing attitudes and demands of consumers, and which emotions are behind most of their thoughts and actions. I recommend developing ESPs for your brand which address the emotional fulfillment you provide vs. just the tangible or physical aspects of your product or service. Once you define this value, you can develop ESPs for the various segments or personas associated with your category and brand. The ESP profiles should address the generational elements (e.g., different levels of trust and brand engagement from millennials to boomers; social influencers, such as authority; and the psychological triggers, like risk aversion; and how loss/rewards elements apply to your category).

Taking this a step further, if buying is heavily influenced by emotion, it stands to reason people buy more and more often when they are happy! In keeping with the emotional triggers mentioned earlier, happiness can mean the ease of the buying experience, the friendliness of the seller, the problem your product solves, timeliness, choices and selection, problem resolution, return policy, how you answer the phone or greet the customer on the sales floor… and more.

Developing ESPs vs. USPs is a powerful way to differentiate a brand. When you can assign an emotional value to a non-emotional product, you gain engagement, trust, and often a chance to talk to customers personally in order to spark a profitable relationship.

Nothing is unique in any market anymore. The way to stand out in any market with any product is to deliver emotional fulfillment associated with purchases in a given industry. Are people anxious or nervous about making a purchasing mistake and thus jeopardizing their job security? Align your product with the confidence they need to succeed, and the fulfillment of the personal and professional goals they have, and you will stand out and beat any competitor.

The bottom line is, you want to operate in a manner that creates happiness for your customers. When you achieve this goal, you in turn experience happiness personally as it provides a sense of accomplishment, security for a job well done and anticipation of the rewards associated with meeting your business goals. Research shows us that when these personal needs are filled during the sales process for B2B purchasers, customers are much more likely to buy and are eight times more likely to buy for reasons other than price. Owners and sales teams need to identify the happiness triggers for their purchasers, and deliver on those needs if they want to succeed

Portions of this article are reprinted from the article Brand Power by Elise Hacking Carr in the May 2016 edition of Print+Promo Magazine