Getting Your Customers to Hold It, Love It, and Give It Money

“The problem,” I politely told Carl, “is that you aren’t showing them the puppy.”

“The puppy?” he asked.

“Yeah. The puppy. What you’ve got here, what you’re featuring, it’s all custom leashes, organic Alpo, and tips on how to house break in a day. Don’t get me wrong: all that’s great. But nobody buys a pet or anything to do with pets with their heads.

“They buy because they saw the puppy. Or because their kids or their wife or their husband saw the puppy.

“Whoever it was, somebody along the line locked eyes with a soulful little Labrador and went to pieces. And that, right there, is why they buy.”

Carl looked at me, then at the screen in front of us, then back to me.

“People buy because of a connection,” I went on. “They buy with their hearts. Sure, you have to give ‘em intellectual justifications or they might bring it back the next morning.

“But really, people buy because of a deep down, gut level, all I want to do is hold it, love it, and give it money connection.”

After a long pause, Carl finally whispered, “But we don’t sell puppies. We sell gym memberships.”

“Exactly … and that’s the problem.”

Carl’s problem (not his real name, by the way) is everywhere in the world of online marketing.

Really, it’s everywhere in sales. Period.

In fact, my guess is Carl’s problem is your problem: it all comes down to the puppy.

Guy Kawasaki, in his 2011 masterpiece Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, puts it like this:

There are many tried-and-true methods to make a buck, yuan, euro, yen, rupee, peso, or drachma.

Enchantment [what I’m calling “the puppy”] is on a different curve. When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.

You’ve heard it before.

  • You don’t sell the drill. You sell the hole.
  • You don’t sell the steak. You sell the savor.
  • You don’t sell the guitar. You sell the music. Or — depending on your audience — you sell girls and glory.

In other words, unless how you’re selling makes your audience want to hold it, love it, and give it money … you’re not selling it right. And honestly, you might not be selling it at all.

So, how do you “show ‘em the puppy”?

Here are three tips to help you get started:

1. Use emotive language in two ways

First, identification.

If I know how you feel, especially how you hurt, and can articulate it clearly, you’ll trust me.

This means your starting point is always: “Where is my audience right now and how do they feel: stressed, harassed, overwhelmed, afraid, overlooked, alone, etc.?”

Second, solution.

Even more important, if I can tell you how you’re going to feel, then you won’t just trust me, you’ll buy.

The point here is not to major on what you’re actually going to sell me — not the product itself, its features, nor even its benefits — but instead on how I’ll actually feel once it’s in my life: relived, amped, safe, inspired, cool, sexy, smart, etc.

“Feelings Wheels” (like the one below) are outstanding linguistic hacks to help you really pinpoint and vividly articulate these emotional states.

Feelings Wheel

2. Think salvation, not sales. Theology, not transactions.

Ask yourself, “What hell does my product save people from? And what heaven does it deliver them unto?”

There are lots of hells and good marketing takes advantage of them all the time. There’s no-time hell, stressed-out hell, bored hell, out-of-shape hell, lonely hell, over-worked hell, no-budget hell, debt hell, bad-hygiene hell, low-CTR hell, human-relations hell, disorganized hell … you get the idea.

3. Be concrete. Be specific. Be precise.

Life is lived in the details.

And details aren’t just where pitches come alive; it’s also where they go to die. Don’t tell me your product is “full service” and “lots of people use it.”

Instead, tell me I’ll never have to pull my hair out again wandering through page after page of FAQs because you (or a real person just like you) are going to walk with me through the entire how-to-use-and-get-to-know-this-product phase. Tell me that you’ll hold my hand if I really get scared. And then give me social proof from a whole host of other once-struggling-now-successful someones just like me.

Oh, and one last thing, don’t ever say you sell gym memberships. Weight Watcher’s doesn’t sell food, accountability, or books; they sell beauty, hope, and change.

Carl didn’t sell gym memberships; he sold strength, success, and brand, new yous. At least … he should have been.


Special thanks to Tracy Ricketts, the Director of Development at Oregon Institute of Technology, whose presentation to my Fundamentals of Public Speaking course (SPE111) was the inspiration for this post. In fact, I basically stole it from her. Thanks, Tracy.