“Free” and “new”.
They used to be two of the most powerful words in marketing. Today, in the words of copywriting legend, Gary Bencivenga:
“they have become bright red flags that instantly scream to your prospects, throw me away.”
Before you get excited, this isn’t another list of marketing bingo or jargon words. Though some of those are hilarious.
This is a piece to encourage you to avoid the big-claim, big benefits marketing we are immune to and to consider a slightly terrifying, but highly effective, alternative.
Before we get to the alternative, we need to look at why our psychology has prevented traditional marketing messaging from working like it used to.
Please note that this piece is inspired by Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullets. If you are an aspiring copywriter, I recommend you read his bullets directly here. His eloquence is unmatched.
Back to it.
These two words have quickly become the enemy of every advisor, consultant, politician and trainer.
In truth, we are so saturated with big, bold, and unfortunately unrealistic claims, that we immediately reject the concept of them.
Take this supplement twice a day and you’ll be entering a bodybuilding competition in three weeks.
This person made £30 million from a £20 investment. You can do it too.
Buy this wedge and you’ll never thin another golf shot.
… Yeah sure.
We cannot escape these types of messages. They are everywhere. And even if some of them are genuine offers, we have trained ourselves to be completely anesthetized to them.
If you want physical proof of this, take a look at your Junk or Spam in your Inbox. Mail servers are saying “Yeah Sure” to these adverts before you even get the chance to.
So, if we don’t pay attention to “free” or “new”, does that mean all of our lead magnets should include a cost component, or that we should launch an innovative service and product without telling anybody?
Bypass the Mental Spam Filter
I’ll say it (with a grimace on my face). Not everything we try in marketing works.
An example from around two years ago. We were retained by a physician who, despite an outstanding academic and training background, was struggling to get patients for their independent practice.
They had recently launched, were seeing about four or five people a week and had incredibly ambitious goals. At this point, they were already offering complimentary consultations.
We thought (the client and I) that emphasizing the “no-cost” consultation would be the short-term answer to their problem.
We were wrong.
We found, after just over a month of testing, that we were receiving many more appointment requests, but that around a third of these potential patients didn’t show up to their consultation.
Why not? Why would anybody turn down the opportunity for a FREE consultation with a ridiculously talented surgeon?
It’s simple. They didn’t take us seriously.
We quickly changed what we were doing.
We knew that advertising a “Complimentary Consultation” would only get us so far. But we still wanted to help people who may not have been able to afford the consultation fees.
We changed only one thing. It reduced our no-show rates to almost 0% AND still allowed us to maximise visits.
“If you leave a $100 deposit, you can meet a leading physician and get your money back.”
The concept was simple. If a patient turned up to their appointment, they would get a refund of their deposit.
Earlier, I said there was a slightly terrifying, but highly effective, alternative to big-claim marketing.
We are taught to make the sales process as easy as possible for potential clients, or in this case, potential patients. There is certainly a place for that, as our Web Design and User Experience friends know.
It makes you more believable. Increases the perception of your value. And in this case, ensured that prospects showed up.