Breaking through the brain’s firewall

Education & Training with Power Marketing & Advertising, Inc.

Breaking through the brain’s firewall

How many times have you said to your husband…“you didn’t hear a thing I just said, did you?” We must understand that hearing is a physical function and listening is a mental function. I hear many things as I write this article: cars driving down the street, music in the adjoining office, the tapping of a keyboard in the next office, someone outside talking as they walk by. But I am not listening to any of those things.

Your marketing message is often like those residual noises going on around you: you hear them, but you are not listening. If your marketing message doesn’t move a customer to action it is useless, not to mention it costs you money. What is sales and marketing if it isn’t the process of moving people to do something; specifically, to purchase something they may or may not need or even want. A compelling message will be relevant: “I care about what you are saying.” A compelling message will appeal to my fear of loss: “I better hurry or I’ll miss my chance.” A compelling message gets through all the clutter in my head and registers in my psyche.

Our brains are marvelously created and absolutely amazing. The Bible says we are, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made.’ When you consider the complexity of our minds, the truth of that statement becomes very evident.

The human mind is possibly the final frontier? How does it work? How does our memory affect what we buy? How does our memory work from a marketing perspective?

Let’s talk about the brain’s reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is an important key to reaching inside a prospective homebuyer’s brain. It is a complex collection of neurons located at the base of the spinal cord that serve as a point-of-convergence for signals from the external world (specifically your five senses) and the internal world (your intuitions, emotions, etc.). So what’s it have to do with marketing and selling? Let’s explore three characteristics of the RAS. Our discussion will focus on number two: Negative Filtering.

1. Positive Focusing – Allows a mother to hear her whimpering baby while dad sleeps soundly next to her.
2. Negative Filtering – Allows the person who lives next to a railroad to unconsciously screen out the noise created by the train.
3. Individual Perceiving – Explains how five people who saw the same accident have five different stories.

According to scientists, the RAS tends to allow you to perceive three types of information on a regular basis: things you value, things that are unique, and things that threaten you. Remember, a unique selling proposition is a marketing message that clearly communicates your distinctive and compelling selling message. Over the years, the marketing industry has changed the moniker, but the idea remains the same. It was the “Differential Demonstration,” then it became the “Positioning Statement,” and now it’s often referred to as the “Unique Selling Proposition.” They basically mean one thing: why should a consumer purchase from you and not the builder down the street. What stands out about your product?

Creating a USP is about more than knowing your customers. It’s about your customers knowing you! Your USP must answer the question every consumer asks: Why should I buy from you? Remember, new home customers don’t come to buy from you they come to eliminate you. The process of elimination is easier for the consumer than the process of selection. Often it comes down to which builder gets eliminated last. And today, the process happens on the Internet.

Consider all the marketing noise – magazines ads, billboards, television and radio, newsprint, direct mail… you get it. That marketing noise is like steady drone of noises all around you that your RAS filters out. To be successful your marketing message must cut through the RAS and connect with the consumer’s mind. That means your marketing messages should attempt to conform to the ‘gateway’ processes of the RAS. It tends to regularly allow you to perceive three types of information, so attempt to make your message conform:

1. Things you value – This goes right back to the ‘what’s in it for me. Fact: we care about what we value, we are less concerned about what we don’t understand. When your selling proposition can strike a value nerve, the RAS opens the gateway and says to the brain: “hey, pay attention here, this matters.” What are the most common first words out of your mouth when encountered by a sales person? I would be willing to bet that they are: “I’m not interested or I’m just looking!” If the immediate message of a sales pitch doesn’t strike a value chord, you lose.

Let’s use an elementary school example. When a person has a child, that child becomes a high priority value. To a mother interested in keeping her children safe, a message that addresses those kinds of issues immediately meets her RAS criteria and the brain perceives the message. But a single guy with no interest in kids will most likely barely register that message. His RAS never opened the gateway because the value nerve wasn’t hit.

2. Things that are unique – Uniqueness seems to be one of those factors that arrest our attention. Is your message unique? Does it stand out from all the other builder messages?
Merriam-Webster gives the following definitions of the word unique:

1. Being the only one: SOLE
2. Being without a like or equal: UNEQUALED

The Apple iPhone is unique in quite a few ways. As a result, sales of the iPhone are projected to exceed 45 million by 2009. Apple has used the uniqueness of their designs for years to capture large market shares and launch trends that changed other industries as well. As you craft your message, always attempt to be as unique as possible. Find the angle that sets you apart from the others and appeals to your target audience.

3. Things that threaten you – Obviously you can’t say, “buy this house or I will send cousin Vinnie to break your knees.” But, you can use the tried and true method of writing a message that appeals to the consumer’s fear of loss: “$38,000 Grand Opening Incentive for first five buyers.” How about, “FREE Appliance Upgrade to all Homes Purchased this Weekend.” The fear of loss is a powerful motivator, but I believe it has a very short shelf life. It is my opinion that positive messages that focus on values have more lasting effect than negative ones.

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