Make The Sale Before They Buy
I grew up in a family of smokers. When I was a kid, my dad, mom and brother used to collect Marlboro Miles and hoped that some day they would smoke enough cigarettes to get the new Jeep Wrangler.
Alas, they never got the Jeep but they did smoke enough Marlboros to get a sleeping bag. Which we did put to good use when camping.
That Was Then
Back then, I would take their cigarette packs and hide them, I would destroy any unattended cigarettes that were lit, and generally, I was a menace to any and all smokers around.
Looking back, however, it’s clear that Marlboro had engaged in a brilliant -if antiquated and uncreative- scheme to turn even a casual smoker into a very loyal customers.
A loyal customer is the one that wouldn’t dream of buying another brand or going someplace else to buy what you’re selling. I mean…think about how hard it is to pull that off.
- If I want a cup of coffee, there is only marginal difference between any two coffee shops. But I will always choose the one who’s logo is on my Buy 10 Get 1 Free punch card I carry in my pocket.
- If I need to travel, there is no difference between any two airlines -they all suck equally- but I will always choose the one that will make me their VIP if I collect only 10K more miles.
- If I want to buy a pack of smokes…well, I would never buy a pack of smokes, but if I did, it would be a pack that has more of those valuable miles that get me a Jeep, or at least a sleeping bag.
If you’re Philip Morris (the makers of Marlboro), these types of loyalty programs elicit all sorts of right psychological triggers.
- Humans like to collect things; horde even. (how many Miles did you collect today?)
- We like routines, and smoking the same brand of cigarettes, or drinking coffee from the same place helps us do that.
- We like to carry out missions. And having clear goals (getting a sleeping bag, Jeep, 11th cup of coffee or VIP status) feeds right into that.
What it Doesn’t Trigger
Some might say that we do all these things because we like to get things for free. I say NAY!
First of all, “Free” is not free…at all. And second, “I like getting things for free” is a rationalization for our behavior, it’s not the reason for it. Psychology 101.
This Is NOW!
Times, they are a changing, Dylan once sang. And he is right.
In order for you to engage in the game of collecting Marlboro Miles (or airline miles, or free coffee) you had to become a customer FIRST! And only then could you play the game.
Examples of successful businesses that are using this model is staggering:
- Zynga, the purveyors of FarmVille and MafiaWars allow players to play for free. But they also sell virtual currency in case you want to get rich quick.
- Facebook and Twitter are essentially set up the same way, except they don’t make money from the players, they make money from businesses who want access to player’s information. In other words, YOU produce what Facebook and Twitter is selling.
- Google gives away its search capabilities to sell you some advertising.
- Triberr is set up very much like Zynga properties as well. It’s free, but if you want to grow your tribes past 7, gain more benefits from expanded reach, etc. you have to spend our virtual currency (Bones). Granted, you can win or earn Bones, but for those who are impatient, there is always an option to purchase as well.
To put it another way, all these businesses make the sale (get you into the door and get you to play the game) before you even spend a penny.
Facebook/Twitter/Google are especially effective in doing this because people who use Facebook to market their products are they themselves users of Facebook. Same is true of Twitter and Google.
The typical sales-conversion path for a GoogleAds buyer is “search engine user” first, then ad buyer.
Zynga is very interesting because the same game is available to both paid players and those who choose to play for free. There is absolutely no difference in the user experience, options, etc. between the FarmVille players who spend money, and those who don’t. And yet, 7% of FarmVille’s 80+ Million players are paying real money for virtual Farm Coins.
By the time a player buys FarmVille dollars they’ve been playing the game for months, but Zynga had made the sale the second someone signs up. Which is why your Facebook wall is inundated with requests to join MafiaWars.
This is a brilliant strategy and you can’t do much better than to use Zynga as a model for your next online biz.
HairClub for Men
I’m not only the President, I’ also a client. That is to say, I put my money where my mouth is.
Unlike farming virtual sheep and killing virtual mafia Dons, Triberr is connected to a very real outcome We send around 100 thousand visits to our members’ blogs every day, and this number is increasing every day. However, Triberr’s business model is identical to Zynga’s.
You use Triberr for free for as long as you want. There is absolutely no need to buy Bones (Triberr’s virtual currency) at any point, ever.
You can win Bones, you can earn them, we give you some when you join. However, if you want to get some Bones fast, you have an option to buy them.
All of these examples lead to the same conclusion. We are many online and making the sale is hard unless you’re Marlboro, and most of us aren’t. So, make the sale before they buy.
Et tu, Blog?
Do you think that blogging is set up in the same fashion?
Do you think that readers/commenters engage in a kind of game with the blog author and only THEN become customers?