The Copywriter's Crucible

Can You Sell Without Selling?

Salesman smiling adjusting tie

The game is up. Turns out copywriters aren’t needed anymore. The days of clever wordplay being effective at tricking people into buying stuff are over. People are just too savvy to fall for the same old mind tricks.

There’s a new show in town called ‘attraction marketing’. You can forget about prodding at people’s pain, using exclusivity to make your product seem special or making readers feel like losers if they don’t sign up, because the game has changed. Is this what some folks would have us believe, anyway.

Attraction marketing is described as ‘selling without selling’. I’m sure you’ve heard this new catchphrase on the interwebs for the subtle approach to marketing, where you offer content of value that solves problems and builds relationships rather than the power word loaded sales pitches battle worn copywriters are prone to unleash.

Someone change the record

Yes, I know – ‘attraction marketing’ just sounds like a new set of clothes for content marketing, or email marketing if we’re really getting into the nuts and bolts. Attraction marketing’s tweak is that it focuses on addressing people’s desire for authenticity. Prospects want to know who is creating all these helpful blog posts, video reviews and infographics and, more importantly, the reason ‘why’. They want a genuine connection. Not another spritely written sales page by a sociopathic internet marketer.

Currently, it’s travel bloggers and other types of solopreneurs leading the field in this attraction based approach to marketing. Everything they create is inherently authentic, in tune with the audience and real. In their campaigns, sales speak is not welcome. Or is it?

Selling without selling? You mean selling with ethics

Attraction marketing may be a powerful way of building connection with authenticity. But when you really dig down, you’ll find the same tactics at play as those of any hardnosed marketer.

As always, the first step is identifying your reader’s motivations are. The real game then begins, where you playfully toss them pieces of content that’s in tune with the reader’s hopes, fears and goals. When the time is right, you then slip in a harder pitched post where you ask them to spend some money. There’s all sorts of baseball and boxing metaphors doing the rounds for this approach. But essentially ‘selling without selling’ is about  building a nice, friendly relationship with your audience before the salesman underneath is revealed.

The one caveat is that you can still sell without selling when you’re promoting products or services that will genuinely help your audience. That means all you’re doing is giving them helpful advice on how they can solve a problem, and it wont feel like selling at all. Better yet, it means you’re selling with ethics.

Are you an ethical marketer? Or do you trade in snake oil?

So let’s be clear, the best way to sell is the same as it’s always been – find out your customer’s problem and then help them solve it. What’s changed is that all the questionable tactics that have run rampant online for the last decade (e.g. false scarcity, dodgy testimonials/reviews and not owning up to affiliate links), is only going to backfire with a wiser internet customer. People are more clued up on these tactics than they were a few years ago.

If you really want to hear something really radical – revealing a product’s negatives may actually help boost response. When everyone else is making grandiose claims they cant back up, you’ll be the real, authentic and legitimate alternative they can trust.

If, like me, you find some of the sales pages on Clickbank make you a bit queasy then it doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for selling online. It just means you have the higher ideals that will  help your sales copy appeal to today’s perceptive audience. They’ll be attracted to your copy which projects a true belief in what you’re telling them, that you’ve done your research and you have a genuine offer to make.

In an age where authenticity is getting harder to fake, selling with ethics is the only way to be successful in the long run.

Four takeaways

How to Sell Yourself Without Selling Out with Marc Ecko:

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