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June 14, 2012

Converting Tire-Kickers Into Buyers: Use Their Brains and Yours

Engaging An Audience

The amygdala is the part of the brain’s limbic system that controls our emotional response to what we see, hear, and feel, even when we are seemingly inattentive to our surroundings. This automatic emotional response acts as part of our survival mechanism by focusing our attention on potentially dangerous or pleasurable situations. Your brain is really only interested in one thing – survival; it’s the advertising industry’s not so well kept, dirty little secret.

When your brain processes information, everything is filtered through the prism of: will it hurt me; can I eat it; or will it have sex with me. In other words, this primitive brain function focuses our attention on what’s of interest by triggering our emotional response to what’s imminently important, making attention “an emotionally driven phenomenon” according to Helio Fred Garcia, as outlined in his “Fast Company” blog “Hijacking Emotion Is The Key To Engaging Your Audience.”

“Just The Facts, And Nothing But The Facts” Or Not

Engaging an audience is all about getting that audience to pay attention to what you have to say, and in order to do that, you have to engage their emotions before you can enlist their logic. The common complaint we hear from so many Web entrepreneurs is that they can’t convert clients no matter how much time and money they spend on search engine optimization and social media. A closer look at many of the sites that have this problem reveals that they fail to engage their audience on an emotional level and instead rely on logic, or even worse, simply present their offering like a highway fruit-stand vendor, expecting people to buy something just because they offer it for sale.

Be Quick and Be Damned

Another common complaint we hear all the time, especially when it comes to Web video, is that everything has be short and quick because people don’t have the attention span they use to have. The real problem is most online businesses bore people, your audience is busy and they have to deal with an enormous amount of bad advertising, and confusing, inarticulate information. Because of information overload and the anxiety it creates, potential clients are forced to cull what they invest their time on. It’s not their attention span that’s the problem. It’s your presentation, it bores them to death, and in today’s Web marketing environment, boring video combined with an overt sales pitch to buy stuff just doesn’t work. To quote Helio Garcia, “Only when we have an audience’s attention can we move them to rational argument.”

A Method To This Madness

If you start off with the idea that your Web video presentation must be a hardcore sales pitch you’re dead in the water before you even start. You need to create a Brand Story, one that engages the audience on an emotional level and rewards their viewing with the answer to the question, “how will you satisfy their emotional needs?” Make that connection and you’ll find conversions will improve.

People are by nature creatures of habit; they look for pattern and structure, so your video should conform to certain basic story telling principles. Sure you are trying to sell them something and no one is telling you to recreate the next “Gone With The Wind,” but you must, nevertheless tell your story in a relatable manner in order to create a memorable impression that eventually initiates action.

An Example of Emotionally Driven Marketing

Structure and Performance

You begin with structure; structure creates the context and framework necessary to setup, deliver, and conclude your presentation so that it has the necessary meaning and relevance that ultimately converts casual voyeurs into loyal clients. But even the most well crafted script will fail if the performance is flawed.

In order to engage your audience, the material must be meaningful, articulate, and colorful. Knowing how to use language, cadence, tone, expression, body movement, and gesture will make the difference between a memorable presentation and something that goes in one ear and out the other.

The Beginning

Web visitors fall into one of three categories: they are casual information grazers, purposeful information seekers, or accidental tourists. Each group can be potentially converted to client-customer status if your presentation hits all the right notes. You are never going to convert them all, but you stand a better chance of converting your share if you use your brain and engage theirs.

As stated in the beginning, the first thing you must do is get their attention by accessing their amygdala, the seat of emotional response. By triggering the appropriate emotional response, the grazer, who just stopped by on a casual look-see might all of a sudden become more interested; the purposeful seeker looking for a direct answer to his or her problem might just discover that your understanding of their problem is exactly what they are looking for; and the accidental tourist who finds him or herself on your site or channel by accident might just find something they didn’t even know they needed. On the other hand, if you insist on jumping the gun with a premature call to action, you will end up shooting blanks.

The Middle

Once you’ve got your audience’s attention, you have to define the problem they have in terms of their emotional need. You’ve probably read my references to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs before but therein lies the basis for defining their true underlying need. Once you’ve defined that need in emotional terms you can then proceed to fill-in with your reasoned facts and justifications. Your framing of their emotional need creates the necessary desire required to make the conversion, while the reasoned justifications provide the excuse to act.

The End

Your video must end with a satisfactory conclusion that sets up the final piece of the puzzle, the call to action. Everything that’s been done to this point is in service of motivating people to act, but you won’t get the response you desire if you don’t take the time to prepare your audience for the final marketing punch line. Good marketing is like good sex: it takes time, patience, and creativity.

Getting Back To The Basics – Way Back!

Getting people to pay attention to an online video in an environment of too much, too loud, and too boring is hard, but the place to start is how the brain works. Since most decisions are made in our subconscious, we must access the part of the brain that deals with instinct and intuition, and that is the part that deals with our fundamental hardwired needs.

Rather than trying to win customers over with facts and figures, try engaging their primitive reptilian brains; it’s a strategy that will stand more of a chance of being successful than all the pie charts and PowerPoint presentations you can muster.

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit,, and Contact at or telephone (905) 764-1246.