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Isn’t it funny how attitudes change over the years.

These days of makes us, as small owners, very wary of coming over as marketers who are only interested in pushing our own product or service.

You see, after many years of being subjected to shifty salesmen, especially the cliché used car salesman trying to sell us a dodgy second-hand car, the public have become very suspicious of people who are obviously trying to sell us something.

Are you a Marketer?

Lets be honest. When you introduce yourself to someone new, do you ever describe yourself as a ‘marketer’? No, didn’t think so. You will be more likely to say you are a small business owner, and then mention the area you deal in. This will set you up in people’s minds as a professional business person, or go-getting entrepreneur rather than someone who deals in the shady world of sales and marketing.

Sales and marketing are an essential part of setting up and running a successful business, and these are skills that you use to influence and modify people’s behaviour to choose your product or service over a rivals.

A good salesperson has absolutely no intention or desire to mislead people into buying anything, but having the power to coerce someone’s thinking can also make people very wary of you. If you were to introduce yourself to a complete stranger as a marketer, they may be put on guard, and not want to be taken advantage of in any way.

Marketing = dodgy

Years of poor salesmanship where dodgy schemes used underhanded tactics to get money out of people have given sales and marketing a bad reputation. For example, look at the recent spate of PPI claims that have been running through poor or manipulative selling of insurance policies over the past few years.

People resent the hard-sell these days, and an approach like this will often leave your potential customers cold. With the rise of social media, you can quickly earn yourself a bad reputation for being pushy or selfish, and this can be really hard to shake off.

Reclaiming the ‘M’ word

Our challenge as small business owners, sole traders and entrepreneurs is to reclaim the ‘M’ word and make it acceptable once again. But we can only do this by being careful not to cross the line between being influential and just plain manipulative.

“Honesty is the best policy” a proverb of Benjamin Franklin. This is a good byline to keep in your head at all times with your approach to marketing your product or business. You need to know your customer inside out, and understand how your product or service will help them, or be beneficial in some way. By knowing what your customer worries about, you will know how to help them.

Bill Bernbach, an American advertising creative director for Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), once said: “The most powerful element in advertising is the truth.” But truth alone is not enough to persuade someone to buy from us. We also need our customers to feel something. We need to create a desire for our product or service, but this is only ethical if our customer has a genuine need for it.

The psychology of marketing

Have you ever wondered why you automatically say no to a request when it is put in a certain way, but when it is asked in a different way, why you then say yes?

I will give you an example of what happened to me at the dentist: I needed a filling, so my options were to have an amalgam filling or a white filling. The dentist was quite matter of fact, and he stated that the amalgam filling would be cheaper to have. I chose the amalgam filling.

A few weeks later, I found myself back in the dentist chair after suffering a broken tooth. I needed another filling, but this time I had a different dentist attending to me. This dentist offered me the choice between amalgam or white once again, but this time she talked about how the white filling would look better, how comfortable they feel, and how much like a real tooth they look these days. Guess what. I got the white filling.

This time it wasn’t the price that was the deciding factor. I got the white filling because the dentist sold me the benefits of having it despite it being more expensive. The perfect example of the psychology of marketing. I needed a filling – I was going to have a filling – I chose the more expensive one because of the added benefit to me.