Why revealing yourself in an advert is good


Telling teachers something about yourself in a  non-boastful way really does help sales

Social psychology tells us that learning a simple fact about a person we don’t know, has a very curious side-effect.  For when we learn something about a stranger, we generally feel that stranger knows us a little better.  Even when there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case!

And I want to spell this out, not just because it is such a curious thing, but also because it can be very helpful in advertising. 

For most companies, a key part of advertising is to get the recipient of our advertisement to believe what we are saying.   However, when many advertisers do this, they boast about the product (as in “used in over 3000 schools across the country”) or talk about the writer in a similarly pompous way (“I’ve been helping teachers for over 20 years”).

In fact, both approaches often make matters worse.   Instead what really helps is when the advertiser reveals something that is personal – even if it has little to do with the product or service on offer. 

Unfortunately, many companies have tried to use this “get closer to the reader” approach via the personalisation of emails and sales letters, in the belief that writing “Dear Mr Smith” at the top will encourage readership.  The implication is, “I know your name, so we must be acquainted.”

However although personalisation can sometimes help, having no salutation at all can quite often work even better.  For what teachers and school managers really don’t like is any suggestion that the writer thinks he can fool the teacher into believing that the writer knows what working in a school is like, or even knows the teacher personally.   

After all, the recipient of your email is someone who deals with children or teenagers on a daily basis and knows exactly how devious these youngsters can be.  And knows (or at least assumes) that you don’t.

But, if I tell the reader something about myself (and I mean about myself, the writer, not about my company), that can indeed bring us a bit closer together.  This “something about me” doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but if it is unusual and unexpected it can make the writer seem a little more real, then that will help boost sales because of this “I know about you, so you know about me” effect.

Now, he revealed information does have to be personal.  Suggesting the writer is a teacher or ex-teacher doesn’t help very much because the recipient is already surrounded by teachers.  A teacher is unlikely to tell a friend, “I had an email from an ex-teacher today.”  What you reveal has to be somewhat much more personal, and ideally a little unexpected.

For example, I’ve occasionally revealed the fact that I am a season ticket holder at Arsenal football club (usually accompanied by a self-deprecating note about the fact that I’m obviously paying for past sins, suggesting there is more suffering than enjoyment involved).

This fact has nothing to do with what I am selling, but it does make me slightly more real, and that can have a significant psychological effect, as it makes me more real.

Another occasional insight comes with the revelation that three or four nights a week I go dancing – and not sedate ballroom dancing as befits a man of my years, but jiving.  Again, it is slightly whacky, but actually totally true, and thus has the chance of being memorable to the reader.

There are other examples (my devotion to the music of Bob Dylan, for example, and the fact that I run a regular blog on the subject), but the point is always the same: if you can slip something into an email about yourself which you can put within the context of the piece, but which isn’t part of the advertising, you move from being someone who simply sends out emails about your product or service to a person who is real, and who has a personality.

It is a rather curious effect and I am not suggesting the results can double sales, but it is an approach that can help, if handled delicately.  And it can make it less likely that people will block your emails or hit delete as they come in.

Also (and this is most important) it is not boastful.  So when, a few years ago, I did the 27-mile walk around Rutland Water I did mention this, but I also noted that I only just made it, and three fellow walkers had to help me into the car for the journey home afterwards.  So I had a bit of a laugh about my sorry state thereafter, and that made an impact.  To some of my readers, I became a bit more real.

Indeed you would not believe how many potential customers start their first conversation with me by saying, “Now I don’t normally talk to Arsenal supporters, but I’ll give it try just this once…” or on mentioning Dylan they might reply, “I didn’t realise you were that old Tony”.  Or after the walk, “I’m surprised you’re back in the office…”

All of which is fine, because the conversation has started and that is what I want.   So my point is, if your potential customer can relate to you as a person, then you stop being a stranger and that potential customer will start to feel he/she knows us a bit better.

And at that point, this strange psychological effect clicks in.  The reader feels that because he or she knows you in some way, you somehow know and understand her or him. 

If you would like to talk about how your sales letters and website pages can be developed so that you start to build up a relationship with your customer even before you’ve started to quote, please do call 01604 880 927 or email so that we can start the conversation.

Tony Attwood

PS: Just remember – I am, in reality, just a regular guy with a few hobbies.   There really is nothing else to this but the fact that I mention my hobbies and interests occasionally and usually in a self-deprecating way.  Readers quite like it, and it really does help my company’s sales.

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