by Erin Masercola

If you can effectively communicate all the logical reasons a customer should buy your product or service, you’ll probably make the sale, right?

Wrong, says sales trainer John Asher, who spoke recently at the Vistage Executive Summit in Raleigh, NC. As much as we may like to believe that logic drives our decisions, many of our buying decisions come from the illogical, emotional parts of our brains—our“old brains.” If we harness marketing and sales strategies that appeal to the old brain, we gain crucial tools that help us close deals, Asher says.

What Neuroscience Can Teach Us About Marketing

First, let’s step back a little bit to understand how our brains work overall. For his entire career, Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman has studied how our “new brains” and our “old brains” work together—or, just as often, work against one another. In Thinking Fast and Slow (2011), Kahneman explains that the oldest part of the brain is the amygdalae, two almond-shaped structures at the base of our brains. (The word ‘amygdala’ comes from the Greek word for‘almond.’) Sometimes people refer to the amygdalae as “the reptile brain” because it developed during the earliest phase of human evolution. The old brain is all about intuition and emotion and it thinks very fast, Kahneman explains. MRI studies have shown us that the old brain kicks in first when we encounter new ideas.

The newer parts of the human brain—the prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex—are where conscious thought happens. The new brain is all about logic, planning, judgment, and emotional control. In contrast to the old brain, the new brain “thinks slow,” and kicks in after the emotional, illogical old brain has already had quite a say.

We’re certainly capable of exporting rational thought from our new brain to process what our old brain is telling us, but we don’t always do that as efficiently or as completely as we may like to think. Here’s why: Our big brains consume a lot of energy—about 20 percent of our available energy during our waking hours, and our bodies had evolved to consume as little energy as possible. Try as we might, laziness often prevails and we fail to even engage our rational, “thinking slow” brains. That’s why the old brain influences our decisions far more than we’d like to think.

4 Marketing Strategies That ‘Wake Up’ the Old Brain

To be optimally effective, your digital and print marketing strategies should appeal to the old brain just as effectively as they do the new brain, says Asher. All too often, they don’t. Here are four ways to fix that:

1. Understand that the old brain is all about “me, me, me!” Here’s the brutal fact you must face. The old brain does not care about your product. It cares about its raw, emotional needs and what your product can do to fulfill these needs.

All too often, I see digital marketing websites that seem to have forgotten that the customer’s “me, me, me” is even there at all. Often, the seller’s own product categories dictate site navigation, not the prospective customer’s needs. As a result, UI is not intuitive for anyone who is new to the product or service. The web site copy on such sites is also product-centered—and it’s often jammed with keywords as part of a misguided effort to drive SEO. Such websites fail to engage the old brain.

If you want a web site that’s optimal for converting browsers into customers, your site designers and marketing writers must understand the buyer personae you’re targeting. Your site map must be intuitive for the customer, and your website’s copy must be customer-centered.

TIP: Asher says that Crystal is a great tool for helping your marketing and sales teams understand a customer’s behavioral preferences and needs.

2. Keep your marketing materials simple and easy to grasp. Remember, the old brain is lazy. If your site or your print collateral is too cluttered or complicated, you’ve lost the old brain’s attention. It will seize upon something that is less complicated instead and tune out what you’re trying to sell.

“But what if I’m selling something really complicated?” you may ask. Your marketing strategy must communicate your message clearly and simply.

3. Communicate clear contrasts. The old brain responds to novelty, Asher explains, so to make an impression on a prospective customer, your unique selling proposition must be crystal clear. Not sure you have a clear USP? Go here and here for some tips.

4. Appeal to the eyes. It’s easier to quickly grasp images than it is to read words, so our lazy old brains gravitate towards images and videos. Even when we engage our rational new brains, images stay with us. Hollywood understands this. Your rational brain knows that there is a script dictating the images you are seeing and that the people in the story are only actors, yet your old brain gets deeply engaged in the make-believe story anyway and more importantly, remembers it.

Similarly, an infographic communicates your message better than raw data does, for example. It also means that great graphic design is far more crucial to your marketing strategy than you might think.

Now, take a good, hard look at your web site, and look at it with both sides of your brain. Are you doing an optimal job engaging the old brain?

If you think you might need a little help, contact us for a free assessment. Together, let our writers and designers help you brainstorm some ways you can market smarter and boost sales and revenue for your 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