Let’s talk icky marketing techniques and I’m going to start by asking you a question.

Are you making people feel manipulated or uncomfortable?

I had a sales call with someone recently that made me feel very uncomfortable.

The call started off ok – but she swiftly moved on to trying to get me to commit to buying her offer on the call. Incessantly.

The only way I could get off the call was to say that I could possibly use a service like that in the future and that she should send me the details… and was that someone at the door? Gotta go byeee…

Afterwards, she sent me an email with the details which I didn’t respond to for a couple of days… during which she sent me a second email to say how disappointed she was in me because I hadn’t responded. And then proceeded to try to guilt me into signing up for her service by saying that I was obviously not serious about growing my business because I hadn’t signed up with her. Yuck!

This whole experience made me feel so uncomfortable, it got me thinking about my own sales process and whether I was doing anything that may make people feel that way.

So, I did a bit of a dive into the murky world of manipulative marketing.

You may be surprised (as I was) to discover that you could be using techniques that are generally accepted as common practice but that are a little icky (or downright dodgy).

Here are 5 that I feel are the ickiest:

Pain, fear and future-pacing – these are super common in sales copywriting, usually using the copywriting formula, PAS (Pain, Agitate, Solve). They basically start out telling you you’ve got a problem and then make you feel worse about that problem, then offer their product as the solution to that problem.

Some even go so far as to use future-pacing, which is where they get you to focus on what the worst-case scenario would be if this problem isn’t fixed, and then fast forward to how bad your life will be if you don’t buy their thing to fix the problem.

There’s a bit of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) going on here, the future pacing makes you believe that choosing this one thing is going to be the difference between heaven and hell for you.

Every marketer knows that appealing to emotions is an effective tool to sell your thing – but there’s always a right way and a wrong way to do this.

Ethical marketers sympathise with emotions, while unethical ones exploit them.

And I’m going to raise my hand here and admit that I use this on my sales pages, but I like to use humour and give it a positive spin.

When I use future-pacing, I try to get you to envision yourself having solved the problem in the future and how your life would look then. (you can see that in practice on this sales page).

I don’t like making people feel bad, so even when I’m talking about pain points – I’ll try to make them light and humorous.

The 2-choice strategy – this is when they say that you have two choices:

  1. Struggle on all by yourself, wasting endless hours trying to figure it out and feeling frustrated and stuck, or…
  2. Buy their thing and then instantly (amazingly) your problem is solved.

This strategy tries to make you feel that there are ONLY two choices – buy and succeed, or don’t buy and fail.

When the reality is that at any point in time, we don’t ever JUST have two choices. ONE of those choices is to buy the thing. But there are plenty of others available to you at any point in time.

Charm pricing – this has been around forever, where your price ends in a 7 or 9 – so $97 or $99 vs $100. The idea behind this is that because we read from left to right with decreasing attention, the $97 is perceived as $90. Having a lower starting digit is supposed to trick us into thinking it’s a better price. Also, it’s a shorter number – 2 digits vs 3 so it must be a better deal. I don’t know how many of us are still “tricked” by this though, I always round up anyway.

Valued at prices – If you’re saying that your product is valued at $500, but you’re selling it for $97, have you actually sold it for $500 before? If not, then is it really valued at that price? Can you prove that? Most of the time people allocate arbitrary “valued at” prices to things to make them seem more valuable than they are.

Using hypnosis or suggestive/hypnotic words – this is super yucky and I’ve seen it used in countless webinars. “By now – you have heard…” or “By now – you’ve seen…” – what does “by now” sound like? “Buy now”, right! And if you repeat it over and over – it becomes a hypnotic command. Super icky!

So how many of these have you been using in your marketing?

If you have been using any, don’t feel bad. They’re all taught by so many people without truly understanding what they do. When you know better you can do better.

Always think to yourself, would I feel confident, comfortable and happy for someone to use this strategy on me? If yes, then keep on keeping on.

I think we’re all a lot savvier these days when it comes to icky marketing tactics. They assume we’re blindly plodding along and not paying attention to the way we’re being manipulated.

How many of these icky marketing techniques have you seen out there – and did you fall for them?