In Marketing, Flattery Will Get You Everywhere

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” the saying goes. But actually, flattery can get you almost anywhere – especially in marketing.

The reason: People want to feel good about themselves … and if you give your prospects a legitimate way to do that, you get their attention and make them receptive to your sales pitch.

Of course, the flattery has to be legitimate. You wouldn’t start a sales letter targeted to zip codes of people living in trailer parks with, “You’ve finally made it!” … because they know (and you know) they haven’t made it. Such a tactic would be insincere, generating negative feelings in the prospects about themselves and about you. Neither is conducive to selling.

So “flattery marketing” generally works best with audiences known to have healthy egos … high opinions of themselves. Examples include millionaires … business owners … doctors, lawyers, and other self-employed professionals … senior corporate executives … middle managers earning six figures or close to it … scientists, systems analysts, or others with in-demand technical skills.

The key tactic in “flattery marketing” is a letter that speaks directly to the reader and begins by acknowledging the reasons why they feel good about themselves.

An example …

“The Director’s Report” is an expensive subscription publication aimed at people who sit on corporate boards. You and I can only imagine being asked to sit on a corporate board … but we can easily imagine what a heady feeling such an invitation must generate. Well, the promotion letter selling “The Director’s Report” is built around that ego-satisfying emotion:

“Dear Director:

“You’re it. A genuine leader of American business.

“Someone so accomplished … and so successful … that important companies have sought you out to join their board of directors.

“You enjoy your board member status. And you should. Being a director wins instant respect from your friends and colleagues. And the perks aren’t bad, either [and so on …].”

To write a “flattery letter,” you simply focus – at least in the lead – on the prospect, and all but forget about the product.

The trick is to get inside the head of the prospect and figure out a legitimate reason why they’re proud and happy to be where they are today. Then feed it back to them in sincere language that acknowledges their success – and their right to feel good about it – without going overboard.

Of course, you then have to tie in that feeling – or whatever makes them special – with the product you are selling. In “The Director’s Report” letter, the next sentence does that job:

“But watch out. Being a board member may have become more dangerous than ever.”

We then learn what those dangers are (fallout from Enron and other scandals, resulting in stricter corporate governance) – and how the publication can help the reader navigate them.

The rest of the letter sells the product. But the copywriter doesn’t forget to come back to the core emotion – the pride and ego – a couple of times in the body and again at the end to tie it all together.

Here’s how “The Director’s Report” letter closes:

“You take pride in being a director. Now ‘The Director’s Report’ can help you be the best director you can be.”

You know from personal experience that a huge percentage of the population is openly egotistical. I suspect the rest of the population is too, but is simply less vocal about it. Tap into that ego, fuel it appropriately, and you can get people figuratively eating out of the palm of your hand … or at least putting a check into your reply envelope.