How to Sell With Statistics

Whenever I am writing copy, I like to gather lots of statistics on my topic.

The great thing about statistics is that you can use them to support almost any sales point you want to make in your promotion.

For example, marketers often cite the number of units that’ve been sold to prove that their product is popular and, therefore, must be good.

In the good old days, McDonald’s restaurant signs would proclaim "Over 1 Billion Sold." Of course, that really wasn’t proof that McDonald’s burgers are good. Many restaurants make hamburgers that are better. But it gave customers the impression that McDonald’s burgers were exceptional.

Ironically, a statistic that says the exact opposite – a number showing the product does not sell well – can also be used to make a case for superior quality.

Perhaps you have received a catalog for Harry & David, the mail-order company that sells, among other things, Royal Riviera Pears. The copy for the pears says, "Not one person in a thousand has ever tasted them." It makes the product sound exclusive, special, rare, and desirable. But what it really means is that very few people buy them!

Here’s another example of how statistics can be skewed in your favor…

I was asked to write a brochure for a company that did research for manufacturers. I asked the client about his competition and where his firm stood among them.

"That’s a negative," he said. "There are hundreds of small mom-and-pop operators doing this kind of research out of their homes. But there are only five real companies – and of those five, we are, unfortunately, the smallest."

So in the brochure copy, I wrote: "XYZ Research Associates is one of the 5 largest industrial research companies in North America" – turning a potential negative into a bragging point.

A few additional guidelines for using numbers in your marketing copy to make a case for your product or service:

  • Write your numbers using the largest unit of measurement. "A quarter of a century" sounds longer than "25 years."\
  • Round off to make a number sound bigger. If the client tells me his newsletter has 2,015 subscribers, I talk about "thousands of satisfied subscribers."
  • Use "negative statistics," saying what the product doesn’t do or have, rather than what it does do or have. For instance, club soda has "no sodium, no artificial flavors, no calories."
  • Prove statistical points with pictures. Compare two quantities with a bar chart, or show a price chart illustrating how shares of the stock you recommended went up.
  • Use a persuasive statistic at least three times: in the body copy, in the chart or graph, and in a caption for the chart or graph.
  • Make unexpected comparisons to dramatize numbers. You might, for example, say "More people have died from malaria over the past century than are now living in the United States" – much more memorable than just stating the number of malaria victims.
[Ed. Note: Using statistics to your advantage is a simple way to capture your prospect’s attention and get him to buy. Many direct-marketing techniques are just as easy to learn – and just as effective at helping you get new customers. Master direct marketing, and you’ll never want for money again.

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Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.