This post sometimes has really dark examples, but they illustrate a point.
Ok first off, no, I’m not telling you to become a dealer so you can be a better marketer.
However, drug dealers get customers. Better still, they keep customers, even under threat of legal action.
While I’m in no way encouraging the use, sale or distribution of drugs, there’s certainly something to be learned from the way they do business.
So what do they do right?
You don’t often get the new guys on the hard stuff right away. You ease them in on the easier ones before pulling out the hard stuff.
When you’re trying to sell someone a product, you don’t often sell a $3,000/month enterprise license to someone who’s never seen you before. So how do you get someone to buy that big-ticket license?
You get them with a gateway drug.
Have an email list, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, an eBook, a trial period. Something with a low barrier to entry, something free, something with no commitment. Give them a taste of what they could be a part of before you pull out the real benefits. Speaking of…
The First One is Free
How many times have we heard this?
First one’s free, then you pay, and then you’re hooked.
Ah, the “freemium” model. Like it or not, the freemium model works, and if Zynga’s success is any indication, it works really, really well. Drug lords have known that for decades, and marketers are learning it now. You give them a taste for free, and then they pay.
And then they’re hooked.
Never as Good as the First Time
The first cut is the deepest, it’s never as good as the first time, etc, etc. Addicts try new drugs in greater volumes so they can recreate that first high, but it’s never quite as good as the first time, is it?
Do you remember what it was like to unbox your first iPhone? What about the first birthday you remember? Chances are, you remember that first experience vividly: how excited and amazed you were, the anticipation, the joy.
Do your customers strive to recreate their first experience with your product?
Hook Within a Hook
Drugs work because there’s a need for the product within the product. Their “hook” creates a need for more of itself, and the cycle continues…
Gamification is growing in popularity, and largely because it gives people a sense of accomplishment. It makes them want to “play” on your site, sometimes for no other reason than for the satisfaction of playing.
This is why Klout is successful, even though its metrics are largely fluff. It’s a number. Increasing your rank is a game.
Does your product make people want more of it?
Focus on Immediate Benefits
Dealers don’t tell you that drugs will ruin your life. They tell you how good it’ll feel, how accepted you’ll be, how fun it is. Once you’ve gone down the road, you stop caring about the consequences.
Don’t just tell potential customers about the features. Nobody bought meth because they knew it might give them Parkinson’s. They bought because of how good it was going to make them feel, how they’d be accepted, happy.
Tell your customers what they’ll get from your product, what benefits it’ll provide them, how it will make their life easier, and what it will do for them.
Can your customers see the immediate benefits of using your product?
A Friendly Recommendation Goes a Long Way
How many addicts started because a friend introduced them to drugs? Barring that, how many started just because “everyone else” was telling them to?
If you don’t have testimonials on your site, you’re losing customers. We need that reassurance that the decisions we’re making are good ones, whether we think we do or not.
Are you showing customers the stories of those who’ve already converted?
Not knowing the next time he’ll see his particular drug of choice will drive an addict to buy more than he intended. Keeping it exclusive makes it more attractive. The more someone thinks about how they can’t have it, the more they want it.
Google+ began with a closed beta, where only a certain number of invitations were allotted to each user. The first month open signups were available, membership jumped from 10 million users to 25 million.
Do your users feel like they’re part of something exclusive?
Easier to Keep Existing Users than Get New Ones
It’s exponentially easier to keep an addict on the line than it is to bring in a new user off the street.
Remind them you’re around with a newsletter, or a friendly call. Keep your brand at the front of their minds, keep them close. They’re incredibly valuable.
Are you keeping your faithful customers close?
Again, don’t go peddling crack so you can learn to be a better marketer. I don’t want to find out I’m responsible for an SEO-run meth lab.
Do you use these tactics? Are there any other parallels you can see between marketers and drug dealers? Talk to me in the comments!