Imagine you’re talking to your neighbor about household chores.

At some point, the conversation drifts towards mowing the lawn. Your neighbor complains that she can’t, for the life of her, find a decent lawn-mower to use. They are either too expensive, or too unwieldy, or break too easily.

You mention to her that you’ve bought a new lawnmower just a couple of weeks ago, and you don’t need the old one any more. But it’s a good model, and you haven’t been using it too heavily. So it would serve her for another couple of years, easy.

You suggest to the neighbor that you would happily sell the lawnmower to her for cheap…

…but she looks at you as if you’ve just insulted her.

Without missing a beat, accusations come.

“You just care about making money!”

“It’s probably on its last leg, and you want to get rid of the thing.”

“Maybe if it were free, I’d buy it. There’s no way I’m paying you for this!”

You’re so astounded at the reaction that all you can do is just stand there and wonder – what is even happening? You’re just trying to be neighborly and help out.

She’s the one who wanted to buy a lawnmower!

Welcome to every marketer’s nightmare

When applied to people, the above situation seems bizarre. But it perfectly illustrates how many customers behave in oversaturated, competitive, extremely jaded markets.

And in the modern world – with marketing environment that inundates people with 4,000+ marketing messages per day, fosters cutthroat competition, and encourages never-ending one-upmanship between brands – jaded, cynical customers are more and more common.

They have a problem. They need your product or service to solve it.

But because they’ve been disappointed and let down by other brands before, they distrust your marketing, act hostile towards any hard sell, and generally refuse to let their guard down. Can you blame them?

Getting through to these people and earning their trust is no small feat. But it can be done!

In today’s post, we want to share 4 proven strategies that will help you nurture and convert customers who fully embraced the “I-don’t-trust-anybody-all-marketers-are-liars” type of mindset.

Note: if you want to learn the theory behind why customers in some markets are more cynical and distrustful, you should study the 1966 classic “Breakthrough Advertising”, by Eugene Schwartz.

Specifically, you want to dig into the idea of market sophistication, and different levels of it. But since the book itself is out of print, and remaining editions cost an arm and a leg, you can read this handy summary of the concept by Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mindvalley.

You can also read about it in one of our previous posts (you’ll need to scroll down to “Rule #4”).

But for now, let’s skip the theory and dig right into the strategies!

1. Get serious about influencer marketing

If you have trouble gaining trust of your target customers, the easiest way to overcome that obstacle is by finding someone who already commands their trust and respect…

…and ask that person or brand to be your messenger. This, in a nutshell, is how influencer marketing works.

When somebody else already has the hearts and minds of your target market, it can be a lot more effective to “borrow” their credibility than painstakingly develop relationships with cynical, jaded customers.

There are a number of ways you could invest in influencer marketing, like:

  • Sponsoring someone else’s work (a newsletter, a podcast, or a video) in exchange for them recommending your product or service.
  • Investing in an endorsement from a celebrity or a “micro-influencer” on the social media of your choice (e.g. Instagram).
  • Partnering with an influencer to create a contest or a giveaway featuring your products or services as prizes.
  • Filming a slice-of-life video or a case study showing off how an influencer uses your product or service in their business or life – e.g. this viral video from Tim Ferriss, praising ExOfficio underwear.

From pop-culture icons to people with a couple thousand loyal fans, influencers come in all shapes and sizes. Regardless of what you’re selling, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to influencer marketing.

We have found these two rules of thumb helpful:

  • If possible, work with an influencer who is already your happy customer. It instantly adds authenticity to your message, and makes outreach much easier.
  • Avoid making these 5 mistakes when sending outbound messages to influencers.

2. Highlight your “unique mechanism”

When you are talking to your customer – face-to-face, on the phone, though copy, video, you name it – you don’t want them to nod their head and say, “Uh-huh, I’ve heard that before. Why should I go with you guys instead of [some competitor you know isn’t as good as you]?”

If you’re getting this kind of response to your marketing, it means that you need a unique mechanism (another concept coined by Eugene Schwartz) to stand out from the crowd and give your customer a good reason your offer will work for them… even if they’ve been disappointed before.

Without a fleshed-out, well-articulated unique mechanism, it’s tough to succeed in a jaded, hyper-competitive market.

Think about the fitness and weight loss niches, for example. Every wildly successful product or service in the past couple of decades (CrossFit, P90X, Fitbit, 7-Minute Abs etc.) has had a well-established unique mechanism behind it.

But perhaps fitness isn’t the best example. Let’s pick an industry that might hit closer to home – marketing! Ultra-competitive, filled with customers who are beyond wary of any “foul play”… yet even there, a unique mechanism can help you stand out.

At The Draw Shop, we know this very well. Now, you’ll have to excuse us while we toot our own horn for a bit… ready?

What we do here at The Draw Shop (creating awesome whiteboard animation videos, in case you didn’t know) isn’t unique – there are plenty of other video marketing agencies doing whiteboard videos.

There are even random people on sites like Fiverr who claim they can do one for you on the cheap… while neglecting to mention how horrifying the finished product looks.

So why aren’t we out of business? How are we thriving?

The answer is, thanks to our unique mechanism. When we talk to prospects about our process and our formula for creating high-converting whiteboard animation videos, it’s not something they’ve heard before. So when we claim that the finished video will knock their socks off… people (rightly) believe us!

The good news is, you probably have a unique mechanism in your business – so when you’re dealing with skeptical customers, winning them over is only a matter of emphasizing it!

Note: here’s a great story of how even a seemingly “boring” product like ground beef can benefit from a unique mechanism – and even turn a disillusioned former customer into a fan.

3. When in doubt, find shared values

It’s ironic, but the most skeptical and jaded customers are the ones who want to feel good about interacting with brands and doing business with them.

The problem is, those customers convinced themselves that every company is just out to get their money. And to gain the trust of your prospects, it’s important to take their focus off the “hard sell” and all the great things about your offer…

…and towards something they have in common with your brand. Talk to your customers about something both you and they can agree on. Your shared values.

If it sounds vague, we totally understand. But just like with influencer marketing (strategy #1), there is no universal solution for how to empathize with your target customers. Instead, let’s look at a few real-life examples of marketing messages focused on making a connection, as opposed to making sales:

  • This ad is literally 44-plus minutes of the actor Nick Offerman drinking single malt whisky. It’s atmospheric, focused on conveying the feelings of peace, coziness, and relaxation. There are no words, barely any sound except for the crackling of the fireplace, and the whole thing feels less like an advert and more like one of those “roaring fireplace” videos you can play on your computer to set the mood. It’s next-level weirdness that somehow manages to be cute and endearing, and it speaks to exactly the right audience.
  • Google’s “Search Stories” achieve this effect brilliantly, telling a flawless brand story without bringing up anything even remotely salesy. Check out their Parisian Love video and how it tries (and succeeds) to convey the values of adventurousness, romance, and going above and beyond for someone you love.
  • The Most Interesting Man in the World ads by Dos Equis take Rule #3 and run with it. The company has found an ingenious way to connect with their customers’ desire to feel, and be, more interesting by creating someone who embodies everything they aspire to be. Handsome, witty, impeccably dressed, he is probably one of the most iconic advertising characters of all time.

Note: one of the best way to connect with wary customers is by supporting a cause they care about. Actions speak louder than words, after all – and it’s hard to find a more impactful action than simply giving back. If you prove to your customers that you are like them, and support the same things they support, they will be much more likely to buy from you.

4. Put customer experience before sales

Right about now, we’re going to say something outrageous but true:

You don’t have to make your customers happy to build a profitable business. In fact, you could probably create a thriving brand with a bad customer experience – just look at your average airline, for example!

But although it’s undeniably true, here’s why you don’t want to go down that road…

You know, besides the fact that purposely making people unhappy is wrong!

But apart from being wrong, an average or bad customer experience harms your business, especially in a hyper-competitive market. Here’s how…

First (and obvious), unsatisfied customers tend to leave. In fact, it’s their most frequently-quoted reason to stop doing business with someone (in 89% of cases, according to this Oracle survey). If someone has a poor experience with your brand, they have plenty of eager competitors to choose from!

Second, unhappy customers don’t result in referrals or repeat business. Again, no surprise there!

By contrast, satisfied customers have a much higher lifetime value – the chances of making a repeat sale with an existing customer can be as high as 60% (according to Marketing Metrics)!

They can also become a powerful source of referrals for your business. Their amazing interactions with your brand will remove the main obstacle – “What if someone I love has a bad experience and blames me?” – to telling their friends and family about how awesome you are!

There are tons of ways to level up your customer experience, so we’re only going to list our favorites:

  • Come up with new, innovative ways to delight your customers. Genuine and warm interactions are a vital part of the experience, just as much as solving people’s problems.
  • Make sure that your customer service is slightly different – and vastly better – than that of your competitors. It’s way easier to accomplish than you might think!
  • Invest time and money in customer development – the more you know about the problems, hopes, fears, and objections of your customers, the better both your sales and your customer experience will become.

As marketing continues to evolve at breakneck pace, strategies like these will become more and more important. Before you can sell anything to skeptical customers who have been disappointed before, you will want to find a way to their hearts – and minds – first.

That might mean forgetting about sales for a moment, and just focusing on building the best relationship you can. After all, every business is a relationship business. Your customers have caught on to that reality – and that means, so should your marketing!