This week’s blog is by Anne Miller, author of Metaphorically Selling: How to use the magic of metaphors to sell, persuade & explain anything to anyone, and a coach who helps people in high stakes situations with the skills and strategies they need to close deals, nail presentations or wow crowds.
To Sell the New, Link to the Old
Mary Tripsas, associate professor in the Entrepreneurial School of Management at Harvard Business School, noted in a recent New York Times article that when automobiles were first introduced, people were very confused as to what to make of or call them. Why wouldn’t they be? They had no frame of reference for understanding them. A clunky vehicle with wheels? Not exactly catchy. A car? No connection to anything they knew at that point.
Eventually the term “horseless carriage” was coined to help them grasp what these new contraptions were. It worked because everyone knew what a horse and carriage was and could therefore make the conceptual leap to a “horseless carriage.”
Technology may have changed since the late 19th century, but how we humans mentally process information hasn’t. We still have an instinctive need to sort and classify things in our minds to make sense of them.
This is true not only in business, but in social situations as well. When you go to a cocktail party and you meet someone new, don’t you very quickly ask a variation of “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” You need that information to peg people in your mind so that you can have a more meaningful conversation.
For Your Business
Bill Herp, founder of Linear Air, a Boston-based airline, provides custom-scheduled flights that let people avoid the nuisances of commercial travel for less than a larger business jet or charter would cost. It isn’t exactly an air taxi or an on-demand charter, so how do you explain it to potential customers?
He tried many different ways until he hit upon one metaphor that worked: Herp describes Linear Air as “Boston Coach with wings” Local customers familiar with the popular Boston bus franchise instantly understand the service and its value proposition.
Introducing a product, service or website? Make it easy for people to get excited about it by helping them easily categorize it in their minds. Link it to what they already know, which will evoke a raft of (positive) associations and instant understanding – which inclines them to buy more quickly.