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Why It’s a Good Thing People Are Shallow (and 13 Ways to Exploit It)

They say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it: people are shallow.

We judge based on looks all the time. We’ll pass a dirty-looking, disheveled person on the street and assume he’s homeless, or crazy, or a drunk. We’ll meet a savvy woman at a meeting and assume her home is sharp-looking and neat.

Maybe that ragged man has a million in the bank. Maybe the businesswoman’s home is a wreck. Who knows?

And as much as we judge others, others judge us in the same way – especially online and in business. In just a glance, people land on your website and decide if you’re professional enough, smart enough, skilled enough. Within seconds, they’re making assumptions and decisions about you.

You can’t avoid it. And if you really think about it, why would you want to?

Shallow People Are Easier to Sell

Can you imagine how hard it would be to run a business if all of your customers thought deeply about their every purchase?

They would have to consider every competitor. They would weigh the pros and cons of each product or service. They would take weeks or maybe even months reading through your product literature.

You’d go bankrupt from the sheer effort it would take to sell them anything. The entire economy might collapse.

The truth is, pretty much any type of consumer business depends on irrational, impulse-driven purchases. You might even say it’s a bedrock principle of marketing.

So don’t fight it. If perception is all that matters, construct one that’s so bewitching no one dares look away. Craft your marketing to deliberately control how your customers react.

What do you want visitors to think of you? What assumptions do you want them to make?

It’s all up to you – and here are 13 tricks to help you create exactly the perception you want:

1. Get great looks: Looking good starts with the oh-so-important first impression. Make sure your site is well designed and has an appealing photo, and fill your site with compelling copy. Think of it as a job interview – dress the part, put your best foot forward, and look credible.

2. Show social proof: Show that you’ve worked with other people. Get testimonials. Drop names. Display reader numbers. Make sure prospects see that other people have gone before them and been satisfied. It gives them the assurances they need to buy.

3. Get endorsements: There’s nothin’ that says lovin’ like a big name endorsing what you sell. Get someone with influence backing your skills, your services or your products. Everyone knows major players guard their good reputation well, so their endorsement means a lot to your prospects.

4. Hang with the cool kids: Speaking of big names, be where they are. Hang out in the same places. Network and connect often (even if they don’t acknowledge you at first). Comment at their blogs. Get them noticing you, and be seen where they are. The more you’re seen with the cool kids, the more people think you’re just as cool.

5. Give it away: Don’t just be cool – be generous. Earn raves for your service or products by giving some of it away. Show that you have confidence in what you do or sell, and offer people a free chapter, a free 15-minute consult, a test run or even some swag products. It works, and these loss leaders pull in big rewards.

6. Raise your rates: For big rewards, it’s worth charging big money. Why? Low rates come across as low quality. People assume that if a service or product costs a lot, it must be good… which means they assume a cheap price means cheap goods. Boost your value instantly by increasing your rates – and watch what happens! (But of course, be ethical. Back those big rates with big value.)

7. Put yourself out of reach: Raise your rates even higher. When you set yourself or your products out of easy financial reach, you instantly create an elite perception. It’s the difference between Lamborghinis and Ladas, after all. By raising your price so high only a few people can afford you, you surround yourself with an aura of prestige.

8. Limit access: Creating a sense of urgency often boosts sales dramatically. Go ahead and restrict how many members can get into your course. Limit how many copies of that ebook you’ll sell. Set time-sensitive offers on all your consults or products. Don’t worry; you can always open the doors again in a few months.

9. Show your numbers: If you have numbers, stats or data to back up your worth, then show them off. Numbers are a fast way for prospects to measure your value, so they’ll look to see if you’re popular, have great sales or big income. Talk about those numbers and put them on display. When people see big numbers, they assume you’re as big as those numbers!

10. Pretty up your packaging: Create an experience for customers. Give people the royal treatment by making every part of your business special, from the covers of your CDs to the boxes you ship in to the swanky office they see to the cool phone message you use to the kingly service they receive. By making people feel they’re getting extra-special treatment, they’ll think you’re somebody pretty special too.

11. Bundle up your items: Want to make your offer look like a great deal? Add value – lots of it. No one can resist an irresistible offer, which means adding perception of value and pricing it in a way they just can’t say no. Toss in bonuses and extra gifts, little perks and free stuff, and enhance the bundle in a way that makes you look very generous indeed. Ka-ching!

12. Offer a strong guarantee: There’s one great way to convey confidence in your own products and services: give them a guarantee that covers them for life. After all, if you’re sure people will love it, show it! A lifetime, 100% money-back offer tells people you’re sure of what you sell – and it works to convince customers they’ll be 150% satisfied.

13. Never haggle: One big mistake many business owners make is buying into the haggling game. It’s easy to accept a lower rate for your services, especially when you really need the money, but stand firm. When you let people bargain you down, it sends an unspoken message that you didn’t think you were worth that much in the first place.

The Catch: You Have To Back It Up

Use enough of these tactics, and you can make almost anyone (including me) want to buy your products and services. But there’s also a catch:

You have to back it up.

Yes, people make shallow decisions, but if they buy your product or service and its crap, they’re going to realize they’ve been taken advantage of, and they’ll shout it from the rooftops. Not only will they never buy from you again, but their friends and friends of friends will never buy from you either.

The secret to building a successful business isn’t tricking people into buying stuff they don’t need. It’s tricking people into buying stuff they do need, and then making it so enjoyable they become a raving fan.

To do that, you have to back up your marketing with a quality product, fanatical support, and hassle-free billing. You have to work hard at delivering the goods, making it your company’s mission to deliver an experience they’ll want to tell their friends about, as well as buy from you again and again.

And you know what?

That can’t be faked.

About the Author: James Chartrand is the owner of the leading copywriting and web design agency, Men with Pens.

  1. Clever title. Sound advice.

    Wouldn’t expect anything other from you, James.

    Shallow Hal ;)

  2. Mark Macdonald Aug 20, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I like this because when it comes to making decisions, people always look for quick cues or shortcuts that they’ve come to rely on over time to help them make the right choices in certain situations and you need to provide the those triggers on your own website.

  3. Interesting how #5 (Give it away) and #6 (Raise your rates) seem contradictory at first, but really aren’t when you think about the loss-leader reasoning. If your product is solid, a free sample teaser makes them want the rest. Thanks for the insightful post. Free!

  4. I loved how after selling to us why it’s good to have shallow customers, you then show us how to take advantage of that shallowness.

    And you’re right about the free sample thing. Just last night I was reading the first couple of chapters of Everett Bogue’s minimalist business ebook. So good, it sucked me right in. ;)

  5. LaVonne Ellis Aug 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Great points, thanks. :) And I admit that I’m one of those shallow customers who buys on impulse. Aren’t we all, when the pitch speaks directly to our problems?

  6. On the seller’s part, if they’re good enough to have good stats, endorsements, and social proof, surely they don’t need tricks?

    On the consumer’s part, I think a measure of shallowness is prudent… most can’t spare the energy to analyze prospective purchases in too much depth, right? Most of us are happy to bet that the dishevelled man actually is homeless (rather than a millionaire) in 99.9 percent of cases. If we didn’t base our decisions on probability, we wouldn’t get far. I guess what I’m trying to say is that some of us are indeed shallow, but it doesn’t make us uncritical (and therefore easier to sell to).

    A thought-provoking topic!

  7. Pro tip: hire a graphic designer for steps one, two and 10.

  8. Brilliant article made me smile, and with a little tweaks can be used in any sphere, personal, brick and mortar etc.

  9. Jeffrey S. Baril Oct 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Hi James,

    This is Jeffrey Baril of Source Blogger. How are you?

    I actually couldn’t disagree more with your 4th. premise.

    Playing “groupie” to the larger, more established named in the industry is a turn-off to them and those that see it happening.

    I honestly get more from the “cool kids” by completely ignoring than by creating a shrine and being the “top booster” of their fan clubs.

    This whole premise is for followers. Not leaders.

    Thank you, though; definitely food for thought. You never know where the inspiration for your next article will come from! =)

    Jeffrey Baril of Source Blogger

  10. What an arse-hole whoever wrote this fake plastic crap of a site, people like this make the world a cheap talentless American idol music shithole. Sell your grandma because she looks to old. Sell all the trees and turn them into porno magazines. Its the modern mentality like this which is making the Earth a miserable place for the majority, it used to be a paradise, now oceans of plastic. Good luck to the shallow arsehole.

  11. It’s thinking like this which is destroying the world and human relations. One day you WILL wake up and see that you’ve squandered your life and done more harm than good…hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later.

    Who knows, maybe it’s happened already…this was written in 2010…doubtful.
    If you still believe all you wrote, then I pity the day you will see your choices clearly.


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