What are the three most profitable words in marketing?

Go on, have a guess…what do you think the three most profitable words in the history of marketing are? These words allow companies to sell TWICE as much product as we actually want. And the words are used to sell product we don’t even need in the first place. What a fantastic trick that is…! The companies are selling us unnecessary stuff – twice over…! Worldwide we buy $40bn of these products. That is a nice income for something that’s not even vital…!

Most of the time people do as they are told..!

Most of the time people do as they are told..!

The three words you are looking for are “rinse and repeat”. They are printed on the back of every shampoo bottle under the title “Directions” or “Instructions”. And when we are provided with such authoritative words we behave; we do as we are told. So, we dutifully wash our hair…and then wash it again..! We end up using two lots of shampoo when one will do. Fantastic for the likes of Unilever and Proctor & Gamble who sell oceans of shampoo each year. In fact, we don’t need shampoo at all. The natural oils in your scalp will clean your hair – washing your bonce actually removes much of the naturally occurring cleaning capability. Stop washing your hair and around six weeks later your head will be back to normal and your hair will become naturally cleansed. Of course for six weeks you’d have to hang around rather smelly and dirty – but hey, it will save you money.

The shampoo manufacturers are playing on a psychological phenomenon whereby we act in accordance with instructions if we perceive the person giving those directions to be in authority. We reckon the shampoo manufacturers must know what they are talking about and if they say we need to “rinse and repeat” there “must be a reason”, so we do it – using up our bottles of shampoo twice as quickly. Ker-ching…goes the cash till over at Unilever or P&G again…and again. “Rinse and repeat” – probably worth more extra income than any other words in marketing.

But what lesson does it teach us online? After all, you can hardly force your web-based customers to buy twice as much of your products or services as they need. It’s not as easy to do the “rinse and repeat” trick if you are, say, an accountant, or a restaurant. “You’ve eaten one meal, now eat another…” – it’s not going to be that attractive to customers is it? Or, “I’ve checked your VAT, now you must ask me to do it again”…is not quite going to have the impact you want as an accountant is it?

However, by positioning yourself as being the authority figure you can get more business out of your customers by providing them with “directions” or “instructions”. For example, if you are perceived by your customers to know what you are talking about, to have done research in your sector and to be an expert in the field they will then be amenable to being instructed what to do. So, imagine you are a lawyer who has helped draw up a standard contract and terms of business for a company. Job done. But if you are the lawyer and you say to the client “Now, having produced that contract you need to get it certified by the Institute of Contracts”, guess what, the client will say “Ah, that will be helpful, thank you”. Hey presto, another £250 for the lawyer for something that is a “nice to have” not a “need to have”.

Notice that the lawyer in this example does not ask if the person would like it done. Nor do they say that they have another service for “contract certification” on offer. No, the lawyer merely instructs the client that this is the next thing to be done. In essence, our legal brain is no better than a bottle of shampoo. However, they can only do this if the client perceives the lawyer to be authoritative.

So, if you want to make more money from the Internet, you can do so if you instruct or direct your clients. But they will only accept the “rinse and repeat” offer if you have established yourself as an authority in your field. And that requires time and effort. True, you can make money fast online – but a more sustainable income comes from being an authority who can then get people to buy even more from you. Set out to be an authority on your topic, to be an expert, to be the “go to person” on your subject. Then when people are your clients they will do as you say, without being asked. And that’s how you can become even more profitable.

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