Lessons from Sales and Marketing

We are always looking for the best insights to help Farm Sanctuary’s members make a difference for farm animals in the real world. Perhaps the most powerful thing each of us can do is to help new people open their hearts and minds to the plight of chickens, pigs, turkeys, and cows. The sooner people recognize that these individuals are friends not food, the sooner we will end the horrors of factory farms.

To that end, we are happy to bring you this blog post by Tobias Leenaert. We hope you find it useful!

Whether we like it or not, if we really want to change the world, have to be in the business of selling something. We want to sell a message, a habit, a lifestyle… whatever you want to call it. We are idea merchants, and we need to get as many people as we can on our bandwagon, in whatever ways that are helpful.

I love to read out of the box and see if I can apply ideas from different domains to our efforts. Here are some concepts and lessons I’ve taken from sales and marketing.

The customer is king
People who currently eat animals are the people we want to reach and become part of our team. Since this is the case, we can’t alienate them. They are our future allies. Badmouthing them will usually not motivate them to come closer to us. If we’re angry at them, if we accuse them or judge them, that’s kind of equal to giving up on them joining our team. Rather, like with customers, we need to listen to them, treat them like royalty, give them a cookie or bake them a delicious cruelty-free pie.

You are not your audience
You are not the same as the people you want to reach. Like a car salesperson, you have to adapt your message to what you think people like, are interested in, are open to, are ready for. Just talking about what you want to talk about is equal to the car salesperson talking endlessly about a fancy, expensive sportscar’s horsepower or technical abilities (because that is what fascinates them) to a young parent who is only interested in the safety aspects of a family vehicle.

Reaching new people has to be about your audience’s needs, not your own.

Diffusion of innovation
We need to segment our “customers” into different categories. Innovators have different reasons for picking something up than the late majority. As animal advocates, we’re all innovators, and the arguments that worked for us will not necessarily work for people who are, in this domain, laggards. The famous marketer Seth Godin puts it like this: “The mistake idea merchants make is that they bring their fringe ideas to people who don’t like fringe ideas, instead of taking their time and working their way through the progression.”

What Godin and others are saying is that we should meet people where they are, and appeal to the values that they already cherish, rather than telling them which values they should have.

Winning an argument is losing a customer
Even if the other person tells you that you are right, you haven’t necessarily had a positive impact. When the other person feels they’ve lost, it may make them feel even less sympathetic towards you or the cause you defend. Benjamin Franklin said it like this: “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.” Dale Carnegie said it even simpler: “You can’t win an argument”.

Persuasion resistance
Most people don’t like to be convinced by others and don’t like being told what to do. Also, with regard to the food that’s on their plate, they’ll decide for themselves. They need no government regulations or animal rights or vegetarian groups preaching to them about what to eat, and what not, how much of it, or how they should prepare it. They’ll make up their own minds about all that, thank you very much. It is, therefore, more productive if we don’t give people the impression we want to persuade them of something, and instead help them come to their own conclusions.

Customer retention
Finding new customers is a lot more expensive than trying to keep customers and make sure they buy again. In our domain, research shows that a large number of vegetarians and vegans – no less than 84% – at some point drop out. We should have enough attention for customer retention, and make sure that as few slide off the wagon as possible. We can do that, among other things, by creating communities, making our team more welcoming, and paying enough attention for nutritional pitfalls.

Switching costs
Many people care about animals, but are afraid of the practical consequences of caring about them. It is, in other words, too difficult to make the switch. Switching costs, in marketing terms, are the costs that one incurs when changing products, suppliers, brands, etc. These costs can be financial, but they can also be, for example, time costs or psychological costs. Phone or insurance companies, for instance, want to make switching to their product as little of a hassle as possible (while at the same time, trying to make switching away from their products as difficult as possible.). Likewise, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to adopt the habits of compassion. Preferably, so easy that they don’t even need any reason or motivation.

tobiasl