If you’re having heart surgery, experience matters. In that type of situation, visions of potential mishaps spring forth and we naturally look to experience as the surest path to loss prevention.
But what about more run-of-the-mill situations or markets? Is experience still our top criteria when selecting a carpet cleaner? A baby-faced pilot might worry passengers, but would a baby-faced piano tuner inspire the same concerns?
For most of us, the answer is “no.” Typically, the lower the stakes, the less experience determines one’s buying process. Still, it can dramatically alter the persuasive landscape. Confronting the third Deadly Claim involves reversing the common writing perspective of pain vs. gain.
Do your prospects hear risk’s wolf-breath stalking their buying path? If so, persuading them with claims of experience is as easy as using your established track record to soothe their uncertainty and fears.
But if the perceived risks engender pursed lips and prayer-clasped hands? If your readers are focused more on gain than pain, merely citing your experience stops working. In that situation, you’ll have to…
- Create a mental link between your experience and the reader’s desired gain
- Assure them that your claim of experience extends to the employees who will end up serving them.
Here are a few approaches for that 1st step:
- Highlight moments where experience paid off. “An experienced exterminator can pick up on clues that others might miss. Last year, we had a house where every single termite bait came up empty. Most exterminators would have left, confident in the results, but Joey noticed a small hole near the foundation. That hole was the beginning of a nest, and catching it early probably saved our client $10,000.” [This would work even better if it were a real client testimonial, or at least paired with one.]
- Show the results of experience in aggregate. “The industry average for Repeat Warranty Visits — to fix what wasn’t fixed the first time — is 43%. That means less than half of all visits don’t fix the problem. Star Cable Company’s average is under 7%. That’s because our ‘average’ technician been on the job for more than 10 years, while most cable technicians have less than three. Want it fixed right the first time? Call Star Cable.”
- Link experience to other performance metrics. If experience really does matter, it should show up somewhere. Figure out how and where it shows up, then measure it and compare it to others (if nothing else, “repeat customers” works well). The number of customers switching to you is another good indicator. Avis may be famous for being second, but I’ve known more than one business that took pride in being their customers’ second (and last) service provider. Imagine this for copy:
- “People tell us we seem too pricey at first look, but three quarters of our customers came to us from a competitor. It’s on the second look that we’re seen for the bargain we are. And that’s why 98% of our customers would recommend us to a friend, and 60% of our new clients come from referrals.”
Notice how I didn’t mention the company’s experience until after I made some other claim?
First, I referenced what experience has bought that company (miraculous saves, fewer mistakes, and satisfied clients). It’s only later that experience was used to substantiate how the company accomplishes those feats. Follow that same pattern and you’ll do fine.
As for the second step, be sure to associate your experience directly to the customer-facing employees, consultants, technicians, servicemen, and so on. No one cares if the company has decades of experience if the person helping them is a clueless newbie. Here are some suggestions on that front:
- Try to provide an average of your staff’s experience. Don’t try to pass off a few old-timers’ experience as belonging to the entire group.
- Better yet, give the lowest experience level as a minimum (assuming you can get away with it). Knowing that every technician has at least 5 years in the field is far more persuasive than knowing that one of your techs has been with you for 15 years. (Besides, I probably won’t get that tech.)
- If years of experience don’t do your people justice, use some other metric like number of calls, number of parts serviced, things installed, customers serviced, etc.
- Let customers see and read about your staff. If you’re in real estate, for instance, and you have only have a few agents, post their pictures and quotes. If you have too many for that, post a representative group. Ultimately, experience accrues to individuals, so let the reader see some of the individuals who will be doing the job.
- Show how you’ve standardized or institutionalized experience and knowledge. If, based on your experience, you’ve come up with a standardized procedure or a new way of doing things, point that out. Once I know you’ve embedded the lessons of experience into your organization’s culture, I’ll trust you’re able to repeat the benefits of that experience for me.
Read more about the 7 Deadly Claims at your own risk…
- “Superior Customer Service“
- “Easy to Use“
- “Most Experienced“
- “We’re #1“
- “100% Risk-Free“
- “Cutting Edge“
- “Best Value“
[Editor's note: Is your website a little too "experienced"? Sharpen up your virtual sales pitch at our Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar on March 28th in San Francisco. Jeff and Holly will be your instructors for this first-ever West Coast edition of our popular one-day copywriting crash course. Class size is limited so that attendees can get real advice and actually learn something. You'll even get $100 off if you register by 2/29.]