Say you’re doing a website for the local aquarium. Say you’re targeting families. The banner on the home page may say something like, “Bring your family to enjoy all the sea-life exhibits.”

That headline is okay. But just okay. How about: “Imagine your child’s eyes as they stand nose-to-nose with a Bottlenose Dolphin.”

What’s going on there? First off all, we’re painting a picture in the parent’s head. And the more ‘real’ we can make that positive imagined scenario for them, the more likely they they are to reach for the “Buy tickets now” button.

But more importantly, we’ve gone beyond selling the physical attraction itself, into selling an enriching experience, for parents who value enriching experiences for their kids. It’s a precise targeting strategy that happens to target, well, pretty much every parent. What we’ve done is shown that we, the people behind the aquarium, share the same higher values as the parents themselves.

The effect of this is a visceral connection that simply wouldn’t have been cemented with that first headline idea.

Let’s go a step further. In a competitive marketplace, every seller naturally wants to change the buyer’s purchase behavior. But first they need to change that person’s views about that purchase issue. However humans don’t really want their views changed. I don’t. You don’t. We want our views validated by something that supports what we already believe. So wadaya do?

The smart money says that you find a higher value that buyer holds, validate that, then use it as wedge between them and their previous purchase behavior. In other words, plant a seed of doubt that implies that what they’ve been buying conflicts with what’s really important to them. And of course our product better supports that higher value. Of course.

For example, say you’re marketing a bank, promoting home loan refinancing. You could just say, “Refinance your home for a lower monthly rate.” But you’d probably get more mileage out of something like, “Why are you throwing money away each and every month?”

Here, our natural “higher value” of conserving our money is made to conflict with what they’re doing now with their current mortgage lender. That sets up an internal conflict, which can be resolved by, guess what, refinancing with our bank.

To use an overused example, Nike famous tagline wasn’t “quality running shoes made with the finest materials.” The tagline “Just do it” shows that Nike shares the higher value of full-out athleticism with their athletic audience. When a company successfully does that, it can create an emotional connection that can last a lifetime. Of course, not everyone who buys Nike is a full-out athlete -— but it works because that sentiment taps into the idealized self they aspire to, if not their real-world selves.

Selling based on higher values can be a powerful tool in the marketer’s arsenal. But first, of course, we have to be savvy enough to know what’s deep-down important to the people we want to reach. So don’t necessarily start with the product. Take a careful look at your website visitor…and start there.

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