Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No, I'm Not Going to Vote for the Only Option

It's rare that I do a political posting on here. Usually because there's not a lot in politics I can relate to writing/marketing. However, my California absentee ballet had some interesting fodder for discussion.

Halfway down my sample ballot, there's a list of judge confirmations. "Shall So-and-So be elected to the office for the term provided by law?" State Supreme Court, appellate courts, 4 districts. It's just asking me to confirm a list of people in their respective positions. Yes or No.

The thing is, these names are the only option listed under each of their categories. There isn't a choice between people. No vote between candidates. Only Yes or No.

Now, I don't know these people from Adam. This is the first time I've seen any of these names. Justice appointments are run differently than political offices, I know, but I'm bristling at the lack of choice. Instead of, "Who should I vote for?" it's become, "Should I vote for or against?" Without my say.

No problem, right? They sent along a hefty information booklet (paid for by our tax dollars). All the bills are included for my perusal. Surely there's something in here about the judges. I'll educate myself a little like any smart customer...

Wait. There's nothing in here about the judicial appointees. Not a word. Again, I'm high and dry on what it is I'm being asked to buy. Does the state really expect me to vote sight unseen?

So I head to the Web, digging for information I should already have. Aah, here we go. Court histories, personal profiles, voting records...Google does not fail me. Half an hour, and I have enough to make an educated decision on Yes or No.

The problem here is that I'm being forced to make extra effort if I want to know about these people. Conscious or unconscious, that will shade my perception of them as candidates. They - and the state offering them up for election - didn't take the time to educate me on why they deserve my vote. They just shoved one option in my face and waited for an answer.

See the marketing parallel in all this? Whether or not they take it, customers do not like only one option. They like choice. Even if that choice is held within one sphere (one group of services, for instance), they want to choose. They don't want a single buying option dictated to them. Otherwise, they might not choose to buy at all.

How to reflect this in marketing copy?

Recognize that customers have (and want) choices. - You will always have competitors. I'm not just talking about other businesses - you're up against Apathy, Suspicion and Fear too. You'll never be the only choice (and you should never try to be), but you can position yourself as the best one.

Check your market. - Poll customers with online forms or emails. Not only to make sure you're speaking to the right audiences, but to hear what they're talking about. A new position you could jump on might be coming up in discussion.

Respect their objections. - There's always going to be at least one objection. Price, timing, lack of approval, etc. Don't ignore or downplay it. Acknowledge it in the copy, then explain how you resolve it. That kind of honesty isn't common. It'll work to your advantage.

Choice isn't an easy part of marketing. Companies don't like the idea that customers may choose to say No. But that's a customer's right, and it always will be. Instead of trying to box them into one option, trust them on an educated decision. If my experience (and that of many other, much more famous copywriters) holds true, they'll vote with their dollars in favor.


For those who've asked (thank you for your concern), the family member injured last week is still in the hospital. She's inching forward, but it'll be a long road.


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