There are many ways to get the attention and, hopefully, loyalty of your target audience. You can play to their logic by giving them a straightforward, inexpensive, competitive solution to a problem they currently face. You can play to their emotions by evoking a sense of nostalgia, or by using fear to encourage urgent purchases.

But one of the most effective tactics may be an underutilized one: flattery.

The goal here is to flatter your target demographic, complimenting or praising them to encourage further action--and it's more effective than you might think.

The Benefits of Flattery

Let's look at some of the benefits of flattery:

  • Mood. It doesn't take scientific research to learn that compliments make you feel good--both as a giver and a receiver. After receiving a compliment or sincere praise, people tend to be in a better mood, and for many industries, that makes them more likely to make a purchase, or more likely to agree to a favor (such as signing up for a newsletter or listening to a pitch).
  • Positive reinforcement. According to one small study, receiving a compliment has the same positive effects as receiving cash. Participants in the study who either received a compliment related to a task or a cash reward for completing it both improved their performance the next day. In other words, flattery can help you encourage further, similar actions from your customers.
  • Confidence. When people feel confident, they're more likely to follow through with purchases. Your flattery can, if timed properly, encourage enough confidence to push them past the purchasing threshold. This is especially powerful if your business finds it easy to get visitors to your website, but has trouble finalizing conversions.
  • Identity and persuasion. People tend to express loyalty to brands in a kind of tribalism, with consumers gradually identifying with a brand as a marker of character or identity. When you flatter a customer, they feel more connected to your brand, and they learn to associate you closer with their individual identity. From there, they're easier to be persuaded.

So what strategies can you use to flatter your audience?

1. Lead ads with positive qualities.

You can also lead into your ads and marketing messages with a flattering statement about your target demographics, or an exploration of their positive qualities. For example, Gatorade once ran an ad campaign that celebrated the hard work of its target demographics--athletes--playing up the thrill of the lifestyle.

Think carefully about which qualities are most important to your demographic, and play those up. For example, does your demographic like to feel beautiful? Smart? Powerful? Calm? You may need to do some more market research before you say for sure.

2. Encourage your audience regularly.

You could flatter your audience by sending them uplifting or encouraging messages. If you have a software product, you can code these messages in directly; otherwise, you can use an email newsletter. The project management platform Asana, for instance, displays brief celebratory animations occasionally when a user completes a task.

This brief moment of new confidence and flattery can inspire far more brand loyalty. Remember, engaging with your brand is a complete experience, and it's your job to make that experience memorable.

3. Publish flattering studies or findings.

First, you could publish studies that imply that your target audience has a special quality, or repost studies that have been published elsewhere. For example, marijuana dispensary Planet 13 was quick to publish a study that indicated using cannabis is correlated with a better sex life. Finding these studies may be difficult, depending on your industry and what you're looking for, but they can be powerful ways to capture your demographic's attention.

If you have the budget, you can conduct the studies yourself--but there's no guarantee you'll get the results you want. Otherwise, regularly check in with academic journals and industry publications to see what you can find.

4. Get complimentary on social media.

You can also take a more direct approach, especially on social media--and especially if your business is small enough that you can address your customers on an individual basis. For example, you might find that one of your most enthusiastic followers is sharing a piece of content they created; go out of your way to compliment it and share it with your followers. You'll reinforce their existing loyalty and encourage your other customers to engage with you more frequently.

5. Highlight successful case studies.

Finally, you could highlight specific individuals as "success stories," depending on the nature of your brand. For example, the CRM platform SalesForce regularly publishes customer success stories, profiling various entrepreneurs and salespeople and highlighting the achievements they've had with the platform.

Most people are excited to be a part of endeavors like these, and you'll also get the chance to show off what your products or services are capable of. Just make sure to highlight the personal angle by getting to know your interviewee.

You don't need to pour lavish or insincere compliments on your target audience to earn the benefits of flattery; sometimes, a simple compliment or a bit of praise is enough to elicit these benefits. Make your customers feel good, and make them feel confident, and they'll be far more willing to keep engaging with your brand.

Published on: Jun 7, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.