This post originally appeared on the Sales section of Inbound Hub. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

Read the following two sentences:

1) My session at INBOUND will make you see your job and your content differently. Attendees will leave with a firm grasp on theconcept of NLP, and takeaways that will ring in your ears for weeks.

2) My session at INBOUND will teach you about NLP. You’ll learn the basics, and get tips on how to incorporate NLP techniques in your content.

Which abstract was more effective in making you want to attend my presentation? If you’re a human being (and I hope you are if you’re reading this!), I’m guessing it was the first example. 

NLP, or neuro-linguistic programming, is a theory that claims people react more strongly to language that invokes one of their senses. Most people have an innate bias towards their eyes, ears, or hands, which translates into them preferring visual, auditory, or kinesthetic language. 

Do you see now why you might have preferred the first pitch to the second? Focus on the sensory words and phrases: “see,” “grasp,” “ring.” Also note the absence of sensory language in the second example. Audiences tend to regard speeches or messages that lack emotional language with mistrust and suspicion. 

Salespeople have long used this technique to quickly and effectively connect with their prospects. However, it hasn’t taken as firm a root in marketing, despite its relevance for content in particular. 

If we had unlimited real estate to connect with our buyers and target audiences, we could express ourselves any way we wanted. But we don’t — we’re locked in a treacherous battle for attention. So while sensory language will never replace the importance of the message itself, don’t you want your content to be wrapped in as pretty wrapping paper as possible? Making use of NLP can boost content clicks, engagement, and interest.

When we develop content strategies we think deeply about title, author, and messaging. But I would argue that emotional language should also be carefully considered to ensure we are effectively speaking to all the buyers out there that may not be like us.

Catering to Your Prospect vs. Your Audience

The main difference in using NLP in sales vs. marketing is that salespeople are generally engaged in one-to-one interactions. They can assess whether their buyer prefers visual, auditory, or kinesthetic language, and lean into that preference. 

On the other hand, marketing materials have to cater to many people with many different preferences. Since it’s rare to see any one emotional language bias among a type of buyer or target audience — the population is roughly split into thirds — marketers should instead try to hit all three bases with their messaging. 

Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

Visual – Visual people process information through their eyes, and are therefore drawn to content types they can see, such as infographics, videos, and SlideShares. Use language that evokes color, brightness, and sight — “show me,” “green with envy,” etc.

Auditory – These are people that prefer to use their ears. Instead of stimulating visuals, they’re more interested in sound, as packaged in podcasts or recorded interviews. “Hear me out,” “tell me,” “hit a sour note,” etc. 

Kinesthetic – They’re the hands-on learning type. Whereas visual or auditory people like to see or hear information, kinesthetic people actually need to participate by clicking or interacting in some way. Use physical phrases like “let’s walk through this” or “tackle a problem.”

Each and every one of us falls into one of these buckets — that means marketers, too. Becoming aware of your own bias can help you steer your content away from your own style and mix some of the other two in.

Does NLP Work? An Anecdote

I’ve seen how NLP affects people’s reactions to messaging before. Here’s an example of when I’ve personally seen sensory language increase engagement: A client of mine incorporated several engagement-boosting measures — one being emotional language — during a recorded software demonstration. The narrator used vivid words in his presentation, and the company measured success by how long viewers watched.

To the business leader’s delight, the demo’s stickiness increased by approximately 30%, which was especially significant because the call-to-action came later in the video. So people who were dropping off before they had even seen the CTA were now hanging around to see the close. 

I don’t mean to imply that your content should be dripping with sensory imagery such that it becomes cartoonish. But in my opinion, content today is often written or created in a style at the complete other side of the spectrum — very formal business-speak. I think taking a healthy step to the right of this continuum by even incorporating a small number of these words and attitudes would benefit both everyone.

Want to learn even more about NLP, and discover your bias? Come to my session at INBOUND, “Sales Secrets For Marketers: Boost Engagement With NLP.” Looking forward to seeing you, hearing your comments, and shaking some hands.

Enjoy this post? To read more content like it, subscribe to Sales.


Leave a Reply