Appeal to clients' time, not money


Marketing messages are more effective when they focus on clocks instead of wallets.

In the current economic climate, you may be tempted to tailor your marketing efforts to cash-strapped clients looking to save a few bucks wherever they can. But according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research you may be better off highlighting how much time you can save clients, not money.

Researchers at Stanford Business School found that marketing messages are generally more lucrative when focusing on time and personal experiences rather than monetary value. The researchers set out to prove this theory by setting up a lemonade stand staffed by two six-year-olds. They then tested the effect of three different signs: “Spend a little time and enjoy C&D's lemonade,” “Spend a little money and enjoy C&D's lemonade,” and “Enjoy C&D's lemonade.” Customers were asked to pay between $1 and $3 and were questioned afterward about their opinion of the lemonade.

The researchers found that the sign that emphasized time attracted twice as many customers who ultimately spent twice as much as those who came by when the sign stressing money was posted. Customers who stopped when the sign mentioning time was posted also reported liking the lemonade more than the others.

In another experiment, the researchers questioned college students about their Apple iPods, either asking them how much time or how much money they spent on the device. Those asked about time expressed positive feelings about their iPod more than those asked about how much money they spent.

Jennifer Aaker, a Stanford marketing professor and a coauthor of the study, says these results stem from customers' personal relationship with the products and services they purchase. “Because a person's experience with a product tends to foster feelings of personal connection with it, referring to time typically leads to more favorable attitudes-and to more purchases,” she says.

The researchers did discover one exception to the rule, however. Companies that sell or market luxury items such as high-end cars, jewelry, or designer jeans find it more lucrative to focus their marketing messages on money. That's because these items are typically purchased for prestige, and owners value the act of owning the products more than the time spent with them.

So when you're dreaming up your next marketing campaign, keep in mind that clients typically prefer hearing about your stellar service and efficiency. Not that they won't accept a coupon every now and then.

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