• Adhlin & Lea

Identifying When To Use Hard Sell or Soft Sell Elements

There’s no doubt that marketing matters more now than ever, and it isn’t as straightforward as many people often think. Choosing between options to engage in an effective sales strategy such as hard sell and soft sell for brands can be overwhelming as therein lies the dichotomy of marketing which may clash between what often appear to be two poles of completely different natures.

Before we dive deeper into how brands can create content with hard-sell versus soft-sell elements, let’s look together at the definition of hard sell and how it differs from a soft-sell.

First, let’s put ourselves in the position of an avid social media user, and typically we’re here to socialize and see what friends are up to - and possibly watch a random video of a dog dressing up as a chicken, and chances are hard selling content showing up on our news feed which oftentimes is convincing yet annoying with too much aggression. Soft selling, on the other hand, appears without seeming too pushy or overbearing, which may create long-term brand building and likewise may appear less potential to convince certain people.

How to identify when to use hard-sell or soft-sell elements in a content

Oftentimes brands would think hard sell is the way for an effective awareness, but hey, soft sell works too! We know it’s tempting. You want the public to know about the amazing products and services that you have. But you would want it to have an impact on them as well. So, in this case, which approach would you consider?

First, identify your purpose or objective of doing the campaign as it will help you with what approach that you can consider. If your objective of doing a campaign or marketing is to get immediate sales results, then hard sell is the way! Hence in the campaign executed, you will have the call to action to get people to purchase it.

If your objective or purpose of the marketing campaign is seeking to grow a lucrative and loyal customer base, you can consider a soft-sell approach. In terms of advertising and promotion, a soft sell may do nothing more than associate a positive emotion or idea with the brand, and this tends to benefit large firms that have a wide presence whereby brand recognition and image can boost sales. This approach acts as a type of counter signaling that demonstrates confidence and status. In other words, it never appears desperate for a sale. For the majority though, social media marketing is really about building your tribe or your own loyal customer base, so, providing these people with valuable information and using a soft-sell approach, nurtures them along the sales pipeline until they are ready to buy.

Highlight how each element works

Let’s identify how some elements for the hard sell and soft sell approach play an important role in your social media marketing tactic! First! Let's talk about product placement. It may sound like nothing but see how this can turn the tables when it comes to analytics! Oftentimes people will get bored or tend to interact less with postings that the product placement is too in your face.

Product placement for hard sell postings will be either; 80% of the photo is the product and 20% is the influencer’s face or if it is in a video format, the products will be there in the frame from the start till the end.

What about soft sell? Does that mean that my brands will have no exposure? No product placement in the postings? Relax! We got you, brands! The soft sell approach will still have the product placement in postings but rather than have it appear “in your face” kind of way, it will be more subtle, but recognizable! When you already have very strong brand recognition, people will always recognize your brand!

Let’s talk about captions! Come on, who loves long captions with too much marketing jargon or too much information? Keeping it short and simple is the key and only address what you want. Do you want immediate sales? Use call-to-action such as Get yours now, buy now in the captions. - These are the samples for hard sell captions, very effective to give the sense of urgency to the consumers to grab the deals or product.

Do you want them to be more curious about the product or service that you offered? Create a sense of mystery of wanting to know more about the products or services. Let them guess and engage more with the posting. - Be subtle as possible is the key to a soft-sell approach!

Wonder how the direction for the postings for each approach sounds the same but would really give a different vibe? Let’s take an example for a personal care brand, like hair care products. The hard-sell approach would often come in strong and with aggression to get people to know what products they are using and how to get them. However, a soft-sell approach would have it come in very subtle and more emphatic, trying to relate the problem or issue so the consumer would feel relatable. Both approaches would have the same product placement manner which is very upfront, but the key message or the treatment of the advertisement plays an important role in determining it to be a hard sell or a soft-sell approach.

Which element will suit best for your content

It all comes down to one question now, which element will suit best for your brand? Here are a few tips we have which can be applied based on the types of the brand category you’re in - to either opt for hard-sell or soft-sell in your social media content to bring your brand’s story to life.

The cold, harsh reality is that nobody likes a hard-sell cookie, as this advertising method is much more in-your-face but somehow we find that when it comes to brands under the category such as automotive, furniture, technology, or even real estate - it is ok to include some hard selling messages. Every wonder the big WHY?

Reasons being as people tend to focus on the benefits of the products and strongly based on the “what’s in it for me” to influence their purchasing behavior especially when it comes to luxury or superfluous items. We can pretty much also say that hard selling shares certain commonalities wherein they are aggressive, benefits-based and products are usually not something that consumers need on a daily basis - and definitely harder to sell in which hard-sell approach is often appropriate.

On the other hand, quiet is the new loud and soft selling approach that is coming to favor. Let’s take fashion brands or personal care brands as an example where oftentimes audiences are made aware of a brand without realizing it as products are in the background rather than pushed in the audience’s face. The big idea of the soft-sell approach lies in telling a story or even setting a mood which is often more powerful this way as audiences may come to associate with the brand because they want to.

How to "sell" hard sell content - leveraging on creativity and relevancy.

Assuming you’re interested in “selling” hard-sell content for your brand but not sure how? Fret not, we got you covered! In order to adopt the “hard-sell” approach, it is important to remember that creativity and authenticity play a huge role. Not to mention, it all also comes down to brands choosing the right influencers to establish a strong foundation of trust with their followers, thus the ability to “sell” hard-sell content.

With influencer marketing growing in popularity (further driven by the ongoing pandemic), the drive for authenticity and retention in influencer content has become to relate with today’s audiences towards a successful hard-sell content activation. The questions now: What makes influencer marketing content authentic?

For content to feel authentic, a true sense of partnership between a brand and influencer perhaps makes the greatest impact on authenticity in influencer marketing as the saying goes “authenticity cannot be bought and must instead be built.” Meanwhile, authenticity also lies in brands providing space for influencers to curate their unique creative visions, ability to create content complementing their own personality and in a way that makes sense to fit in their feed aesthetics. Having said that, the good news is that it may result in high influencing power when the influencer recommends or advertises a product as it portrays their true self.

Finally, retention is also an important factor to consider for brands looking to engage with influencers. Let’s not forget that social media users are smart and are able to identify whether the content is authentic or not especially when influencers oftentimes take on several different brand deals within a short amount of time, effectively turning their channel into a revolving door of varied sponsorships. And so, how do you resolve this? We would recommend a long-term partnership between brand and influencer as it serves authentic messaging which in return makes audiences trust them when they advertise a product regardless of hard-sell content.

Generally speaking, people in sales always believe that hard sell works the best because it gets straight to the sales message without beating around the bush as their main objectives are to clearly promote and influence products and services to generate profits. Hence, social media today is often flooded with “another ad content” where we can easily witness an average of 3 to 4 hard-sell postings by influencers on a regular basis, whereas clever and unique hard-selling posts by influencers are usually hard to come by.

However, the operations or analytics people would have different perspectives as they would recommend brands to opt for a soft selling approach in consideration of getting closer to local communities and to make it feel like an authentic connection, where the brand becomes relatable to their audience. Indirectly, it will help to create a sense of brand loyalty to the consumer as well.

In conclusion, which way is more effective between hard sell and soft sell? *Drumrolls* The trophy goes to neither as we believe that both elements should form balanced chemistry, depending on brands to identify what content works best to reach their target audiences alongside being able to offer an equal amount of value in the ratio of the sales activities between soft sales and hard sales!