Digital Marketing

Soft Selling and Hard selling in Advertising

So let us say you have created a fantastic product or service that you think people will love. You already have an audience base who is interested in what you can provide. However, how do you convert your existing audience into paying customers? Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and sales tactics can change depending on the product, service, market as well as customers your brand has. That being said, most sales tactics generally fall between a hard or a soft sell category. As such, you must understand the differences between the two and when you should use them.  


What is soft selling  

Simply put, soft selling is a sales strategy that is more subtle and casual, and aims to build a relationship with the customer over a longer period of time to get them to make a purchase. Soft selling tends to be more empathetic, as brands need to deeply understand their customer’s wants, needs, and pain points. With audiences nowadays being bombarded with thousands of advertisements daily, people are becoming more and more suspicious and untrusting of direct marketing messages. According to a survey, only 4 percent of Americans believe that the marketing industry behaves honestly. As such, soft selling is becoming an increasingly popular strategy for a company or media group to use, to not only avoid angering potential customers but also to encourage repeat sales.  


When done well, soft selling can be an excellent way to build trust in a brand. This is because the content created tends to be more personable, making the brand seem more human and compassionate. Audiences are also more likely to share high-quality, valuable, entertaining, or informative content, making it a cost-effective way to increase brand awareness. It signals to people that the brand is not only focusing on sales but cares more than that, which puts less pressure on potential customers to make a purchase. 


What is hard selling 

Hard selling is essentially everything that soft selling is not. Instead of trying to subtly persuade, hard selling is direct, insistent, and pushy. It is mainly used to get the customer to purchase a product or service in a short amount of time. For example, a car dealer could mention that a particular model has limited availability, to entice people to buy it on the spot due to scarcity, as well as a fear of missing out (FOMO). Hard selling often requires a direct call to action and a strong sales pitch which will motivate the prospect to take action. These messages are very easy to recognize, with common phrases including “buy now” as well as “limited time offer.”   


As hard selling is very aggressive, intimidating, and somewhat desperate, it can be off-putting to many people. As such, the use of it is declining with most brands. Hard selling also rarely takes into account the feelings and needs of its target audience, which can provoke mistrust and suspicion. As such, it is now not often recommended as a primary sales strategy. However, that doesn’t mean that it cannot be useful, or that it cannot help your campaigns. 

When to use soft selling 

Because of its more subtle and empathetic approach, soft selling has become a lot more popular recently. The method works best when a business or industry thrives on gaining loyal and repeat customers. Another aspect you want to keep in mind is whether or not your product or service is high-quality, or if you want to sell something more expensive. A business could also consider using this sales strategy if they have a very small and specific target audience, as it is easier to build up relationships and cultivate a devoted customer base.  


On the flip side, because soft selling is not as aggressive and is focused on building customer relationships, it can be hard to motivate urgency in audiences. As such, soft selling is not recommended if a business’s sales tactics require the audience to take quick action. Ultimately, a brand needs time and commitment to achieve success when soft selling, making this strategy better suited to meeting longer-term business objectives.  


When to use hard selling 

As the antithesis of soft selling, hard selling is usually forceful and assertive when targeting audiences. As such, this strategy is mainly used when a customer has an immediate need – for example, when a customer has broken a car tire and needs to get it fixed as soon as possible. So it’s no surprise that hard selling is often used to meet sales quotas or to replace products that need immediate fixing. Hard selling is also a great strategy to use when selling cheaper products because customers are less likely to hesitate when pondering whether they should buy them or not. Compared to a hard sell, you cannot induce the same amount of urgency in a soft sell. 


Unfortunately, due to its aggressiveness, hard selling can be seen as annoying and overwhelming to customers, thus pushing them away. As this strategy does not focus on building relationships with audiences and customers, a customer driven away could end up endangering the company’s reputation, especially if they leave bad reviews online. Furthermore, brands need to be aware that hard selling has a larger potential to be unethical when compared to soft selling, which can open them up to legal liabilities.  


In the end 

Overall, what approach you choose to take depends on many factors, such as the product or service you provide, the industry you are in, and the type of audience you are targeting. Both soft sell and hard sell strategies have their own advantages and disadvantages, which are important for advertisers, marketers, and salespeople to understand. Most companies usually mix things up and use both hard and soft sell techniques, so don’t be afraid to try and experiment for yourself. 

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