3190-2974881872_524b49b52d_m.jpgJim offers a great idea. He knows it’s good, but unfortunately a lot of people just don’t quite get it and therefore aren’t buying it. Jim is frustrated day after day when he sees how his ideas could be used by people in his community, but because he can’t communicate it, and because the community aren’t sure of him, his idea isn’t selling.

One day, Jim decides to stop trying to market his idea, and instead decides to show his idea in action. Rather than trying to promote his idea, he lets uses his idea to promote an entirely different idea altogether. The result is that in doing so, people got to see Jim’s idea in action.

Ok, so Jim is Me.

In fact, Jim is a lot of people. Headfake marketing – the method of using one thing to teach another thing – is as old as, well, the Karate Kid. Remember Mr. Miyagi teaching his young student to ‘wax on, wax off’? By teaching him how to clean windows, Daniel actually learns to block punches. We can use the same techniques today when articulating the ideas that we have.

This mechanism is used a lot in sales. When people ‘sell through’ rather than ‘sell to’, they are pulling a mild form of this (you know, the old “You might know someone who needs this”, rather than saying “You need this” trick.) Or how about getting kids to eat food by pretending it’s a plane flying into a tunnel?

The headfake above means you are selling to someone while giving them a safe way to exit, which is generally more pleasant. But there’s more to it than that.

How To Wax On, Wax Off

The reason why you have to pull a headfake is because, unfortunately, when people are too familiar with you they often won’t learn from you. That’s why Jim (and the rest of us) get annoyed when people suddenly ‘get it’ when someone says what we’ve been saying for ages already. So here’s how to start going about it:

  1. You need to create some kind of distance, or magic curtain. You can’t let people see how you put it together, because that breaks the transformational effect when they see what you’ve done that finally shocks people into admiring what you do. Remember when Daniel realises that ‘Wax On, Wax Off’ was the actual moves? Thats the transformation you want.
  2. Transfer your passion into the headfake. If you’ve ever visited HSBCreviews.com, you’ve seen the headfake in action. The lesson we learn from thrudigital here is that the headfake needs to be around a passion or a pain in order to provoke emotion. It can’t be bland, else people don’t get it, and don’t want it.
  3. Make the headfake a mindshift. Do it to such a high standard that people are hungry for the next thing you have. You can do this most powerfully by making mantra and creating a phrase that people start using. If everyone in your proximity is using your language, then you are the master of that language, and can do with it as you will (just don’t abuse it.)
  4. Tell stories. This makes it memorable. People forget what was said but they remember what they felt, and stories create feeling because we use our imagination to put ourselves in the story, rather than passively just listening.
  5. Followup with by packaging the idea to take home. After the headfake (if you do it well), people will want you idea. You need to have a simple, clear packaged idea that they can take home with them. After you’ve worked so hard to make your idea clear, don’t make it unclear again with your amorphous mist of services. Present a clear, packaged productised idea for taking home.
  6. Convert it. You have to master it, close the deal, and convert the headfake into your idea. This can be uncomfortable, but people are hungry for it. If people are complimenting you, then you need to just decide to have the confidence and go – stop worrying over whether people will buy into your idea or not – and stop waiting for people to come to you.

A Living Example

Randy Pausch carries out his famous last lecture here on the subject of “Achieving your Childhood Dreams.” What follows is an hour discussion on headfakes, before the final revelation that the whole talk is a headfake itself. It has passion, the magic curtain, stories, mindshifts, language and wholly converts the headfake into the idea.

Watch it here.

Your Headfakes

I want to hear about the headfakes that you’ve pulled, and the best ones that you know of. Let’s get a list going in the comments.

Photo with thanks to tico24.

Archived Comments

  • http://www.twitter.com/SurajGogoi Suraj Gogoi

    Marketing is all about understanding human psychology, and thank goodness I do that for a living. Successful selling requires the ability to change human behaviour.

    The relationship between a buyer and a promoter is not a natural, easy one. The buyer only buys when he/she wants to buy and not necessarily when the seller wants to sell. So you are right that the promoter’s effort should be focussed on creating the right conditions for the buyer to desire the product and make a buying decision intrinsically, instead of being pushed by an extrinsic force. This also ensures that there is consonance between attitude and behaviour – crucial to prevent buyer’s remorse.

    I do headfake marketing all the time with my 5yr old daughter, every parent will agree that they are forced into it…there’s no other way to captivate the attention of a toddler and effect behavioural change at the same time. The truth is, we all remember a good story, don’t we?

  • / Scott Gould

    Totally. Parents are doing this all the time. In fact, most of us are – it’s just a technique. But worth pointing out!