Friday, May 31, 2013

The Power of Because

Part 1 of a 7-part series

Kevin Hogan, author of The Science of Influence, says there are seven "magic words" guaranteed to make you more persuasive.

Becausepreceding any reason, no matter how vaguewill often persuade people to agree to your request.

They'll do so automatically.

That's because we're conditioned from childhood to comply when offered justification for a request.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feelings First

Note to B2B marketers: Money isn't everything.

Yes, money informs all business decisions. But emotion propels buying decisionsincluding the decision to buy your product.

Your product not only has to be the right choice; it has to feel like it. Without that feeling, all options seem pretty much the same.

Leading with the detailed financial arguments needed to seal buying decisions can take the wind out of your sails (pun intended).

So before piling on proof points, rouse your customer. 

Tell attention-grabbing stories of "before and after" transformations experienced by other customers.

Omit those stories and you'll find yourself merely reciting a lot of facts and figures, which feed the brain, but starve the gut.

Sales gurus Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer, in Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, caution:

"One of the most common mistakes sales professionals make when selling is that they lead too early with proof. They believe that all they need to do is use the brute force of facts and logic in their pitch, and the prospect will buy from them. What you need to understand is that proof has its place. But it should come only after you've created the emotional momentum in your prospect that makes him want to move from where he is to where your solution can take him."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where's Your Proof?

At a turning point in the novel Great Expectations, the central character is told by his attorney, “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.”

Are you counting on looks to persuade prospects? Or does your copy provide the proof points they require?

To move prospects from interest to desire, proof points are mandatory. They give prospects the evidence they need to believe what you claim might be true. But in the rush to distinguish their products from competitors', marketers often neglect to provide even the most common ones: 

  • Qualifications of the people behind the product
  • Specifications
  • Performance statistics
  • Test results
  • Achievements of customers who've used the product
  • Testimonials
  • Endorsements by experts
  • Awards won
  • Demonstrations
  • Unconditional guarantees

Without question, today's ADD-positive prospects want to learn one thing about your product: how it's different.

That doesn't mean they'll settle for your word on it.

PS: My thanks to Richard Hendrickson for inspiring this post.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Should Your Copy Forgo Good Grammar?

Bad grammar in an ad's headline caught my eye recently. (The ad comes from a company that rents furniture to tradeshow exhibitors.)


What could the copywriter have been thinking?
  • The combination of "Your vision" and "Our furnishings" gets you noticed;
  • The two antecedent nouns (one of which itself is plural) don't require use of a plural pronoun; or
  • "It gets you noticed" sounds livelier than "They get you noticed."
Should your copy forgo good grammar? The answer's yes if:
  • The rules of grammar weaken your argument, and
  • You're certain your audience doesn't prize learning.
I'd bet the copywriter thought "It gets you noticed" packed punch, and the rental company knows its customers don't care whether a pronoun disagrees with its antecedents.

Ad man David Ogilvy said, "I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Watch Your Language

The father of phrases like death tax (a.k.a. estate tax) and climate change (a.k.a. global warming), Republican strategist Frank Luntz employs focus groups to examine words’ emotional content.

His goal is to find words that will change people's visceral reactions to hot-button issues.

In a 2012 speech to the Washington State Chamber of Commerce, Luntz advised business executives to revise some of their pet phrases. He recommended they replace :
  • Free enterprise with economic freedom
  • Middle class with hardworking taxpayers; and 
  • Business climate with healthy economy.
Luntz also recommended executives strike understand, accountable and important from their vocabularies, because listeners no longer have faith in these words.

You need not agree with Luntz's politicsI, for example, would replace his death tax with fairness reset and his climate change with planetary meltdownto agree with his theory.

The emotional content of words makes them powerfully persuasive.

Novelist Joseph Conrad once wrote, "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Scarcity

Part 6 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of scarcity when you pay $900 for a ticket to see The Rolling Stones.

According to Robert Cialdini, we're susceptible to scarcity because loss seems terrible.

Faced with scarcity, you let emotions cloud your brain and throw caution to the wind.

Scarcity is why deadlines drive sales; why "limited editions" disappear from shelves; and why censorship or prohibitionactual or threatenedincites panic buying.

Want to persuade someone? Give him a deadline.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Authority

Part 5 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of authority when you accept without question the auto mechanic's recommendation to replace your tie rods.

In Influence, Robert Cialdini writes, "We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong."

Heeding an authority is wisewhen her expertise is genuine. 

But trouble lies in the fact we're vulnerable to symbols of authority:
  • Titles, certifications and professional designations;
  • Uniforms and business suits; and 
  • Trappings of success (trophies, limos, posh offices, club memberships, etc.).
Authority explains why we buy products recommended by actors in TV ads; why we over-tip showy waiters; and why con men like Bernie Madoff flourish.

Want to persuade someone? Trumpet your expertise.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Liking

Part 4 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of liking when you accept the affable rep's suggestion to rent a Mercedes, even though you'd be happy with a Hyundai.

Robert Cialdini claims three factors affect likability: 
  • A person's physical attractiveness;
  • Her similarity to ourselves; and 
  • Her readiness to compliment us.
The more these factors are in force, the more likable the individual.

Liking explains why the handsome account exec enjoys a bigger income than his homely colleague; why the insurance agent is so quick to tell you he shares your passion for mountain biking; and why the Realtor says you have beautiful children.

Want to persuade someone? Preen. Relate. Flatter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Social Proof

Part 3 of a 6-part series

You're feeling the power of social proof when you order the same appetizer as everyone else at the table, even though you've never eaten a ridge gourd.

Robert Cialdini says social proof equips us with a "wonderful kind of automatic-pilot device" that spares us mistakesbut also leaves us vulnerable to marketers.

Social proof explains why baristas salt the tip jar; why publishers splash "best-seller" across book covers; and why manias for products like mortgage derivatives and Cabbage Patch Dolls occur.

Want to persuade someone? Tout the number of customers you have or all the great reviews you've gotten.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Six Principles of Persuasion: Consistency and Commitment

Part 2 of a 6-part series

You planned to buy a dress, not a purse. But you bought a purse because the salesperson said, "You really need a purse that matches your new dress."

You're feeling the power of consistency when you go along with a suggestion automatically. 

Robert Cialdini calls consistency a "shield against thought" that protects us from "unpleasant realizations" (such as the fact that you can hardly afford the new dress).

We prize consistency because we think inconsistency is a character flaw. But that belief can work against our interests.

Consistency kicks in after commitment.

You feel the power of commitment whenever you accept a suggestion to extend your involvement after saying "yes" to a simple request.

  • You agree to take your utility company's phone survey, then agree to switch to a more expensive monthly plan. 
  • You agree to sign a petition, then agree to donate to the cause. 
  • You agree to attend a free seminar, then buy an annuity.

Commitment rules us because it affects self-image. We want to be smart consumers, good citizens, shrewd investors. But that belief can also work against our interests.

Consistency and commitment explain why contests generate new customers; why "lowball" pricing produces profits; and why cross-selling is part of every salesperson's skill-set.

Want to persuade someone? Ask him to perform an easy deed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

6 Principles of Persuasion: Reciprocation

Part 1 of a 6-part series

Robert Cialdini's best-selling textbook Influence is nearly four decades old, but its teachings are as fresh anything you'd find at the latest TED.

You're feeling the power of reciprocation whenever you feel the urge to donate in response to a "lumpy mailer" from a nonprofit (one of those direct mail pieces that includes a pen, a package of seeds, or a pad of address labels).

Reciprocationa sense of duty to repay favors in kindrules human behavior and sets us apart from other animals.

Reciprocation explains why free samples spur purchasing; why international relief efforts promote alliances; and why concessions make negotiation possible.

Want to persuade someone? Do him a favor.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Lobbyist's Secret Weapon

Today's guest post was contributed by Edward Segal, CAE. He is CEO of the Marin Association of Realtors.

Of course, my association has used lobbying techniques to sway lawmakers (meeting with them, testifying at hearings, sending them position papers, and asking members to call their offices).

But when these tactics failed, we brought out our secret weapon: PR. 

Working like a powerful spotlight, PR helps you stand out from the crowd and focuses attention on your position. To use PR as a lobbying tool for your organization:
Turn advocacy into news. Position your lobbying activities as interesting and newsworthy.

Flex your muscle. In your news releases and other press materials, include boilerplate language about the size and scope of your organization, details about the economic impact of members, or other information that shows the influence of the association.  

Study the media. Pay attention to the stories covered by news organizations. The types of news they cover today provide powerful clues about the stories they may be interested in doing tomorrow.

Think like an editor. Identify as many news hooks and story angles about your lobbying campaigns as possible. Give the media as many reasons as you can to do stories about your advocacy activities.

Write like a journalist. Prepare news releases as the news stories you want them to be.

Keep your audience in mind. Provide your target audience with the information it needs to understand the reasons for your lobbying efforts, what you are trying to accomplish, and what the public can or should do to help ensure victory.

Create visuals. Excellent visuals and compelling stories are important to all news mediums. For example, a photo, chart or graph will literally make your story larger on a Website or newspaper page; good pictures can help attract the attention of online news outlets and television stations.

Be prepared. Make sure those who will talk to the press are properly trained, with special emphasis on answering pointed or negative questions from reporters.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To Sell More, Connect the Dots

How often do you receive, as I did this week, an unsolicited email like this?


Hope you are doing well.
I am following up with the email I sent you regarding IT Decision Makers.

I’m curious if you had a chance to read my previous email and take this initiative further.
Please send over your data requirement and the criteria of your target market to process quality, counts, samples and pricing.
Please note that the database can be customized in exact line with your need.
Thanks and I look forward to your reply.
Warm regards,
What's wrong with this email?
  1. The sender didn't distinguish his product from the hundreds of competing ones.
  2. The sender wants the reader to write down and send him specifications, but the instructions are vague and the task sounds daunting.

Want to sell more? Connect the dots for your prospect. 
  1. Your prospect needs to know how your product's different. Spell out the difference and help her visualize success by using it.

  2. Your prospect's busy. Make it easy for her to choose your product by leading her through the first step toward buying it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Clicks Don't Tell the Whole Story

Facebook's advertising director says digital ads can't be proven to drive sales, according to Business Insider.

Although counting digital ad "clicks" today remains most advertisers' yardstick, Facebook's Gokul Rajaram told an audience at TechCrunch Disrupt, "there's really no correlation between clicks and whether people actually convert."

Rajaram suggested that digital ads should not be judged by today's measurement model, but by how they build brand awareness slowly over time.

"We need to move towards a more sophisticated, multi-touch model and figure out how to accrue value at each touch point," he said.

Plus ├ža change.

Greening Your Event: The Attendee Experience

Part 3 of of 3-part series
Today's guest post was contributed by Cara Unterkofler. She is Director of Sustainable Event Programs at Greenview.

While it’s true the majority of your event’s carbon footprint is generated by things your attendees will never see,
there are many additional practices that will affect your attendees' experienceand how they evaluate your brand.

According to GreenBiz, more than 80 percent of a typical company’s market valuation today is intangible, up from only 18 percent in 1975. 

That means the cheesy give-aways, the absence of recycling bins, and the over-abundance of unnecessary printing are sending your attendees a message about your brand, and affecting your organization's worth.

Likewise, seeing that you printed all your materials on FSC-certified paper; that you planted a tree for every attendee (to offset emissions and rebuild ecosystems); and that you provided a menu of seasonal, healthy foods also sends attendees a message: your organization is progressive and mindful, and is leading the way toward a community worth being part of.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Greening Your Event: The Venue

Part 2 of of 3-part series
Today's guest post was contributed by Cara Unterkofler. She is Director of Sustainable Event Programs at Greenview.
If selecting your destination is the most important sustainability decision you'll make, the second most important sustainability decision concerns your hotel and venue partners, which in many cases are the same building. They comprise 70-90% of your event’s non-travel footprint.

To select an efficient and sustainable hotel or venue, you don’t need to brush up on energy efficiency and water conservation, or create a mile-long RFP no one has time to read. 

In the case of hotels, you can start by seeking out properties with reputable third-party ratings such as LEED or Green Key. Ask the hotel for a fact sheet on the its sustainability initiatives, so you can stay up-to-date on best practices. And ask what the property can offer your attendees. For example, Starwood Hotels can pre-enroll your room block in its “Make a Green Choice” program.
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