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Persuasion is not a dirty word

I am speaking at a Networx event in July with the wonderful Marissa Tree on the topic of Persuasion. The idea is we are going to go through different methods that you can use to persuade people to get them to do what you want.

I was sharing this with a friend, who looked at me, rolled her eyes and said

“You mean you are going to tell them how to trick people.”

I was actually quite shocked.

Then by chance I saw an advertisement on TV for an upcoming current affairs show that was going to “expose the tricks that supermarkets use to get you to buy more groceries”.

It all sounds so negative.

Sure, there are unscrupulous people out there who deceive and lie about their products or services, and as a result consumers feel ripped off.

But I firmly believe that if you have a great product or service that is relevant and useful for your audience – then what’s wrong with ensuring you do you best to sell it? It doesn’t even have to be something for sale. You may want people to register for community consultation, download a whitepaper, sign up for a newsletter. Whatever your call to action is.

Sometimes understanding just a little about the psychology of persuasion will make a huge difference to your conversions.

What are your thoughts?

If you are in Brisbane on 28 July 2010, keep an eye out on the Networx site for ticket details.

{ 14 comments… add one }

  • alastair simpson May 20, 2010, 2:08 pm

    Done right, it can be very powerful. The problem everyone has is that we have all had at least 1 experience of a bad/cheesy/shonky salesperson (Sales is the “art” of persuasion) at work and we immediately have a negative stereotype in our minds of this and as soon as we believe someone is trying to sell to us, we switch off.

    The key is to be genuine and honest. As you say if you have a good product and it matches the needs of your audience there is nothing wrong with pitching its virtues. You just have to do this in the right manner that mirrors and connects with your audiences needs.

    In my opinion, persuasion and sales, is 90% about asking questions, uncovering and highlighting needs/problems and then matching in your audiences minds the benefits (not the features) of your product so that it can solve those needs. Absolutely nothing wrong with that in my mind!
    .-= alastair simpson´s last blog ..If you only know 2 things about how to sell UX…. =-.

  • Glenn Murray May 20, 2010, 3:31 pm

    I think all persuasion is evil. And marketers are dirty-birds. But don’t take my word for it; check out what the real experts have to say on the matter. Buy my ‘Why Marketers are Dirty-Birds’ ebook for just $27.97! It’s just the stuff if — against all your better judgement — you weaken at the knees every time you see a TV spot misleading you about the benefits of calcium in milk or you salivate involuntarily whenever you encounter a billboard sneakily promoting bread. ‘Why Marketers are Dirty-Birds’ is chock full — from start to end of its 1,478 pages — of helpful advice on how to ‘beat the bull’ and stay safely tucked away at home and never buy anything — no matter how bad you need it. Hear from all the big names, like Robinson Crusoe, Rapunzel, Bigfoot and of course, the witty and outrageous Man in the Iron Mask. It’s a book you may not share with your local shopkeeper, but it’s certainly one you’ll be keen to share with your financial advisor. Did someone say “financial advisor”? Well blow me down and call me Freddy. ‘Why Marketers are Dirty-Birds’ has you covered there too. Purely in the interests of your financial health, of course, we include a clickable directory of financial advisors, from all across the Carribean and related unregulated tax-evading regions. Sure, they’re affiliate links, but we stand by everything we flog off, so don’t be deterred. ‘Why Marketers are Dirty-Birds’… For the stingy, critical, creative-hater in everyone.

    Sorry. It’s been a long day.

  • Johanna Baker-Dowdell May 20, 2010, 3:44 pm

    Sally you are right – if you have a great product or service then you should do your best to sell it to the target audience. This is what persuasion is about, and it’s not bad, but “current affairs” shows like ACA and Today Tonight use it negatively, therefore the connotation is bad.

    It’s not always about selling a product or service either, it might be about persuading the audience, reader, viewer etc to see your point, agree with your argument or political leaning (although that could be argued as selling a product, especially considering this is an election year).

    Good luck at Networx.


  • Snappy Sentences May 21, 2010, 11:43 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Totally agree with your thoughts…though Glenn it does sound like you had a VERY long day.

    Understanding how persuasion works is important for any business. It’s not just how you craft the words to influence someone’s behaviour – it’s also understanding why it works.

    Even something as simple as testimonials (which are great because as we all know social proof is very influential) can be used far more effectively if you know what type of testimonial is the most influential.

    Like you said Alastair, articulating benefits rather than features to customers has more impact than just listing the features alone. By combining the two and having testimonials that talk about the benefits of your product or service you hit on the holy grail of social proof.

  • ireckon May 26, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Hey Sally

    Persuasion is part of everything. Anyone who suggest otherwise is lying. From getting your kids to go to bed to encouraging someone to use your product over someone elses is entirely about persuasion.

    The choice is between ethical or non-ethical persuasion.

    BJ Fogg wrote what I still consider one of the best books on Persuasive technology (The science of captology) and the issues it entails. I had planned to go to Copenhagen for this years conference on it, but might not be able to.

    If you haven’t seen the book while getting old now it is a persuasive read 😉

  • Sam Sitaram June 9, 2010, 7:38 pm

    The word persuasion is, more often than not, taken in with a negative connotation. To be persuaded to do something, means to do something against ones will and that in turn becomes negative. Further, people don’t like to be persuaded because nobody wants to feel sold. Persuasion at supermarkets and other large stores is subtle – if you were to find the same product at 40o different locations at eyesight within the supermarket, you would feel irritated because subconsciously you are being persuaded.

    • Snappy Sentences June 9, 2010, 8:22 pm

      Yes, a lot of people get put off by a sales pitch. But being persuaded isn’t to be made to do something against your will. That’s coercion.

      Have you read Paco Underhill’s Why we buy? It takes a close look at how supermarkets display items to influence your purchasing decisions.

  • Sam Sitaram June 9, 2010, 8:30 pm

    I think both come from the same root – the act of forcing an action which maybe contrary to the belief of the subject at any point of time. Can someone be coerced into doing the right thing? Does it then become persuasion with an extra punch of salt?

    Supermarkets are ridiculous – I just moved to India from the US about a year ago, and in the past year I have seen the effect of free market come into full force – iron out deficiencies, steep up optimization and make the end user an idiot and society will follow.

    I haven’t read Paco Underhill’s book. I will check it out.

  • Snappy Sentences June 9, 2010, 8:44 pm

    Persuasion is not just about marketing. We use it every day to make decisions about what we do. Basic decisions. Hard decisions. Choice.

    Enjoy Paco’s book. It’s quite interesting.


  • Sam Sitaram June 9, 2010, 8:51 pm

    Choice. Did not know that existed. Choices between the fire and the frying pan aren’t really Choices. Anyways, back to work now. Ciao!

  • Ralph June 10, 2010, 10:53 pm

    One of my favorite topics! I love the art of persuading and influencing. I knew I fell in love with it after a speech class during my freshman year. We were to give a persuasive speech and the class answered a survey to see if the speaker persuaded them to change their viewpoint. When my professor told me that I changed more minds than any other student, I knew I had something.

    Good influence book; “Influencer: The Power to Change Anything”

    • Snappy Sentences June 11, 2010, 2:01 pm

      Hi Ralph – thanks for your comment and book recommendation. I’ll add it to the list. I’ve actually just got the one Darryl recommended – seems really good too.

  • Lisa Ma | Networx Brisbane July 2, 2010, 2:19 pm

    Hi Sally, looking forward to seeing you at our Networx Brisbane event – The Art of Persuasion – Communicate & Influence! Thanks for giving away a copy of Cialdini’s book ‘Influence – the Psychology of Persuasion’

    For everyone interested in attending, the event details are here:
    .-= Lisa Ma | Networx Brisbane´s last blog ..Did you know its more expensive to win a new customer than retain an existing customer =-.

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