Persuasion Is Not Manipulation

Whether you are launching a new product or service, or evolving your brand with a worthwhile story, there are ways to rise above the noise so that your target audience can actually see and hear you. Gaining their attention, of course, is not enough. Once you have their attention, you have to persuade.

When it comes to the power of persuasion, it’s important to make something acutely clear: Your job is not to directly persuade anyone of anything. Persuasion has little to do with your witty ability to convince someone of something. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to give people just enough information on your product or idea that they will persuade themselves.

Persuasion gets a bad rap.

If it’s done right, persuasion doesn’t have to be manipulation. It’s not a used car salesman trying to get you into a 2010 Dodge Durango. Persuasion is stating your case by showing more than telling. Walking the walk tops talking the talk. Persuasion is all the stuff you do that, when it comes together, helps others arrive at their own conclusions as to why this must-have product or idea fits wonderfully into their lives. Persuasion performed perfectly doesn’t convince people to do something. The people convince themselves.

Consumers connect their own dots.

You nudge, they judge. But the rules of the game have changed quite a bit since social media arrived. Today, the brands that are winning get that persuading isn’t something a brand does on its own. It’s something a person’s network of coworkers, friends, and family do.

A Nielsen poll of 25,000 Internet consumers showed that 90 percent of respondents “completely” or “somewhat” trust recommendations from friends or acquaintances—much higher than those who trust newspaper ads (59 percent) or online banners (33 percent). Even with this knowledge, many marketers still choose to play by the old rules of the marketing game. They don’t realize they are not persuading, but rather, they are dissuading their audience.

As an unintentional dissuader, you are spending your company’s hard-earned dollars to contribute to this careless but stoppable act. Every day, thousands of brands think they are doing the right thing. Unbeknownst to many, they are just adding to the marketing junkyard.

Bad advertising is a nuisance. It works against you.

You are only as good as the message you create. Once crafted, the game quickly turns to advocacy. Like a rock skipping across the pond, your job is to implement a story that gets influential advocates to buy in and share your message with their networks. When it comes to nailing down an advocate-worthy story, the momentum-making content must be:

• Authentic: Original content continues to be difficult for companies to execute. It shouldn’t be! The resources at your disposal are endless. Shift your thinking away from the traditional, and consider yourself as a media conglomerate. Look to make original content like documentaries, live experiential events, or digital games. You could even start charity foundations, create password-protected online music concerts, or incubate an on-brand web series. If people call your marketing “marketing,” you probably missed the mark.

• Aspirational: Ideas that make their way to the front of the line compel us to participate. Those ideas usually stand for something. They are not trying to be all things to all people. Aspirational ideas are purposeful ideas. They captivate and attract us.

• Amazing: It’s not easy to amaze. Something is considered amazing because it is new and has never been done before. When you see something that is amazing, you want to be the first to share that magic with your friends or family so they will be amazed, too. Ultimately, when you amaze, you persuade. When you successfully persuade, you have created an advocate.

The best advertising is no longer recognized as advertising.

It’s now called content. With so many accessible media vehicles, you don’t have to tell your story all at once. You can craft cliffhangers and leave clues all over the Internet that point the story to different locations, microsites, and channels. Advertising is alive and well; it just looks a lot different than it used to.

Ryan Berman is an author, keynote speaker and the founder of Courageous; a create-the-change company that builds and leads Courage Brands®. Ryan has helped install courage in the stories and culture at Google, Kellogg’s Europe, charity: water, Major League Baseball, Snapchat, Johnson & Johnson, Cereal Partners Worldwide and US Ski & Snowboard. His book ‘Return on Courage’ shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it. Berman also has his own altruistic Courage Brand called Sock Problems: a sock company that “socks” different problems in the world.

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