Advertising, marketing, and information campaigns seek to persuade us constantly. It may be more subtle and discreet at times, but it is always happening. In fact, a mass version of this happened recently with the pandemic. Huge information campaigns were sent out across the nation to help us follow the guidance to stay safe during the pandemic. This was done through persuasion, obvious and subtle. In the business world, you are trying to persuade a customer to invest in your service or product. It is very important to be aware of the power of persuasion to help your business grow.
A recent study by Dr. Nigel Jackson a professor in Persuasion and Communication at Plymouth Business School recently wrote an article on the power of persuasion in business. Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into that and see how you can use persuasion to help your business grow.
The Four Stages Of Persuasion In Business
Persuasion can bring out behavioral change and organisations and businesses engage in persuasion more than you’d realise. Dr. Nigel Jackson highlights the four ways as follows:
- Attracting new customers to buy products and services.
- Getting repeat business from existing customers.
- Impressing investors with business performance.
- Motivating employees to work hard and deliver their objectives.
A lot of the time these behaviours go unnoticed by customers and businesses, as it so engrained in our minds. The customer expects to be persuaded and the business knows that they need to persuade the customer to invest in them. This is prudent of all businesses, from greengrocers to tech companies.
Elements Of Persuasion
Persuasion has several component parts and it has to involve communication in some form. These are written, visual, spoken, or electronic. There has to be a person or organisation doing the persuading (the persuader) and an audience or person they are trying to persuade (the ‘persuadee’). Persuasion is almost never accidental; there must be a goal or outcome the persuader wants to effect and – most importantly – the process of persuasion needs to be ethical. Meaning that there needs to be evidence-based persuasion that is based on facts and data. If this isn’t in place then persuasion becomes manipulation or coercion. The person you’re persuading must be given an escape route. As Dr. Nigel Jackson says “Persuasion without an exit is manipulation”.
To some extent, persuasion is an art form and although some people may be naturally predisposed to being persuasive, it is something we can all learn. To help, here are five key elements to communicating persuasively.
- Understand the decision-making process
To persuade an audience, it is important to be familiar with them and how they make decisions.
Not everyone will be convinced the same and in some cases, not everyone will be persuaded by rational arguments alone. A lot of organisations funnel time and money constructing rational arguments, detailing why their product or service is best, but it doesn’t guarantee the sale. Keep your information flow simple and easy to digest, people do not like to overthink.
- Be as good as your word
Customers pay attention to those they believe are credible.
An example of this is during the pandemic people reportedly found scientists, healthcare professionals, and academics more believable than politicians. They were more likely to follow the academics’ advice when it diverged from politicians’.
There are several ways in which you can apply this to your business, one is creating a platform of credibility. Show your customer how and why you’re credible and knowledgeable. This will persuade them to trust you and once you have their trust, you’re almost certain to get their sale. Honesty is the best policy, as cliche as it sounds. If you’re honest, the customer will notice it.
- Have an emotional appeal
Emotional arguments are just as powerful as rational ones.
Such arguments are used in hard-hitting campaigns that tackle smoking or drink driving. They pull on the listener’s heartstrings. It doesn’t have to be a negative connotation though, you can have an emotional argument that is joyous too. A good example is the adverts you see around Christmas time, images and depictions of unity, family, and good times. Positivity is a great persuasion tool.
- Try to not stand out
Social norms can be powerful persuaders. We know people like to confirm.
As mentioned not everyone will respond to rational arguments this is where you can bring in statistics. As an example, Dr Nigel Jackson recently advised a headmaster in a school to publish statistics showing what percentage of dinner money was paid in full and on time. More than 98% did, due to the fact people don’t want to be in that 2%.
So, if you highlight to a customer, let’s say who is wanting to buy solar panels that by not investing in solar panels because 95% of people do, will persuade them (hopefully) to conform.
- Strive for likability
Never underestimate likability; we are inclined to buy from someone we like and can relate to.
People feel comfortable when the persuader is attentive, a good listener, and anticipated their needs. This is important, not just in sectors like hospitality, but also in customer services and client relations across a range of businesses and sectors.
It is important to research, think and plan before embarking on persuasive communication. Consider your target audience and their decision-making process, this will help you detail how you can persuade them. This is especially important post-pandemic as people have gone through hardship and are now less free with their money. Business needs to adapt to this change in mindset, the dynamic has shifted.
Article based on information from the Plymouth Business School.