|The Art of Persuasion|
We are all involved in persuading people to change their
mind, perception or action. Whether it
is in business or in our personal lives, we often need to shift someone’s point
We might be trying to convince our spouse to go on vacation
at the ocean instead of the mountains. We
might be trying to shift our daughter from dating the boy with the iron stake
through his ear. We may be trying to
convince our boss to fund a new project or we may be speaking to a customer to
shift their attitude about our product offering.
How can we succeed,
shift their thinking and what are the steps toward success?
|Squeezing innovation |
One of the
most difficult persuasion activities is trying to change an industry from doing
something it has done for a long time. Imagine convincing Crests and Colgate not
to use a tube for their toothpaste? Or speaking of squeezing, how would you
pitch the Tropicana marketing folks to stop using a gabled box back and instead to use a
In the following hypothetical example, I use the cereal industry to illustrate an
approach to altering a long-held view by an industry.
|A wrinkle-free bag|
say I’m responsible for the marketing and communications for a company that
makes stand up gusseted bags that are made of flexible film or plastic
laminated material. You often see granola, cookies and many salty snacks use
this form of packaging.
My company wants to shift influencers and decision makers to
use our product. Our targets are
companies like Kellogg’s and Post who make cereal that is packaged in a box
with an inner seal package. We are the disruptors
in the marketplace as our product eliminates waste (extra box) and cost (labor,
weight in shipping, material).
|Thinking outside of the box?|
Unfortunately, we have been selling our product to private
label and house brands so the trade thinks we are only for cheap or less
expensive products. Since we have
successfully sold our value proposition as saving money, how can we shift the
impression that we are right for more expensive brands? Our competitors like to
position us in a negative fashion saying that we are generic looking material so
we have to overcome many myths.
WHAT PICTURE IS IN THEIR HEAD?
Before I jump into tactical solutions, I need to be clear
what problem I am trying to solve. To do this, I like to get a clear visual image of what picture is in my potential customer's mind of my brand. To do this, I might ask my colleagues questions like:
are the perceptions we are trying to shift?
is the implication for that person we are trying to influence to change their
mind? (Risk factors)
they the sole decision maker or are they gatekeepers to more senior decision
are the most compelling arguments you can share and what is the best way to
is evidence that we are making progress?
does success look like?
This is so obvious it is almost embarrassing to say. But how often are you truly listening
to get clarity about this person’s point of view. Are they restating your competitor’s
arguments? Do they have old information?
On what information is their view based? The deeper you can explore this, the
more focused you can be in shifting perceptions. If they have old or wrong information, how
open are they to learning more? How are
you trying to alter what they believe – as an educator or in an argumentative
What picture is in your customer's head?
Ask probing questions like how do you know that?
Can you get them to share what might
change their mind?
Are you in the right place to move
their attitudes? For example would a coffee shop or a wine bar be a better and more relaxing
environment to talk than an office?
STATE THE PROBLEM
CLEARLY BEFORE YOU FORMULATE A PLAN
Let’s assume that the main objection that you keep hearing
is that your film or bag doesn’t present itself well at retail and that
consumers have a negative reaction thinking the product inside is cheap and not
worthy of its higher price. The wrinkly
image is the culprit and the cereal folks want a better shelf presence that
shows off their brand. The brand manager describes your product like a shirt
that has never been ironed.
|The image in your customer's head |
Now you have a visual to go with your situation. This is the
picture in your customer’s mind and can be very helpful. Now that you know what is visually in your customer's mind, can you get your them to agree
to the problem and a solution statement?
Problem statement: The
marketing management in the cereal industry believes that flexible film bags
are not capable of presenting as high a quality image to consumers as printed
cardboard can. And, because so much of the generic product in the category is
in wrinkly flexible film, the higher end brands want to separate themselves
from that poor image. How can you change their perception of your product as a wrinkled shirt? Can you position your product as a "wrinkle-free film"?
Solution statement: If the flexible film supplier can demonstrate that consumers are willing to accept
this type of packaging in top shelf brand cereals, then we would consider
running a test in several markets. Proof
of acceptance would be demonstrated not in surveys or focus groups but sell through at retail and our current price points. If this alternative packaging format was as
successful at retail compared to the traditional card board box, we would
consider expanding the test nationally.
with the person you are trying to persuade on a definition of a problem AND a
definition of a solution, you start to have some clarity about the mission at
hand. Now you know what you must do to
move things forward. You may need to reposition your film with a 'wrinkle-free' guarantee to help launder that image of the unkempt shirt out of their mind. You may have to offer the customer free material to run a
significant market test. The real objective becomes convincing brand management
to allow the market (and the consumer) to make the real decision.
You can now work with your team on tactical
ways to get to a market test once you have agreement on the problem and what it
will take to convince the final decision makers. Once a solution
statement is in hand, at least you understand the challenge you face.
|Bowled over with excitement |
Sometimes you have to think outside of the cereal box. Now please pass the milk.
Note: If you have finished eating breakfast and you have like-minded marketing friends, would you share this post with others who might enjoy my blog?
Labels: Marketing Moments, perception management, shifting perception