Sunday, September 30, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #5 Consistency

Consistency is one that may not be easily applied by the Modern Marketer in the course of regular marketing strategy and tactics.  The idea behind the principle of consistency is that people will, more often than not, want to remain consistent with their stated or written opinions, values or commitments.  If you want to influence your colleagues, subordinates, or your boss, getting them to state a position out loud is a powerful form of persuasion. Even more powerful is getting them to write it down and share it with other colleagues.  Naturally, the statement cannot be coerced in any way or you may see the opposite effect.

Let's take an example where you are a member of a cross-functional team charged with evaluating vendors and software platforms for marketing automation.  You prefer a vendor that is able to provide a certain feature that you think would be very valuable and make your life a little easier.  You would have a much better chance of influencing the group to choose a platform offering that feature if you could get each person to verbally state that it is indeed important to have that feature.   For this principle to work best, the commitment or statement must be active (stated verbally or written down), public and voluntary.

The principle goes hand-in-hand with the idea of cognitive dissonance.  People will naturally try to align their actions with their beliefs.  Cognitive dissonance is when there is significant discomfort being felt by an individual whose actions are not aligned with their internal beliefs about themselves.  Writing down a commitment is an action and people will try to remain consistent with the statement to avoid the discomfort of non-alignment.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I'm not sure how you, my fellow Modern Marketer, could apply this principle to your marketing mix.  But, I can think of one example where this principle is applied every day in many school rooms around the USA; the daily reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

If any of you, dear readers, think of a way to apply the principle of consistency to a marketing activity or strategy,  please feel free to share via the blog comments.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #4 Authority

In the last post, I talked about social proof and how humans look to their peers for cues about how to act.  The sister principle of persuasion to social proof is 'authority'.  In other words, people who are viewed as experts are able to persuade and influence because of their perceived expertise.  Note that I said 'perceived' expertise.  We tend to judge expertise on things like documents hanging on the wall stating a certain level of education.  We also tend to judge expertise based on what people tell us about themselves.  Those of us who are a bit more skeptical may watch and observe a self-proclaimed expert to determine if the expertise is genuine.  In the end, expertise is a perception and nothing more.

Expertise may also be ingrained in the culture.  For example, my generation was raised to believe that a person with a degree in medicine (MD) is automatically an expert, no questions asked.  Certain professions or levels of education may imply expertise.  Suppose you walk in to a law office and one attorney has a degree from Suffolk County Law School on the wall and another has a degree from Harvard Law School.  You may naturally assume the lawyer with the Harvard degree is more of an expert; a perception that is ingrained in our culture.

How could the Modern Marketer use expertise to exert influence on her target audience?  Promote your internal experts.  Every company has a few experts tucked away.  Find your experts and get them to write a paper, teach a seminar, broadcast a podcast or teach a webinar.  By promoting your experts, you are better able to persuade your target audience to place credibility with your firm over a similar firm that is not perceived to have expertise.  Expertise = credibility = premium pricing.

Consider the 1970's advertising example from Trident sugarless gum;  "4 out of 5 dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum".  Well, dentists are experts right? Certainly if 80% say chew sugarless gum, then I'll chew it too, by gum.  (sorry I couldn't resist).

How many times have we seen so-called 'experts' appear on the news talk shows when there is some type of political crisis?  Expertise persuades and experts are better able to  influence.  As a marketer, it's your job to make sure  your target audience perceives people in your firm as experts.

In the next blog, I'll talk about the 5th principle,  'Consistency'.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #3 Social Proof

The Social Media Spectrum
We are social creatures.  All we need for proof is to look at the incredible growth of social media titans Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like.  One aspect of being a social creature involves continuous monitoring and evaluation of what our fellow human creatures are doing.  Looking at what peers or colleagues do or say is especially important and can be quite persuasive.  There have been many psychological experiments published in respected journals which demonstrate the validity of 'Social Proof' as a strong principle of influence.  We look for and, in fact, rely on our peers for cues on what we should think, what we should do and how we should act.

How could this be applied by the Modern Marketer?  One very common marketing tactic that most of us use already is the customer testimonial in order to influence those ideal prospects to become customers too.  Another common tactic that uses social proof is making a statement that people in a group where the ideal prospect resides have already decided to use whatever it is you are marketing.

Need more examples, just look at the power of Yelp in how it influences you to try or not try a new restaurant.  Another powerful example is the persuasive power of consumer reviews on sites like Amazon or Newegg.

I was driving through Boston this past week and noticed a huge sign on one of the parking garages that said "Celtics fans park here".  A good example of using social proof to influence basketball game attendees where to park.  Event parking in Boston is big business with large sums of money at stake.

One final note,  the principle of social proof works best when the influence comes for peers or those that the target group can relate to.  There is another principle of influence called 'Authority' which is the sister to social proof and which we will discuss in the next blog post.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #2 Liking

Yes, it's true, you have more persuasive clout if the person or group you are addressing actually likes you.  This is one reason Bill Clinton is so influential and was able to become President.  This is one of the reasons large firms like to hire charismatic CEOs; they are naturally likable and therefore are more influential to employees, shareholders, and customers.

People tend to like good looking celebrities or just good looking people.  This is one reason why models and sports celebrities are successful at promoting a brand. Think Nike and Michael Jordan or the famous Cover Girl models for examples of the principle of liking in action with advertising.

So, you're probably not a Covergirl or you may not be very charismatic (most of us are not), so what can you do about the 'likeability' factor.  You too can use the principle of 'liking' to influence your family, friends or work colleagues.   Two things that help people like you are genuine praise and similarity.  If you've ever hosted a sales person in your work environment or in your home, more often than not, the sales person starts out with some small talk chattering on about how they once lived in a neighborhood down the street, or how they also have a family of the same size and so on.  Natural sales people know that they have more influence if their prospective customer likes the same sports team for example.  If you take the time and make the effort to learn of authentic similarities between yourself and your colleagues, you are likely to be more persuasive in your work place for example.

Praise is harder to use to increase likability because people could suspect manipulation if trust has not already been established.  As with each of the 6 principles I'll discuss, likability must be genuine for it to help persuade and influence.

Next up,  #3 Social Proof.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #1 Reciprocity

As Modern Marketers, one of the most fundamental things we do is to influence or persuade.  It's rather fascinating when you read about the science of influence or the practice of persuasion.  There seems to be a fine line between influencing or persuading someone or some group and manipulation.  Perhaps there is no line at all.  Most of us think that persuasion is a result of charisma.  Tall men with a full head of hair seem to have stronger influence than shorter, bald men (full disclosure, I am on the shorter, balder side of the spectrum).  But, never fear you short, bald men and women you can learn to be highly influential and quite persuasive.  Yes, it's true that some people take to persuasion easier and more naturally than others.  Beware, if you use these principles of persuasion to manipulate, you may earn some short term gains, but in the long run, those you have influenced will feel tricked and you will loose your support.  Use these principles authentically and sincerely, and you will be respected and admired by your business colleagues and friends.

I'll be writing a series of 6 blog posts covering the 6 basic tenets of influence.

Reciprocity.  The act of giving and receiving.  It is a deeply ingrained human predisposition to repay in kind when we are given something.  The simple act of giving praise (authentically) is one thing that can be given and it feels good when it is repaid.  You could give a gift or even just give a smile to a co-worker of passerby on the street.  Gift giving is not the best way to influence with reciprocity, simply because the act may be suspect, but usually it still works to influence.  Bottom line is, give to receive.

Next post, I'll talk about the principle of 'Liking'.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Absence of Good Lead Management in the B2B World

One would think that lead management in the B2B business world was ubiquitous.  As a Modern Marketer, I think that everyone certainly must be using a marketing automation system, a CRM system, automatic lead hand-off, lead nurturing, lead scoring, and monitoring the conversion points of a traditional funnel; suspect - MQL - SAL - SQL - Closed or Won - nurture - cultivate.  I'm thinking, how could anyone miss this with all the buzz over the past 5 years. 

But, it is not so.  According to the latest Marketing Sherpa B2B Benchmark Report, only 24% of all B2B marketers are using a marketing automation system.  Of those 24% only 30% are using the high ROI lead management tactics of lead scoring, lead nurturing or basic lead funnel management.  Even more astounding is that the Marketing Sherpa survey shows that companies using lead scoring see a 77% improvement in lead generation ROI and a 79% improvement for those using lead nurturing.  So the obvious question is, "why aren't more B2B firms capitalizing on this powerful technology?"

I am an avid superuser of the Eloqua platform and have been using these high ROI lead management tactics for 3 years now with demonstrated strong revenue growth results due in large part to these and other automation strategy and tactics.  I've spent hundreds of hours learning the platform and it has not been easy to learn how to fully leverage this marketing automation platform.  Most marketing departments are under-resourced, over-worked and under-appreciated with little time to spend learning how to use a new technology.  Unfortunately, having the time to learn how to use a marketing automation technology is a luxury in most B2B organizations.  I suspect this is the reason for the low adoption rate of such a powerful tool.

On the flip side, for those organizations with Modern Marketers who are willing and able to learn this technology, you can take a huge advantage over your competitors who are not able or willing to use the technology.

For you CEOs and CFOs out there who view your marketing department as an expense, it's time to break out of this 20th century paradigm.  A properly established marketing department is your revenue engine!  At the risk of sounding pompous, using the lead management tools of a marketing automation system, I could take any B2B firm in the 76% who are not using automation or any of the 70% not fully leveraging automation and add an additional 10% to their top line within 12 months (assuming support from the C-suite).  I've done it and I know it works.  If you're one of the laggards not using or not fully leveraging lead management tools, time to get busy!  Take the reins and make it happen.  There's plenty of research available to help you to make the business case to your executive management team.

My recommendation is to invest in your marketing team, build a revenue engine, give them the time and money to gain the education and purchase the tools of marketing automation.  Don't be one of the laggards not using this powerful tool.  I'm quite passionate about fully leveraging marketing automation and making marketing the revenue engine.  Send me an email if  you would like to discuss further.