The Art of Persuasion

Get Results: persuasion
Get Results: persuasion

Let’s start by having a look at the definition of persuasion:

The action or process of persuading someone or of being persuaded to do or believe something.

Synonyms: coaxing, persuading, coercion, inducement, convincing, blandishment,encouragement, urging, prompting, inveiglement, temptation, cajolery, enticement, wheedling, pressure, moral pressure;
Informal: sweet-talking, smooth-talking, soft-soaping, arm-twisting;

There needs to be at least two parties involved in the persuasion process, these being the…

  • Sender of message
  • Receiver of message

For the purpose of this article, we are going to look at how persuasion is used within MARKETING although it is used in many other real world situations, with good or bad intentions. One of the best ways to protect yourself from its influence, is AWARENESS. If you know how it works, you can defend yourself against it.

As Marketers we are, in our role as “sender of message” ultimately hoping to persuade the “receiver” to buy our product, there are a number of ways we can do this. The bare bone approaches being:

  • Control
  • Convince
  • Convert


If we have power over the receiver we can use this to pressure them to buy. Power can come from..

  • Using your authority, if you have it,
  • The lack of options open to the receiver (no substitutes or alternatives available),
  • If receiver is desperate,
  • The scarcity of time to make the decision.

The receiver may feel their hand being forced, which might well lead to a feeling of resentment and resistance and is not likely lead to any kind of ongoing relationship, loyalty and bonding between the receiver and sender. I personally, don’t like to be pushed, manipulated or forced into buying, and I’m sure most people feel the same.

Hard sales tactics are often used by the sender, when trying to invoke some level of control over the receiver, and are common in the following circumstances:

  • When PRODUCT is temporary, limited use, or one-time use: fads, fashions, entertainments, seasonal clothing, equipment, perishable foods, collectables
  • When SELLER is temporary: door-to-door selling, telephone solicitations (“boiler room”), fly-by-night operations (“one shot”), con games (“pigeon drop”)
  • When BUYER is temporary, that is, in an unfamiliar area or condition: tourist, travelers, newcomers, inexperienced, immature
  • When a sense of CRISIS exits (a real or imaged emergency, time limit, or deadline): pain, genuine close-outs, elections, TV “shopping clubs”
  • When GUARANTEE (refund, or return of goods) is missing: unknown companies, “fronts”
  • When DEMAND exceeds SUPPLY: SURPLUS situations

Let’s look at a couple of real life examples: Some caravan parks limit the maximum age of caravans on their site, to say, 10 years old and then force caravan owners to buy a replacement new caravan from them, rather than from 3rd party suppliers.

Cinemas often discourage or even stop customers bringing their own refreshments into their venue, so they have to buy them from the foyer, at inflated prices. This control is enforced by the venue as a condition of using its facilities.


“Convincing” the receiver of your message to take a particular course of action, takes more effort than the “control” method, but is more ethical and rewarding. Getting attention is the first objective, followed by, creating a convincing argument that promotes your case and negates the alternatives. This is illustrated in Professor Hugh Ranks “Intensify and Downplay schema (see below).

If we present a clear cause and effect appeal to the receiver we will find our message more readily accepted from a rational perspective. So we must communicate the benefits and features of our offering and answer any objections that the receiver will inevitably have.

However emotional appeals have proven to yield better results because receivers engage the right-side of their brain more when emotionally aroused, as a result, they think less rationally, and are prone to act without thinking it through fully.

Intensify and Downplay Schema

Professor Hugh Rank’s model of persuasion, describes how promisers (marketers) intensify their own good and downplay their own bad. This model shows how marketers only tell receivers of product benefits using composition, association and repetition, But downplay any negative aspects by omitting this information, diverting attention away from it or trying to confuse. If you want to learn more about Hugh Rank’s model check it out here.

Pros, cons and objection handling

When I’m putting together a marketing message I look at the pros and cons of the product and note each down. I view the “cons” as possible objections and try to answer these objections, turning them into positives where possible. I also look at the benefits of using the product compared to not using it. Here is an example I have done recently for Thrive Landing page WordPress plugin to illustrate the process I use myself.

Positive/pros/for – ask why would they want to buy the product and keep asking why to dig deeper

  • No coding needed – drag and drop
  • No design skills needed – pre-defined templates
  • One off fee – No monthly recurring cost
  • One interface for website and thrive themes – within WordPress site
  • Professional looking landing pages
  • Better than many of competition because no subscription needed
  • Great support – fast replies via online forum
  • Lots of tutorial videos provided by Thrive themes

Negative/cons/against/objections (Turn these into positives where possible using law of opposites)

  • It isn’t free and costs $49 – better than having to pay monthly subscriptions like some of the popular alternatives such as Leadpages.

Negatives if not using product

  • Need to get a designer to do for you or learn HTML and have good design skills
  • Other options seem to include monthly subscription charges which mean when you stop paying you can no longer use the landing pages, with Thrive there are no monthly costs anyway, but the landing pages are built into your WordPress site so can be used forever.
  • With some suppliers you have to login to a remote interface to access your landing page editor
  • If you’re doing the HTML yourself and if you don’t have any coding skills these can be time consuming, look amateurish, and have limited template options

From this information I can now sell the benefits of the products

Selling Benefits

If you’ve done any marketing in the past, you’ll know about selling the benefits of your product. Getting these benefits over to receivers as early as possible is crucial to marketing effectiveness. Benefit seeking is the main driver of customer motivation. If receivers (customers) are looking for investment opportunities, their main motivation is “making money” or “preserving the value of their money”. So if you’re selling an investment product of any kind you need to communicate the making money aspect of your offer to appeal to the receiver of that message.

It is important to get the product benefits over to the receiver as early as possible, so it grabs their attention. The first thing a receiver sees on most marketing material, is usually the initial headline. Some examples of good headlines include:

You’ll never have Y (without X)
• You’ll never make money from your website (without having professional landing pages)

Buy X to achieve Y
• Buy Thrive Landing pages and make money from your website

How to achieve Y with less effort/cost/time
• How to make money from your website with less effort, cost and time

The Only Way to [Do Something Desirable] Without [Doing Something Undesirable]
• The Only Way to build landing pages Without learning to code HTML

[Do Something Hard] in [Period of Time] or [Promise]
• Make stunning landing pages in minutes or get your money back

[Do Something Desirable] Like [an Expert] Without [Something Expected & Undesirable]
• Make stunning landing page like a marketing expert – without any design or coding skills

Other examples
How to….
• How to Win Friends and Influence People
• How to Save Time and Get Things Done

• 7 Reasons Why List Posts Will Always Work
• 10 Ways to Beat the High Cost of Living
• Do You Recognize the 7 Early Warning Signs of High Blood Pressure?

Who Else Wants [blank]?
• Who Else Wants a Great WordPress Theme?
• Who Else Wants a Higher Paying Job?

The Secret of [blank]
• The Secret of Successful Podcasting
• The Secret of Protecting Your Assets in Litigation

Little Known Ways to [blank]
• Little Known Ways to Save on Your Heating Bill
• Little Known Ways to Hack Google’s Gmail

Get Rid of [problem] Once and For All
• Get Rid of Your Unproductive Work Habits Once and For All
• Get Rid of That Carpet Stain Once and For All

Here’s a Quick Way to [solve a problem]
• Here’s a Quick Way to Get Over a Cold

[Do something] like [world-class example]
• Speak Spanish Like a Diplomat
• Party Like Paris Hilton

See How Easily You Can [desirable result].
• See How Easily You Can Learn to Dance This New Way.
• See How Easily You Can Own a Lamborghini Miura.


This is the hardest of the three ways to persuade. Attempting to convert someone’s beliefs and values is really difficult because people hold them tightly and often associate their very being with deeply ingrained value and belief systems. If you’re message contradicts such values and beliefs you will need to provide hard factual evidence to back-up your message to have any chance of converting the receiver. However not all values and beliefs are made equal, and we may convert some, using emotional appeals that do not need complex reasoning to back them up.

The role of Emotions

Emotion makes people act in irrational ways and prevents them thinking clearly, and marketers know this and attempt to use it to their advantage. Many big organisations with vast marketing budgets look to get some incite into their customers inner workings, finding out what they like and dislike and what presses their buttons. They track shopping habits and develop marketing messages designed to get them to take action. Even small businesses need to have an understanding of who their customers are and what they want. The easiest way to do this is carry out surveys, hang out where prospects hang out, ask existing customers for feedback and run test campaigns online offering searchers a choice between options and measuring what choices they take.

Many large companies try to associate their products with popular celebrities, hoping some of that popularity will rub off on their brand. They know that if our idol tells us it’s good, we are more likely to act on their endorsement. On the flip side, if a celebrity encounters controversy, brands are quick to cut ties, and end sponsorship deals so that they are not cast in the same negative light.

If people are made to feel fearful that their family might be in danger, they are more likely to buy a security system, if they are scared their family will be left to struggle if they were to die, they are more likely to buy life insurance. If someone describes how we can live life on a sunny beach, having an amazing time with our families and have no money worries ever again, working a job that takes just thirty minutes  a day, simply by reading a $99 Ebook, or joining the latest magic money making system, yes you got it, we will buy the Ebook, if we believe what we are being told.

The emotions of greed and fear are the most often targeted ones, but other emotions like curiosity are often used to pull the reader into marketing messages.

  • “Check out the one plugin that will turn your website into a money making machine”,
  • “If you’re not enjoying success online, this is the one thing you NEED to become a success”,
  • “What Everybody Ought to Know About making money online”.

People are very curious creatures, it is hard-wired into the human psyche and it’s very difficult to ignore curiosity laden statements or headlines. However the subject needs to be relevant to the interests of the reader. or it won’t work.


Persuasion is a fascinating subject, and the more that is understood about human psychology the more sophisticated the marketing messages will undoubtedly become. The key points to remember are:

  • Have a clear understand of who your customer’s are or are likely to be
  • Craft marketing messages from your customer’s point of view (what’s in it for me)
  • Sell the Benefits of your product, this is the core reason for them to buy
  • Pre-suppose their objections and tackle these head on
  • Find an answer to this prospects question “Why should I do business  with you, instead of any and every other option available to me, including the option of doing absolutely nothing at all?”
  • Try to evoke emotion from your prospects to take action NOW
  • Add value, don’t try to manipulate your audience, try to persuade them that doing business with you is a win win situation, and make sure you mean it.
  • Manage expectations – Disappointment is based on expectations. Under promise and over deliver.

If you would like to learn more about marketing, check out our marketing guide.