Persuasion is ubiquitous.
From the hundreds to thousands of ads (in their many forms) you see a day, someone, somewhere is trying to persuade you to do or buy something.
The ultimate goal of persuasion is “to convince the target to internalize the persuasive argument and adopt this new attitude as a part of their core belief system.”
No matter where you go someone is trying to convince you that what they have to say is right, that you need to buy their product or service or that your life is incomplete because you don’t have their widget.
So how can you persuade someone to listen to your information or buy your product or service?
- Create a need: Work backwards by discovering your target audience’s ‘pain’ (problem) and then create a product, service or piece of valuable information that can solve it.
- Appeal to social needs: If you create a product or service that will help your target audience become (or think they will become) popular, prestigious, or on the same scale as their peers you will easily be able to persuade them to buy. TV commercials are a prime example of companies trying to persuade you to purchase their products so you can be just like everyone else. This is also sometimes referred to as the principle of ‘consensus’.
- Use loaded words and visuals: Positive and powerful (ie: loaded) words and images such as “New & Improved” or a photo of a healthy, smiling individual using the product, are used regularly to convince people that THIS product is THE BEST.
- Use opinion/thought leaders/experts: Using authority figures or key opinion leaders (KOL) to hawk your wares is nothing new – and continues to be used because it works. If you look up to someone and respect their opinions it won’t be hard for them to persuade you.
- Likeability: Similar to the above point, if you consider someone as a trusted friend chances are you will be more than willing to listen to what they have to say and agree with them.
- The power of reciprocity: You can also be more easily persuaded if you feel you owe the other person something. It’s that nagging little guilty conscience voice in your head telling you, ‘Weeeell, they did do that for me…I better at least listen to what they have to say…’ – and if it turns out they’re a peer or a KOL then BAM it’s a double whammy and you never had a chance!
- Consistency: Most people tend to be creatures of habit so if being persuaded to buy or do something is similar to what you’ve always bought/done then you will be easily persuaded to do so. It can also mean that people enjoy being consistent with their beliefs or prior commitments. And sometimes it just means that it can take a lot of extra work to research the alternative, so for many people staying consistent or sticking with the tried and true is easier to do when there are 15,000 other things on the day’s agenda…
- Scarcity: Perhaps one of the easiest ways to persuade people, but not necessarily always the most forthcoming it seems, is to convince people that what you have is scarce. Customers will be beating down your door to get the shiny-shimmery prize you have to offer.
Why do people tend to follow (unwittingly or not) these general principles of persuasion? Because they usually net the biggest payout, the safest choice, the right choice. But buyer beware: the above can also be used to trick you. Con artists and hucksters are too aware that we often make these types of decisions unconsciously and will, therefore, exploit them to their benefit.
How can you apply these principles to agriculture (morally of course!)?
As a farmer you don’t actually have to create a need; pretty much no one can exist without food. However, if you’re trying to help people understand what it is you do consider discussing the need for food security and how your industry concretely addresses those concerns.
Consider using experts and KOLs to help you share important information, but remember to use ones that your target audiences (consumers) can connect with, not ag industry leaders they wouldn’t know from Adam.
It’s also easy to find great examples of loaded words and visuals, but you should never, ever use them deceptively. The moment you lose credibility is the moment you lose any trust you’ve worked so hard to establish with consumers and it isn’t likely to be built up so easily again, if ever.
Reciprocity can also be employed: thank consumers for choosing your product. There are oodles of campaigns out there to ‘thank a farmer for feeding you today’, so why not thank a consumer for buying your produce, contributing to your bottom line, and subsequently helping your young Jane get through college?
Above all, the principle of likeability is the easiest and perhaps the most effective: Being honest, transparent and pleasant will go a long way to building trusting, long-term relationships with your most important stakeholders – the consumer.
To learn more about the powers of persuasion check out Robert B. Cialdini’s book “Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive”.