The art of convincing: from Aristotle to Facebook
Have you ever had a very long discussion with someone with whom you had a profound disagreement, whether it was politics, religion or a simple dispute? To put forward your point of view, you have put forward what you believe to be the element par excellence to demonstrate the superiority of your reasoning: an argument.
The stronger your argument, the more you expect the other person to agree with you. The height of disappointment: even the best case, at least from your point of view, has no effect on your opponent, who remains stuck on his position. Why?
Instinctively, the human thinks that he will be able to convince his fellow man from arguments. It’s true ONLY if the person we want to convince WANTS to be confident.
This is a first principle of the art of convincing that it is essential to master in the context of marketing because the purpose of marketing is actually to convince the potential customer to adhere to the commercial offer that we offer.
So we understand quickly that if I want to sell a hand cream, it will not be enough for me to say “my cream is the best” to convince a customer. It will still be necessary that the customer is in search of the best cream. In any other circumstance, all I could say about my cream will be uninteresting to him, or even dull.
It is not yesterday that humans seek to convince others. In all civilizations, the intelligent man, proud of his reflections, has found the means to share them with others. He has, therefore developed all kinds of means of communication to convey his ideas.
But nowadays, in the communications era, a paradox appears: the more natural communication is, the less time we have to communicate. Therefore, the more we need to put our point of view in a practical way with as little energy as possible.
At the time of the great intellectuals of the Middle Ages, ideas were discussed with the help of “verbal contests” or through books in which the arguments were analyzed in the smallest details.
Today, if I want to sell my hand cream in a commercial on the radio or television, I will have only 30 seconds to present it.
If I want to talk about my cream on Facebook, I will have only one moment to blink to catch the eye of my future client, that is to say, the time that my publication scrolls on wall news.
Worse, unlike the theatrical jousting, the marketer has no right of reply! He must convince at first. Otherwise, it is his entire marketing strategy that collapses.
We will quickly conclude that taking two hours to expose a rational argument is ultimately perhaps not the best way to convince someone to adhere to an idea.
The art of demonstration
The art of the event, or the art of convincing, has always been a subject of study.
Already 400 years before Christ, the philosopher Aristotle made a compilation of all the demonstrative science known in his time and summarized it in the thesis of the syllogism, with the popular demonstration:
Socrates is a man.
But all men are mortal.
So Socrates is mortal.
The goal here is to force an intellectual reflection: from two known premises, we can deduce a third.
In marketing, we could translate it roughly as follows:
I have skin that stings.
This guy sells a cream to relieve the itching.
I need this cream.
One thousand six hundred years later, around 1250, the theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas exposes an essential psychological element. He says (I paraphrase): “One will never convince someone with an argument to which he refuses to adhere. Any discussion can only evolve at a higher stage when the two parties agree on the same point. “
In other words, it is not enough to have a good argument: it is still necessary to say it at the right moment, that is to say when the interlocutor is open to receiving this information.
What would be the benefit of being convinced?
If I say to my friend, “Do you want to buy my cream? And that he answers me: “No thanks”, it is useless for me to say to him: “Nevertheless it is made with olive oil coming from the mountains of Corsica and pressed cold with infusions of herbs of Provence. “
I could instead ask him: “Would you like to have a relief of your itching on the skin? He will answer me, “Oh, yes! At that moment, I will be able to say to her, “I have a cream that is known to be effective for that”. He will then be much more open to the idea of being convinced.
Before exposing the qualities of my dream, I make sure to introduce a common point between my friend and me, namely the search for relief against the itch.
Around 1650, faced with the occasional difficulty of raising the common point, the French physicist Blaise Pascal developed a demonstration based on the probability that one argument is more advantageous than another.
He asks the question: is it more advantageous to believe or not to believe in God?
- If I believe in God, and God does not exist, I lose nothing.
- If I believe in God and God exists, I win the eternal Paradise.
- If I do not believe in God, and God does not exist, I lose nothing.
- If I do not believe in God, but God exists, I am condemned to eternal hell.
We understand that since there is a risk of not believing in God, but there is no significant disadvantage in finding in it, it is, therefore, more advantageous to think than not to believe.
So if I want to sell my hand cream and I publish on Facebook the following message: “Relieves quickly itching. Satisfaction guaranteed or money returned. “It will be more advantageous to try it than to deprive it.
Why convince at all costs?
All actions, at every moment of human life, have one goal: the pursuit of happiness.
If a human is trying to convince someone of something, he has a double purpose:
1- To seek one’s happiness
2- To propose to the other to improve one’s own
“good” marketing is, therefore, to enhance our pleasure. We will talk about manipulation, or fraud when one person clumsily looks for happiness at the expense of the other.
Yes, of course, if I want to sell my cream to my friend, it’s because I want to make money, but not only that! It will make me happy to see him relieved of its itching. This satisfaction will push me to sell the cream of the best quality possible and to try to convince even more people to try it.
But I’m not the only one to make creams, and I’m not the only one who wants to sell them! I will have to fight with an army of marketers who want to capture the attention of potential customers.
This competition forces me to improve marketing and persuasion techniques at a higher level.
The four necessary steps of persuasion
Today, in the era of Facebook and social media, in the age of the flood of commercials and instantaneity, the classic strategy of effective advertising boils down to 4 steps:
1- Hook up the customer
2- Get in touch with him
3- Present him our product or service
4- Ask him to make a decision
Hang the customer
Since we often only have a few seconds to get the customer’s attention, we do not have time to show him our product, much less the time to make an argumentative demonstration. Anyway, the customer is not in an opening phase to receive an argument, so even if we had the time, it would be useless.
Hanging on the customer is like crossing him on the sidewalk and saying, “Yo man, how are you?”
The client may decide to ignore us, but will often take a moment to try to understand what we want from him.
This extra moment that we gained by capturing his attention will allow us to move on to the next stage.
In digital marketing, we will use a lead magnet (magnet to prospect) and a landing page (page capture) to encourage the customer to give us his email address. We will also be able to use the Facebook Pixel, which will allow us to reconnect with him later.
A useful page of capture will say: “Hi, how are you? Listen, you and I, we have an interest in common, and I would like to talk to you more! Is it not a good time to talk about it now? No problem, we can postpone it if you want. Have a good day!”.
Connect with the customer
Once the client has given us a way to communicate with him again, it provides us with an opportunity to introduce ourselves. That’s politeness. But getting in touch with someone requires a fundamental quality: trust.
To gain the trust of the customer, I will have to show him that I am worthy, namely:
- I am a professional
- That I have a personality compatible with his
- That I share a “common ground” with him strong enough to justify the relationship
- That we both have an interest in pushing our relationship further, for our mutual happiness
In digital marketing, this step translates to the “funnel” or “sales funnel” (the funnel ). This is a series of communications, often by email, that is used to present oneself and gain the trust of the client.
When we feel that this trust is established and the relationship is strong enough, we can move on to the next step.
Present your product or service
All this preparation had only one purpose: to stimulate the customer a desire to be convinced by our argument. So it’s time to say: “The cream you’re looking for to relieve your itching, I have it. There she is.”
One of the first causes of failure in marketing for beginners is to present their product directly to the customer, without having previously done the other steps.
It’s like I’m walking on the sidewalk and I apologize to people saying, “Hey man, I have a cream for sale. Do you want some?”
My failure rate will be considerably higher than the one that took the time to hook people, to establish a relationship with them through a common point, to finally present their product.
Invite the client to make a decision
Any marketer wants the customer to say, “Wow, what a fantastic product, I want one right now! Where do I go to pay? The reality is less rustic. To move, the human usually needs motivation. It requires a trigger to take action. In other words, it takes a good kick in the back.
In marketing, this translates into “the call to action”, that is one or more stimulants that aim to help him decide to act now. This is often a limited discount over time.
Convincing is first and foremost
“Men willingly believe what they want,” said Julius Caesar. It is up to us to make sure that the customer wants what we have to offer.
For this, we will respect his decision-making process, helping him in each step:
- We will help him to notice our advertising among 1000 others.
- We will help him to be willing to adhere to our argumentation.
- We will help him to build a relationship of trust with us.
- And finally, we will help him decide to acquire what he needs.
The whole thing, putting itself in its place and acting as we would like another seller to behave towards us: in other words, respecting him as a human being.
We all have a monthly budget to spend. When we buy something that meets our needs, we are happy to spend. It is not the price that determines whether we are so glad to pay or not, but the value we attribute to the purchased good.
Why buy a $ 50,000 car when it’s $ 10,000? Why go to the restaurant and pay $ 20 for a dish while we can cook it ourselves for $ 5? Why pay $ 100 for an artist’s painting when we can print one for $ 0.50? Simply because we are happy to pay the price of something we want and value.
And the value we attribute to a product or service is very much dependent on the trust we have in the person who sells it to us, the way they presented it to us, and the urgency of the need to get it.
If therefore, you have sold your product or service and you have demonstrated to your customer its value, it will be happy to get it, and it will have done him a service that you convinced him to make this decision.
Of course, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas has not exposed the techniques of argumentation to sell a hand cream on Facebook.
It’s the marketing that has come into the art of convincing to achieve business goals.
Each marketing strategy must be adapted according to the associated project. Not all products and services are sold in the same way. The level of relationship needed with the customer is not the same if we want to sell a pair of shoes or herbal tea to lose weight. A lead magnet is essential to selling an online course, but more or less useful to promote a hair salon.
We can finally use these techniques in everyday life for all kinds of reasons, be it to assert our political opinions or to settle a simple dispute. Always remember first of all the golden rule before the exposition of an argument: to make sure that our interlocutor is in a state of receptivity.