Marketing and Sales Strategies that Use Persuasion

In the business world, persuasion is used most often to sell and market companies, goods, and services. While some people think of sales and marketing as interchangeable terms, this is not the case. Although most (if not all) marketing is done with the ultimate goal of selling a product or service, marketing in and of itself is not limited to selling. In its most accurate terms, marketing is the process of communicating the value of a particular item or service to its intended customer. This can be done using a wide variety of mediums (such as coupons or TV ads) as well as several different tactics such as emotional appeals, promises, reason, rationale, and so on. Understanding how persuasion is used in sales and marketing can help you make a more logical and objective decision as well as employ these tactics in your own work.

Obviously, the importance of marketing and sales cannot be underestimated in the business world. After all, in a global economy few (if any) businesses can be successful without engaging in sales and marketing methods. Whether a company is a local brick and mortar store, an individual freelancer, or Coca-Cola, marketing is necessary to gain, maintain, and increase a market share. Long gone are the days of being the only business or service provider in a town so marketing has become more important than ever with companies dropping billions and billions of dollars just to maintain a current stream of income. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a college or university anywhere in the country that did not offer a marketing program as there is a constant demand for services for those that are skilled at marketing. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet further demands that marketers rapidly digest information and (just as rapidly) develop marketing techniques specifically used online through social media sites and the like.

To understand business marketing, it is necessary to understand the concepts of supply and demand, as well as how the two interact. Supply simply refers to the relative amount of a product or service that is available in the marketplace, while demand refers to the popularity or pervasiveness of a demand or need for a particular product or service. It should be noted that demand could also refer to a need that can or should be met even if there is no current product to meet that need.

As supply of a product, especially a product that is offered by more than one company, is increased, the price per unit for that product typically decreases. This occurs because the market has been flooded with the product so it is easier for consumers to obtain it and because there may be greater competition for the consumer's dollar between different companies that provide the same (or similar) product, thus lowering the price. Alternatively, when supply is low, the price per unit may increase, especially if the demand or need for the product remains the same or increases. Likewise, if the rate of supply remains the same but the demand increases, prices tend to increase as well, while a decrease in demand will usually lower the selling price. Marketing can help a company remain competitive, maintain or increase prices, or support demand for a product or service. In fact, many companies continue to market their products all the time simply because it may help them stay afloat during times of lower demand, higher supply, increased competition, and so on.

More and more businesses are embracing what is commonly considered a contemporary approach to marketing, which may include the following, relationship marketing, business or industrial marketing, societal marketing, and branding. In relationship marketing and management, there is an emphasis that is placed on the relationship between customers and suppliers with the goal of providing excellent customer service and building loyalty to a company or product. Within this relationship or this type of marketing, it is imperative to make each customer feel that they all are heavily valued and that their satisfaction is just as important to the company as making money.

Business and industrial marketing simply refers to marketing that takes place between businesses or organizations and relies on industrial products or goods rather than end products (that the person on the street is likely to purchase at a store). Although it can sometimes be easy to overlook this type of marketing, especially for those who do not directly deal with it, it does directly affect everyone whether they know it or not.

Societal marketing is similar to relationship marketing and a company may practice both relationship and societal marketing at the same time. In societal marketing, a company or provider is working to either limit or eliminate any harmful activities in producing or selling their products as well as ensuring that the product itself is not harmful. Some companies are particularly aggressive when it comes to societal marketing and undertake extra efforts to generate positive activities to benefit society as a whole (and then market them so you know about them).

Branding refers to marketing a company (or a subset of a company) as having or reflecting a specific belief or philosophy. Branding continues to be more and more popular as it is the newest of these four contemporary approaches. In branding, certain slogans or catch phrases that are designed to capture and communicate the company's philosophy are typically drilled into the target customer's head, thus making it easier to remember than a sentence or paragraph summarizing the company's philosophy.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Persuasion Techniques course?

Another important aspect of economics to understand is that of the cost-benefit analysis. Essentially, a cost-benefit analysis is a decision making method wherein the real or perceived costs are given a value that is then compared with the value given to the real or perceived benefits of making the same decision. Costs and benefits may include the economic price of something but can also include costs or benefits in terms of energy expended, difficulty, preference, and so on. Marketing and sales are all about convincing a customer that the costs and benefits offered by their company or their product has a better balance than those offered by someone else.

Imagine the example of car insurance. Because owning a car is extremely common and has been so for some time, demand for car insurance is relatively stagnant. Largely, in terms of major insurance carriers, most of the same companies have been in operations for some time so the supply of automobile insurance has also been relatively stagnant, making it an excellent example for strategy. When you think of the major automobile insurance carriers, Allstate, GEICO, and State Farm would likely be on the list. Each of these three companies offers a different approach, although in reality most automobile insurance coverage is going to be relatively similar based on how much you pay.

Allstate is typically known for having particularly excellent customer service and has clearly dedicated much of its marketing towards building this relationship with the consumer. Hence, although it usually costs more to purchase insurance through Allstate, many people believe that it is worth the extra cost for the excellent customer service. Having trouble imagining or grasping the concept of branding? Allstate has been using the phrase, "You're in good hands at Allstate." for so long that people think of it automatically when imagining the company. Moreover, because the company is so well known for its excellent customer service, this phrase seems to grasp the company's philosophy, therefore branding it.

Alternatively, GEICO tends to be one of the least expensive carriers and some would argue that it is because they may not provide comparable customer service. Nevertheless, they (like Allstate) stay in business because their customers have decided that the positive aspects of doing business with them are stronger than the negative aspects (or they simply can't afford the higher cost). Lastly, State Farm shoots for a middle ground where it attempts to provide (or at least communicate to the consumer) better customer service than GEICO at a cheaper cost than Allstate.

Marketing of service is similar to marketing a product, especially when the two of them are offered together (such as with car insurance). When marketing a product or service that is offered exclusively online, however, there are some things that a company is likely to do differently. While many service providers and stores continue to operate locally, more and more are available online and can provide goods and services on an international basis (given the global nature of the Internet). These providers must therefore rely tremendously on marketing in a broader scope including online marketing and social media marketing. Providing articles or blogs online has become necessary for virtually every type of small-to-medium service provider, regardless of the service they are providing. Using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media is also a necessity for Internet based service providers. The use of Internet marketing has become so pervasive that there are now marketing companies that not only specialize in online marketing but only offer this form of marketing as well.

When it comes to making (or more accurately closing) a sale, persuasion continues to play a vital role. Some of the same persuasive techniques are used in both marketing and closing a sale while others are specific to sales or marketing alone. Persuasive techniques most commonly used in closing a sale might include flattery, guilt, pressure for action, emotional appeal, and so on. Marketing research and targeted marketing can be extremely effective, particularly when dealing with a specific type of person. Nevertheless, a truly gifted salesperson, when interacting one-on-one with a customer or client, will be able to determine and use the particular type of persuasion that is most likely to be effective to close a sale. For this reason, it is that much more important to arm yourself with the knowledge of how to detect and withstand persuasive techniques.

Sales and marketing rely heavily (and sometimes exclusively) on persuasive techniques to be successful. While it may seem overwhelming as a consumer to know how specifically you are targeted, almost anyone can benefit from increasing their own sales and marketing knowledge and techniques to build their own business acumen.
Persuasion of Children

As any psychologist will tell you, dealing with children is an entirely different enterprise than with adults. Although children tend to be much more direct and concrete than adults, they are also unpredictable and (depending on their age) irrational. For adults that are parents, teachers, or other types of caregivers, persuading children is an absolute necessity simply to get through the day. If you babysit a child, interacted with a child during a religious service, or simply watched a child at a restaurant, it is obvious to see why there are thousands of books on raising children, each with their own multiple chapters devoted to manipulating a child's actions, thoughts, or beliefs.

The ethics of using persuasion on adults is a tricky concept with children, the waters become even murkier. Typically speaking, adult decisions are more complex and require an understanding of several different factors all at the same time. With children, the issues tend to be far less complex and whether or not to use persuasion is much easier to determine. Unfortunately, a child's psyche is much more delicate and the methods and techniques used to persuade them can have long-lasting and unintended consequences. Conventional methods of persuasion, especially ones that are extremely easy to pull off in the short run (such as fear and guilt), often end up being used by parents and caregivers with little thought to the long-term consequences. Guilt often leads to shame which usually serves little purpose and a simple threat to an adult can evoke tremendous fear in a child.

Consider the experience of a child being sexually abused. Many parents who have positive relationships with their children often believe that their child would always tell them if they were being victimized. Unfortunately, many children do not report their victimization and one common reason is because the perpetrator threatened the child or their family. While an adult can understand that a teenage boy in the area is unlikely to have the ability to kill the victim's entire family, the child himself is unable to think rationally and will respond to the threat as the abuser desired,with their silence.

In fact, one commonly used threat intended to persuade a child (by their own parents) into a certain behavior pattern has proven to have real consequences. Many parents have threatened their children that the police will come and take them away if they misbehave. Both studies and real life experience have shown that this method of persuasion has resulted in an irrational fear of the police by children. This fear can translate into continued abuse and criminal action suffered by children because they are scared to tell the police what is happening to them. Although these parents most likely simply want their child to behave, they can cause long-term damage by perpetrating this notion. In these two examples, you have two very different sets of motivations for persuading the child to behave a certain way. Nevertheless, regardless of the intention, the result is the same when the victim of a crime has been persuaded through fear not to report their victimization.

Nonetheless, there are many situations where persuading a child is positive and even necessary. Because children are willful and often irrational, they are unlikely to always want to do the things they are supposed to, regardless of how good it is for them. Parents must often persuade children to take baths, brush their teeth, go to bed, and do lots of other things that are necessary for their health and well-being. Parents, teachers, and other caregivers also are teaching children to behave in particular ways which is an important and necessary part of socialization. When a child must learn not to physically attack someone, this is obviously an important part of developing a child's conscience and social consciousness. While most children are not born psychotic, they are also not typically born with an understanding of social contract theory so they have to be persuaded to behave a certain way so that they are treated a certain way.

Throughout childhood, there are different times when certain persuasive methods are more successful than others. A sixteen-year-old, for example, is far more likely to be persuaded by reason than a four-year-old. When a child is old enough to understand consequences, fear (generally an unethical method of persuasion for children) can be replaced by a rational cost-benefit analysis. While telling a toddler that flushing a piece of jewelry down the toilet will invoke jail time is unethical, discussing with a teenager that drug use will invoke jail time is both accurate and completely ethical. In this type of case, fear may still be part of the motivation but it is awareness of a real consequence rather then an empty threat.

Likewise, some persuasive techniques that are very commonly practiced generate a highly emotional responses from parents, teachers, and child experts as to whether it is ever appropriate to use them. Some people believe that bribing a child is always poor parenting (and possibly detrimental to the child) while others will bribe their children at any age as long as it is effective. Still more people believe that it is okay to bribe children but only at certain ages or under certain circumstances.

Persuading children in the home and children in the classroom can be very similar or very different, largely dependent upon the age and development of the children. A kindergarten teacher is likely to use many of the same persuasive techniques that are employed by the child's parents such as attention, positive reinforcement, redirection, and so on. A teacher dealing with high school sophomores, however, is likely to utilize different techniques than many of the parents. As children age, they become more individualized and what persuades one may not be a as persuasive for another.

Parents, if they are astute enough, will utilize the most effective (and hopefully ethical) persuasive means for their individual child whereas a teacher in a classroom has to use the most effective and ethical techniques that are persuasive for the group as a whole. Moreover, as children age and are better able to understand individual differences, many adults find that they are able to be more open and honest with children, interacting with them in a way that is comfortable and natural for the adults. Some teachers find that they have the most success with their pupils by using positive reinforcement while other teachers may find mixed reinforcement and unpredictable patterns to be successful. Still other teachers may utilize a more personal classroom, leveraging their personal connection with the students to persuade them to do their work and behave. The success of these differences in technique often rely on what the individual teacher is most comfortable with doing.
Persuading children is, in fact, a necessary evil in many ways but, like with most things, there are better and worse ways to do it and better and worse reasons to do it. By learning to recognize the individual motivations of your children or those in your care, you can be a more effective caregiver, parent, or teacher. You can also provide a better level of care for the children around you by being sensitive and observant regarding the persuasive techniques used by others that interact with the same children that you do. One of the responsibilities of being an adult is recognizing that children with whom you interact require an active level of protection from everyone they meet, so be careful not to damage them by using unethical means and respond appropriately if you should become concerned that someone else is doing exactly that.