Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Let's face it, we're all in love with your own messages, pitches, offers and propositions. We put a lot of time and effort into crafting them and we naturally think that people will be as excited about them as we are and we get shocked, insulted or hurt when they aren't. There are 7 crucial steps to get people to accept and act on your ideas. Miss even one of them, and your message is destined to drown in the ocean of indifference and indecision.
Step One- Make Sure the Message is Received
This step seems obvious, but it's actually one of the harder steps and you'd be surprised how many people think their message is received just because it was sent. In todays overloaded highly distracted world, getting a message through all the noise is harder than ever.
Timing is everything. Think of what time of the day, or after which event might a person be most open to hearing your message? 9am Monday morning is not likely to be a good time to call a friend or spouse at their office to discuss a personal issue. Sunday morning is not the best time to discuss life plans with a young adult child who is hung over from a night of partying . The end of the month (when most people have run out of money) isn't the best time to make an expensive offer. You've got to catch people at the best time for your particular message. One of the best things about online marketing is the ability for you to schedule the exact timeframe that a certain audience will see your ad. Make sure you use that feature to your advantage.
Another thing to consider is the communication channel. Some people love phone calls and hate meetings, other people are the opposite. My teenager responds better to text messages than to me yelling up the stairs. Some people respond to ads on facebook but hate them on Linkedin. Different people and different demographics have differing amounts of openness on different channels and platforms. Really take the time to study your ideal target or audience and use the channel and medium that they respond best to.
Even if you've selected a good time and channel, it's not safe to assume your message is received. Set up a way to check. If you send an email, use a program that tracks whether it was opened and for how long (so you can gauge whether they actually read it). If you yell up the stairs, make sure you get a reply. If you send out an announcement to employees, have them take some sort of trackable action to make sure it was received. If you are giving an instruction, ask the person to repeat back to you what they heard.
Step Two- Make It Captivating
With multiple things vying for people's attention at any given moment, your message has to be interesting enough to capture attention or it will fall on deaf ears or blind eyes.
This subject could fill multiple books, but in short, your message should be:
1) Something different or unexpected. Our brains are wired to notice things that are out of place or are different from what we usually see or expect. This stems back to the days when something out of place in the environment probably meant there was a threat afoot.
2) Something that seems beneficial to the person
3) Something that warns of a threat or fear of loss
4) Something that strokes their ego or sense of self
5) Something that threatens their ego or sense of self.
In other words, make sure your initial message is relevant and important enough for the person to stop what they are doing and pay attention to. Talking about you and what you want or what you do is not likely to get anyone to stop and pay attention.
Step Three - Make Sure It's Easily Understood
Of course your message makes sense to YOU. You thought of it and wrote it or spoke it. You have all the background context. You know what led up to it. You know all the reasons why it is important. Your prospect or listener has none of those. He or she is likely to bring their own ideas and baggage to the table and misunderstand your message. It is your job to make sure this doesn't happen. The first thing you can do is use a tool that will tell you the "grade level" of your message. Get rid of any words that put it over a third grade level. I know how painful this can be. I love meaty words, but the more big or unique words you use, the less people will even try to understand. People rarely take the time or put in the effort. If it's work, they bail. If you're writing an academic paper, or a book of poetry, or even a really good book (that people will pay for and commit to understanding), you can use all the big and fancy words you want, but if your goal is to have an important message received and understood - stick with easy, common language. Go through and bring your words down to the level of a child so people can effortlessly consume them.
The next thing you can do to boost understanding is to chop, chop and chop some more. Edit things down to the bare minimum. Ask someone else to go through and see if anything else can be cut out and still convey the message. Don't give people the chance to get lost in the woods. Make a simple, clear, compelling path that leads to your point.
Step Four - Make It Believable
People are super skeptical these days. For good reason, our first reflex is usually doubt. If it wasn't, we'd all be suckers for whatever anyone wanted to sell us. To get past the door of doubt, if your message has any claims, it has to also give people a reason to believe them. This is actually much easier than you might think. Robert Cialdini and other authors have discussed studies that proved that adding the word "because" to a request and following it with a reason (even one that doesn't actually add any new information) dramatically increases compliance. So if you say your cookies are the best, tell people that it is because the recipe was past down from your great grandmother. If you tell your employees that it's necessary to make cut backs, tell them it's because of deregulation and new competition. If you tell a dentist client that your agency can handle their ad account better than anyone else, tell them it's because you focus exclusively on dentists, know the market, and have a ten year track record.
Step Five - Build Trust
Your reason to believe will often start the trust ball rolling, but if your proposition is involves someone taking a risk, or spending a lot of money or effort, they will need probably need more than that to trust that you will deliver on the promised payoff.
The easiest way to gain trust is to show them that you have "skin in the game" (something to lose if you don't deliver) or even better, that you actually bear most or all of the risk. If possible, show them how they have everything to gain and little to lose by doing what you ask of them and that if things don't work out, you're the one that pays.
When selling a product or service, this can be achieved with a money-back guarantee. If it's a company announcement asking people to make cutbacks, you can tell them that if goals are achieved, things will be restored, and that the executives will take bigger cuts and get things back last. Even if you can't go that far, make sure you show some skin in the game and offer something that will mitigate their loss if things don't work out.
Step Six - Get Agreement
Again, this might seem obvious, but it's actually less common and much harder than you think. Just because people hear you out, nod their heads, click on your pages, or put things in their shopping carts, doesn't mean they have actually or totally agreed to the proposition. Getting agreement is actually a tricky process. Study persuasion, influence, sales and marketing to see how the process works in your area.
To get agreement, you need to "tip the scales" in such a way that a person perceives they will gain more benefit from agreeing than from disagreeing. To figure out the best equation, you need to understand what they perceive as a benefit or gain, and what they perceive as a detriment or loss in the situation. If you have time for a conversation, you can ask questions to determine this. If you have no time, or one quick shot, or you are putting your message in an ad, you'll have to do as your research ahead of time and take your best guess. Once you know the variables, you need to decide whether your message should be a "here's what you'll gain if you act" pitch, or a "here's what you'll lose if you don't act" pitch. Or maybe it would be best to do a combination. In advertising, pitches that cause fear of loss tend to get more initial attention than pitches that spout benefits but in the end, it's the overall equation that counts.
People need to believe they need (or are better off with) what you are proposing, they need to trust that you will deliver what you promise, and they have to believe it is the best choices out of all the other options they know of.
Step Seven - Get Them to Take Action
Even if you get a person all the way to agreement, it doesn't mean they'll take action on what you proposed. The most common reason for inaction is confusion. People need to know exactly and precisely what it is that they should do next. Never assume people will know or figure it out. Tell them exactly WHAT to do, precisely HOW to do it, and by WHEN they need to get it done. Don't leave anything to chance. People get busy. People move on. Get commitment and if possible, walk people through the proposed action steps.