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The 6 Principles of Persuasive Communication

Douglas Karr

Feb 28, 2020

Marketing teams spend a lot of time and money crafting and promoting content to persuade prospects to begin their customer journey. But succeeding in getting customers to take a predestined path is still hit or miss if you don't follow the right method. After reading this excerpt about the six distinct characteristics of content marketing persuasion you’ll be more equipped to map unpredictable customer journeys. To get more information about the entire journey, download the ebook How to Map Your Content to Unpredictable Customer Journeys to cast aside hesitation in planning your content marketing strategy.

Content marketing that persuades a prospect to take additional action along the customer journey has six distinctive characteristics:

1. Liking

Consumers and businesses alike wish to engage with organizations that they admire. Furthermore, we've come to expect no less than stellar customer experiences from those companies. Millennials and Gen Z are often referred to as 'generation 'woke' due to their passion for social rights initiatives, it therefore brings little surprise that social media demands that marketing teams become more transparent when engaging with audiences or communities. To be liked requires revealing details about the company beyond our product, logo, or slogan. When we do this, our content marketing automatically becomes more authentic and persuasion boosts as a result. The more people that like your brand, the greater the chance of marketers increasing social proof.

2. Reciprocity

The reasons we ask key industry experts and influencers to collaborate with our marketing teams on campaigns, webinars, ebooks and so on isn’t just please they'll provide unique and valued content; it’s also that many of those experts reciprocate the opportunity. Those experts often promote the content or introduce us to audiences that may be interested in our product offerings and this has a significantly positive impact on customer journeys. For example, when marketers successfully position their brand in line with credible experts and sources, this too enables an element of social proof and therefore boosts persuasion. 

3. Consensus

The currency of content marketing isn’t money; it’s trust. As marketing pros build trust online, we drive more push audiences through the customer journey and increase sales. Mass adoption of strategies happens with consensus. If many in your network utilize PayPal, for example, you’ll most likely be using PayPal. It’s not so much that people wish to be part of the herd, it’s that the risk of going alone may be too high for many. As such, consensus plays a key role in persuasion and is therefore a vital component of a successful content marketing strategy.

4. Scarcity

Time constraints, expiring discounts, remaining seats, and contests are all marketing strategies that persuade the audience to move from the current moment to the next. Push too hard, and your marketing team can just as easily can turn off the audience, but with the right amount of strategicness, and marketing pros can accelerate the customer journey by playing on scarcity. 

5. Consistency

A percentage of the population wants consistency, even when it no longer serves them. To access this element of persuasion, marketing pros must meet their customers’ expectations. Expectations that you set at the beginning of the relationship. If changes to the customer experience occur, outline when and why those changes need to take place and how the end product, the consistent expectation will remain the same. This helps improve persuasion as it shows that the customers can rely on you for a consistent (or possibly improved), end product. It's also worth bearing in mind that in order to offer high customer experiences - you need to exceed expectations and not just meet them.

6. Authority

Content that’s shared helps the author or company that’s published it gain recognition in their industry. This is the brick and mortar of thought leadership. Industries all have few leaders and plenty of followers. The perception of authority on a topic is a proven characteristic of persuasive content marketing. Authority doesn’t happen overnight, though. Authority is attained over time. Authority requires momentum as the most recent, frequent, and relevant content you’ve produced is shared and recognized.

Don't forget about personalization:

Nowadays, personalization is key to content marketing success. While it's not.part of the 6 content marketing elements of persuasion, without some form of personalization your message could fall flat. Personalization comes in many forms, it can be as simple as knowing your target audience and speaking in their language.

Recent research from Cisco provides evidence that the average product has over 800 distinct customer journeys. Consumers and businesses require hyper-relevant content to allow them to research their next purchase decision and they want relevant, upto-date content when they’re searching for it. Research from Google on microments shows that the customer journey doesn’t happen in a predicted timeline, it happens in a connecting-the-dots series of moments that are different for every customer.

To help optimize your customer journey and boost persuasion in your content marketing messages, Google recommends the below tips:

1. Examine all phases of your customers’ journeys and map the moments when people find inspiration, learn about your products, make a quick purchase, or anything in between.

2. For each moment, identify content that needs to be developed to help make the purchase decision easier or faster.

3. Leverage context to personalize the content. Location, time of day, device, and demographics are needed to align the content with the customer for increased impact.

4. Optimize the content in each moment to help move the visitor from one moment to the next instead of driving them from awareness through to conversion.

5. Measure each of the moments you’ve mapped to identify gaps and fill them.

Measuring if you've been successful:

Marketing teams are increasingly being asked to prove the ROI of their content marketing efforts. In the past this was difficult to do as we lacked relevant tools to enable measurement, but thankfully, this is no longer the case. Pushing people down the customer journey by writing content that changes people's behaviour is no easy task, but measuring and optimising will help you do just that. Start by completing a simple content marketing audit review. To help, we've provided the basics of this below:

  • Collapse multiple articles on the same topic into one single, thorough article that incorporates as many dimensions as possible. Redirect traffic from the weak articles to the new, rich articles.
  • Research topics beyond popularity and make a complete map of topics by hierarchy, taxonomies, and lexical onomies. Implement repurposement processes that drive efficiency and maximize resources within the organization.
  • Align content marketing channels to ensure the content is incorporated into email, mobile applications, video, podcasting, public relations, organic search, social media, and paid promotion strategies to maximize impact and ensure a smooth customer experience.
  • Measure the performance of the content strategy over time, observing ranking, visits, new visits, sharing, and sentiment. Utilize testing against a control group to observe the impact.
  • Incorporate effective calls-to-action and landing page strategies to ensure readers can convert when they are ready to move to the next stage of the customer journey.

Hopefully, the above tips will allow your marketing team to take their content marketing and customer journey mapping to new heights. The six elements of persuasion we discussed are from our ebook How to Map Your Content to Unpredictable Customer Journeys. Download this for free to gain deeper insights into creating content that meets your customer at every point along their journey!