When my book The Soccer Mom Myth first came out, I did a reading at a book store which was attended by an old friend of my father. This guy had been in advertising for a long, long time.
After my presentation, he came up to me to tell me how much he enjoyed it, and that he disagreed with everything I said.
"Um, OK" was about all I could manage. How could he have disagreed with everything? All of the points presented in the book are backed up by research – from neurology to behavioral scientists to my own research and online testing.
What was the problem? I lost him at "Hello."
He disagreed with my very first premise, which is that men and women have different buying processes.
If you want to change someone's mind, you have to start with a point on which you agree
I'm a total geek when it comes to wording and messaging, or, in more fancy language, rhetoric and logic. There's an incredibly powerful principle/technique every marketer should understand – Enthymemes.
I realize at this point I risk losing all my readers with the possible exception of Jeff Sexton who is an even bigger writing geek than I am. (and I mean that as the highest possible compliment). But hang in there with me.
Here's how The Modern Scholar: A Way With Words defines an enthymeme:
An enthymeme is the point of the argument where you lean forward, look the other person in the eye and say: “Can’t we at least agree that . . .” and then go on from there.
Here's why enthymemes are so important:
The most important thing you can do in constructing your argument is the creation of an effective enthymeme. Without an enthymeme, no real argument is possible. With the right enthymeme, you can get someone to agree to pretty much anything you want. If you have defined the starting point properly, and if you use your logic correctly, your reader or hearer will have to arrive at your conclusion because it will be forced upon him or her by the logic.
Are you trying to change the way people think about you, your company, your product or the subject matter you're teaching?
If you're trying to change the way people think, take a look at your presentations, your marketing materials, your sales pitches…you have to start with something you can all agree on.
I know this is a sensitive topic, but……For example, if you look at the abortion debate – if you wanted to try to change someone's mind, you have to start with a point on which you all agree. An enthymeme you could start with would be:
We want to reduce the number of abortions. Hopefully both sides could agree on that statement.
When I do training or consulting on marketing to women, I no longer assume that everyone agrees that men and women are different.
I've changed my presentations to start by focusing on real world situations everyone (or at least almost everyone) can relate to. I throw out a scenario and get my audience/clients to tell me what their thought process is.
I start where they are, with something we can all agree on.
Then, and only then, do I move on to lay out my argument and advice on how men and women are different, and how that affects the way you market to them.
No matter how much research or testing or evidence I present, if they aren't with me on the basic premise that men and women are different and have different buying processes, they aren't going to take my advice or use the techniques I show them.
What's the starting point of your commercial or sales message?
One of the biggest reasons why marketing to women fails is because of the starting point.
Women put a lot of weight on corporate responsibility. The starting point of GM's new commercial is that an auto company chairman is a credible spokesperson. Remember, women have long memories and the outrage over Wall Street and Detroit executive behavior is still fresh in their minds.
If you want to be persuasive, start with an enthymeme. Build your campaign/presentation/argument from a starting point you all agree on.
Otherwise you risk losing her at "Hello."