Are You Losing Your Customers at “Hello”

Woman saying no
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. 

 

Always did a whole campaign around the starting point of being happy during your period, thus the "Have a happy period" campaign.  Well, we all know how well that turned out.

 

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."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 Responses to Are You Losing Your Customers at “Hello”

  1. “When I do training or consulting on marketing to women, I no longer assume that everyone agrees that men and women are different.”
    Ooh, I do that all the time. But does that mean that you now have to support that idea with facts so you can arrive at an enthymeme, or do you have to start with an enthymeme and work your way to that point?
    Trying to digest this new word 🙂

  2. Jeff says:

    Hey, Holly,
    Since you called me out by name, I’ll have to prove my geek cred by disagreeing on your use of terms ; )
    What you are talking about is a COMMONPLACE, which is something that your audience already assumes or agrees to be true. An ENTHYMEME is a Syllogism wherein one of the parts – usually one of the premises – isn’t stated but is assumed away as a commonplace. A good example of this is a recent political video I saw against Obama’s proposed healthcare reform. The enthymeme the video used went something like this:
    “Government run systems provide service like the DMV
    Therefore, if the government gets involved with or takes over healthcare, you will end up receiving DMV-style healthcare.”
    The assumed premise or commonplace in this instance was that the DMV provides shitty customer service. The advantage of the enthymeme is that an uncritical audience won’t think to challenge the assumed commonplace, and will end up debating the stated premise instead. The danger is exactly what you dealt with in this post: that trying to use a commonplace which isn’t mutually agreed upon will make your argument fall flat – a critical point indeed, which is why this is still a great post.
    – Jeff

  3. Jeff – This is what I get for calling out a former English teacher:) So an enthymeme isn’t stated, but is implied. Got it.
    But, yes, implied or not – if you think something is commonplace and the other party does not, you’re in trouble.
    Kelly –
    enthymeme or commonplace – you have to start with something both sides agree on.
    I realized, the hard way, that some people think there is not difference in how men and women respond to ads. They think there is no real difference in their buying process. So you have to keep going back until you find something they do agree with you.
    For me, I can usually get that agreement when I share a shopping scenario that everyone can agree on. I share true stories of husbands and wives shopping together. Most people relate to these stories and believe they are true because they’ve seen the same thing in their own lives and marriages.
    From there, I can take that story that they agree with,and deconstruct what she did (which they agree with) and start to explain why she did it – that’s when you bring in your facts and figures and supporting argument – when you explain the “why” after they have agreed on the “what”
    You’d think that if you have good supporting evidence, facts and research, that people would have to agree with your logic. But that’s just not how the brain works. Our brains work overtime to filter information and allow in information we agree with, but not information we don’t agree with. (for more on this – read The Political Brain – a fabulous book).

  4. Thanks for the lovely post.It’s always wise to focus on the presentation.Thanks for tabulating your points so beautifully.

  5. Kelly Watson says:

    This is really interesting — thanks for the clarification!

  6. looks quite a great post, it’s having good information for research analysis. great job

  7. Amrita says:

    Hey, Thanks for those great points. 🙂

  8. Mary Schmidt says:

    Oy BOY! A new word for word geek me.
    Here’s an even more common issue. Assuming your customer agress with you that they even have a problem (before you ever get to the pitch where you solve it.)
    However, that said, at some point you have to go where you’re wanted. If you spend all your time trying to find something(anything)on which you can agree – you may never close the deal (a little ol’ thing like qualifying your target market.)

  9. Holly – This is a really solid post. It should be required reading for Marketing 101 (or Advertising 101) students, and more importantly for those who (eventually) may employ them.
    Mal

  10. tea says:

    Hello
    This is an excellent post and I really like it very much.I have learned so much from this post.That knowledge about enthymeme is very good.Thank you very much for giving such a good knowledge.

  11. Meghan says:

    This is both setret smart and intelligent.

  12. Andrea says:

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