Today we’ll examine an example of persuasive client acquisition, review in detail the 6 fundamentals of what influences people, and map those elements back on our example.
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Lesson 2: How to Create Persuasive Email Sequences
Voiceover: Welcome to Get More Clients With Smarter Email Marketing. A free audio course presented by Unemployable, with Brian Clark. For the full experience, head over to Unemployable.com, and sign up for the Unemployable email newsletter, the week’s top resources for independent business people, personally handcrafted by serial entrepreneur and content marketing pioneer, Brian Clark. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: Hey, welcome back to Get More Clients with Smarter Email Marketing. This is Lesson Two and I am Brian Clark, CEO of Rainmaker Digital, founder of Copyblogger and the guy behind all things Unemployable.
The Art of Persuasion
Today we’re talking about how to create persuasive email sequences and the heart of this is really, “What’s persuasion? What are we really trying to accomplish here?” Before we write a word, before we create a sequence of compelling messages, how are we going to ultimately get to our end goal which is convince someone to work with us. I want to tell you a true story and this happened to me right after I recorded the first lesson of this free course.
For a couple of months now I’ve been getting back into general shape after letting things go a bit. Work gets in the way, you know how it goes. But I hadn’t done any kind of strength training at all for about a year. In fact between you and me I hate it, but it’s been about a year. So first day back at the gym and it showed, I’m sure. But while I’m over there doing my second set of deadlifts, one of the gym’s personal trainers was standing near by. When I finished he said, “Hey, can I show you a couple of things?” I’m like, “Yeah, I could probably use some help, I’m sure,” and he pointed out some things. He’s like, “It looks like that your hips are really tight and that’s affecting your form and that could not only diminish your results but also you could hurt your back,” so he’s got my attention.
He has me do a couple of exercises, really I guess they are stretches that loosened up my hips a bit and then I did my third set. You know what? The guy knew what he was talking about. It made a difference and of course that to me is important. He’s also a nice guy. He was pleasant to talk to. He didn’t rub me the wrong way. We got along.
The interesting thing next was that a client of his, a personal training client, politely interrupted to ask a question. They had a brief conversation that I listened in on. Seems like the guy was happy with the training he’d been receiving so far and that’s encouraging. Next up he said, “Hey, why don’t we get together in a couple of days and I can help you out with your next workout?” “Cool, I’ll think about it.”
At this point the guy’s not once asked me for money, brought up me hiring him, nothing, and then finally I’m like, “Yeah, how about 3:30 on Thursday?” And he said, “I can’t do 3:30 but I can do 2:30, does that work for you?” I’m like, “Yup.” In the back of my head I’m going, “Yeah, I’m kind of my own boss, so …” One of the benefits of being CEO. You’re thinking, “Okay, Brian, great, great story bro. What’s that got to do with email marketing, content marketing, everything?” The point being that a personal trainer, and this was in person, sure, but a personal trainer is effectively an information business. It really is.
It’s providing guidance based on experience, knowledge, authority, if you will, that guide you to get the results that you’re looking for. It’s really not that different, and I want to tie all this together at the end of the lesson, so stick with me. But before then we need to talk about the fundamental aspects of persuasion and what that means. What does persuasion mean? It’s not manipulation. It’s not coercion. I’m a firm believer that without ugliness there is no way to make a human being do what they don’t want to do. What you can do is take a person who wants to do something and get them to choose you to help them do it. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.
The Six Elements of Influence
When it comes down to it there are six eternal elements of influence, of persuasion, and if any of you have read Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini you know what I’m talking about here.
Now, let’s take a break here. Some of you are going, “Oh wait a minute, I’ve heard this before.” Have you heard it, understood it, and are executing on it? Then if not, stick with me. Maybe some of you have been taken in by some self-styled internet marketing guru who said, “I’ve got the new thing. The new, new thing.” We’re all wired for that, right, as human beings. And then you said, “Wait a minute. This isn’t new at all.” Hey, I’ll be the first to agree with you.
These things go back to the days of the ancient Greeks, to Aristotle’s Rhetoric. They simply observed human behavior and figured out how to influence people. In the 1970s social scientists in the United States did a whole raft of experiments and found out, “Yes, those Greeks were on to something and we proved it through our scientific method approach.” And that’s where Robert Cialdini’s book Influence came from. Then the only thing that’s new is that now we have neuroscience and we can literally do MRI scans and see these elements of persuasion working on people and see what parts of the brain light up when they are enforced, okay?
Other than that nothing new, but unless you understand these things completely and can execute on them, you don’t really have a shot at making a truly persuasive email sequence. So let’s go through this. The six elements of influence are reciprocity, authority, liking, social proof, commitment and consistency, and scarcity. Okay, let’s go through these each one at a time.
Reciprocity. Basically you do something for someone, people tend to return the favor, and this is why content marketing at its very essence works. You give people something useful and in their brain they like you better already. Now, this is a different concept than actual liking you, but they feel like they owe you something back and this has been an amazing aspect of my entire career as an entrepreneur. I give and give and give but I am flabbergasted by what I get in return. And I don’t do it from some cynical standpoint. Giving to people, as we alluded to in the first lesson, over-delivering is just kind of how I’m wired I guess.
But it needs to be how you’re wired too, because no matter how much you give, what you receive in return is amazing. Reciprocity is like this foundational aspect of society itself, of civilization. We wouldn’t have even gotten this far if the innate need to return a favor wasn’t there, and trust me, this is the root of everything that will come back to you as an entrepreneur in multitude.
Next is authority. Now, people tend to obey authority figures and we think of the police or your teacher or your parents or all that kind of thing. And this is a different kind of authority because that type of authority, your parents, the police, the government, your teachers, that was institutional authority. It was bestowed upon them, you were in that system, and you had to comply. What we’re talking about here really is earned authority, demonstrated authority, not authority that you claim, not where you say, “I am an expert in so and so.” It’s where you provide content, information, that demonstrates your authority. This is a very important point, and we’re going to come back to it over and over.
Next up is liking. We just like to do business with people we like. It’s almost a glitch in our personality. I mean, we tend to think higher of people that are attractive. We want to associate with people we like even if the guy down the street who’s unlikable is actually better at it, right? It’s one of those things that you just really can’t get around. We are not rational beings and being likable is a very important aspect of your authority. That likable expert is key in this day and age. Now, you may be thinking, “Wait a minute. It seems like no one respects experts anymore.” They do if they are their experts. That’s something we’re going to come back to when we talk about affinity content in the very near future.
Let’s talk a little bit about social proof. People do things that they see other people doing. They are influenced by, “Is this something that other people find acceptable?” Again, a glitch of human nature. It may not always cause us to make the right decisions, but it is something that we look for. You look in terms of testimonials. You’re looking in terms of what other people are saying about you more than what you say about yourself. That goes back to not claiming to be an expert. It’s much better if other people are saying you are.
Commitment and Consistency
Next up is commitment and consistency. Once people commit to something one way or another, they are more likely to follow through with that commitment and continue with it on a consistent basis. Now, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” The keyword being foolish. If you’re consistent just for the sake of it, you might be making a mistake. If you’re consistent in a good way with a solution that is viable then you’re just being a good reliable human being. We tend to actually appreciate people who are consistent in society as opposed to people who are kind of flaky and don’t do what they say they are going to do.
Finally, scarcity. The big one. Scarcity will always generate demand. Saying an offer is available for a limited time only encourages more sales. Taking something away from people works. In fact, we are wired to avoid loss more than we are to gain. Again, a glitch, but it’s just the way it is and if you ignore scarcity you do it at your own peril.
The Six Elements in Action
Okay, so after going through that, let’s revisit my interaction with the personal trainer. He offered me free advice. That’s reciprocity. I’m already feeling like this guy is giving me something for nothing and inherently, whether I like it or not, I feel a little obligated to this guy. He knew what he was talking about. That’s authority. If you demonstrate, not claim, he never once claimed anything, he demonstrated to me through the hip exercises that he knew what he was talking about because I felt it for myself. Nice guy. Liking. If he were unlikable it would have changed my entire opinion of him. You know that’s true.
When the client walked up and I can’t say that he planned it this way because that’s just not how it works. This was clearly an impromptu thing. It was really kind of mundane, but the fact that this guy clearly appreciated his relationship with the trainer … you could glean that. He didn’t say anything glowing. He didn’t say, “Hey, you should hire this guy.” It was just clear from a social proof standpoint that this guy had clients and they were happy with him. Now, the next thing that he did is really important and this probably is part of his client development repertoire.
He asked me to agree to meet him. No obligation. No cost but to meet him at a certain time for a session. Commitment and consistency, right? I agreed and I’m going to show up. Period. That’s the way it works. Unless he did something completely outrageous to violate the liking aspect and the authority aspect, I’m probably going to stick with him. Then finally, this was very subtle on the scarcity front, but I proposed a time to him and he said, “No, I can’t do that but I can do this.” Very subtle, but an aspect of scarcity. “My time is valuable, I can’t accommodate you at that time, but I can at another time.” Very important.
This is all of the kind of things that you’re trying to incorporate into the messages you give your prospects. Did I feel sold to? No. How did I spot all those things? This is what I do. Right? The only reason I spotted every element of persuasion in this interaction is because this is what I do for a living. Otherwise, not a hint of pressure, of salesy-ness, anything. Nothing like that. That’s how you want your content in your email messages to feel. You’re creating an experience of, “This is my person.”
Quality over Quantity
Here’s one thing I want to point out that’s incredibly important because we live in a world with people, these gigantic email list of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. Copyblogger has something like 350,000 subscribers. You don’t need that. Back when I ran my real estate brokerage, at any given time I never had more than a thousand people on my list. This includes the relocation people. I kept in touch with those people for an entire year from the date they signed up. Never more than a thousand people and yet we were drawing in fifty grand or more a month in revenue. The right people, that’s who you’re trying to attract.
Let me give it to you this way. Why did this guy’s spiel work on me? Because in my mind I had already considered hiring a personal trainer. He did not convince me to hire a personal trainer. He convinced me to hire him. That’s what you’re trying to do. Get five of the right people and two of them turn into clients, that’s what you want. Okay? Extrapolate that into I don’t know, thirty very, very, very good leads a month and you are as happy as you can be. Do not think that list size matters. List quality matters. I’m going to leave you with that and then we will get it rolling even more in depth on Lesson Three. Until then, keep going.