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Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?:

Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing

By: Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg

Marketers are constantly trying to better understand human behavior to deliver more persuasive marketing messages, but human behavior in theory is very different from it in reality.

Consumers don’t shop the way they used to, so the marketing practices that were effective in the past have less power today. To put it differently:

“Cats don’t bark—and consumers today don’t ‘salivate on command’ like they seemed to a couple of decades ago. Consumers today behave more like cats than Pavlov’s pooch. Times have changed—and so must we.”

Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing by Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg dives deep into the idea of how to persuade modern consumers with your marketing (or for all intents and purposes, getting your cat to bark again).

The book was written at a time when social media was just emerging and the landscape of marketing was far less sophisticated than it is today, but the authors were right on the money with many of their findings, predictions, and advice.

“Cat,” as the book is commonly referred, illustrates how marketers aren’t always prepared for the always-on audience of today, and are often oblivious as to how to interact with it to increase sales.

The Eisenbergs also introduce Persuasion Momentum, which helps businesses create a multi-channel system for anticipating customer needs, serving those needs, and then measuring the ROI of those efforts.

In this summary, I’ll give you a quick overview of the concept of Persuasion Momentum and how to achieve it through research and data.

What is Persuasive Momentum?

As defined in Cat, persuasive momentum is “the progressive decision-making process that aligns the customer’s goals with our own business goals.”

In other words, in inbound marketing, it’s our understanding of what we want to accomplish and the thought process we go through when planning a website, offer, or campaign in general to achieve them.

According to the Eisenbergs, we can build and sustain persuasive momentum in these situations by intentionally and repeatedly providing answers to the following questions:

  1. Who are we trying to persuade to take action?
  2. What is the action we want them to take?
  3. What does that person need in order to feel confident taking that action?

For example, let’s take the design and build out of a new homepage. The goal of these questions is to align your customers’ buying process and your company’s sales process.

In the case of our homepage, we want to make sure that we make it clear who we do business with, have one clear call-to-action for them to follow (and speaks to their needs), and provide the copy and perhaps social proof to make them click it.

The Brothers explain:

When we understand and anticipate what answers, or points of resolution, a customer may require at every step in their decision-making process, we can help them make the decisions that matter to them. These are, after all, the decisions that matter to us and move us closer to our own business goals.

Persuasion occurs when people perceive they are on their way to getting what they want. Persuasion is a forward-moving force. People must feel they are making progress. If a customer feels he isn’t making progress, then he isn’t persuaded.

This is why it’s so important for us to thoroughly research and adapt your inbound marketing for your buyer personas, instead of forcing them to adapt to it.

Anything that slows or interrupts their natural momentum in the buying process creates friction and kills the persuasion leading them towards a purchase.

Note: These resources can help you learn more about how to build momentum and be more persuasive:

The Design of Persuasive Systems

To design a persuasive system that supports interaction with potential customers, you have to plan for all of the different types of interactions that might take place across different touchpoints or “persuasion entities.”

Persuasion entities include everything from Facebook videos and blog articles to marketing emails -- but we can only anticipate what your persona needs or how they’ll react through research.

Push vs. Pull

A good persuasive system, like inbound marketing, makes use of push-and-pull aspects:

Touch points that offer limited opportunities for direct interaction are push entities: marketers broadcast push entities to the customer like ads; marketing pushes the information at the customer. [(These are usually more self-promotional pieces.)]

Others, especially your Web-related ones, are pull entities. In pull entities, customers typically initiate the interaction and attempt to pull the information they need from the business. [(i.e. Searching a keyword on Google and finding your website, filling out a form, etc.)]

Effectiveness of each tactic really depends on where your prospects are in the buying decision process.

This is where understanding your persona’s typical buying behavior, A/B testing and conversion rate optimization, come in handy to help your business pinpoint which persuasion entities perform best at which stage.

Data can empower your persuasion efforts, but only when analyzed correctly.

3 Common Mistakes with Analyzing Customer Data

Long story short, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark encourages marketers to do their user and buyer persona research and change their strategies based on what they find.

Insights and customer data are extremely valuable for marketers, however, as mentioned above, the value comes from how the data is collected and analyzed.

The Eisenbergs share three common mistakes businesses make when attempting to gather data on their customers in their book:

1. Torturing the Data

Those who “torture” data collect only the information that supports their idea or cause.

They force the data on everyone inside and outside the organization, shaping the narrative they want to create, often ignoring all of the facts.

While this may seem ok in the moment, feeding some egos or providing a sense of justification, it only hurts your persuasion efforts in the end.

The beauty of collecting data and tracking marketing metrics is that they give you solid facts to base your next steps off of. They are objective and tell you exactly what’s working and what’s not. If manipulate data to only backup your existing opinions, you’re likely to waste time and effort on things that aren’t effective.

2. Worshipping the Data

Those who worship the data hold all data as sacred with no distinction between which metrics are more important than others. This especially causes problems when two metrics seem to contradict each other and in scenarios where there is little to no data at all.

All metrics are not created equal. At IMPACT, we look at all of the data and keep in mind which KPIs are most important or relevant to what we set out to achieve. For example, if you established a campaign to build brand awareness, traffic may be more important than leads generated at that time.

3. Confusing Isolated Stories for Data

Finally, you have those who don’t care about data. They might think they have “research” to backup their claims, but that usually turns out to be a small survey or a handful of anecdotal stories.

Businesses need thorough research and real data to make the best decisions, which is why companies who make this mistake are awfully shy about revealing the sources of their information.

Moral of the Story: Persona-lization is Key

Research and buyer personas are fundamental to an effective inbound marketing strategy. Marketing needs to be persona-lized to your audience’s interests and behaviors to see results.

The key to personalization is that the business provides a personalized experience, as opposed to the customer creating it for themselves.

Customization and personalization are two related but different processes.

Customization takes place when the customer takes control of his experience with your brand, your products, or your services. He customizes his experience by modifying the parameters of his expressed terms—if you let him.

Personalization takes place when the brand takes the lead in shaping a presentation or product or marketing piece on behalf of the client. So, while we can make a stab at allowing the customer to customize his experience through various application tools, we require huge amounts of information to offer a truly personalized experience.

Both of these approaches can be valuable to customers, but they still fall short of what constitutes meaningful personalization when the customer is engaged in the buying process.

In addition to creating a better experience for your customers, buyer personas also allow you to segment your market to deliver better marketing campaigns.

Without some degree of personalization, it’s more difficult to build a relationship with your potential customers and offer them the experience they’re looking for in order to convert.

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