Laws of Marketing Power: Action Over Argument

navy action articAnybody who’s read Robert Greene’s masterpiece, The 48 Laws of Power, knows that it is chock-full of principles that apply to all aspects of life. In the course of reading this book (which I highly recommend), I can’t help but think about how to interpret these laws with a marketing filter. Over the coming weeks, I will attempt to distill their meaning as it applies specifically to our profession in an ongoing series. For this inaugural edition, consider the 9th law of power:

Law 9: Win through your actions, never through argument.

We marketers love to make arguments: Why one product is better than another, why one service solves all your problems, why this company is superior to that company, why you’ll feel better with one brand vs. another.

Before I get into the reasons to justify action over argument, don’t be fooled—arguing is essential to what we do. (Heck, I do it every week on this blog.) To suggest otherwise would be dishonest, disingenuous or just plain stupid. However, more than arguing, we need to demonstrate. As this law of power illustrates, leading by action has a far greater impact than any words you might use.

For example, what is more compelling when trying to sell? The description of the features/benefits of your product on a dedicated ‘product’ page, or the actual results demonstrated by the use of that product? What is more compelling, stating that customers use your product in x and y ways, or giving actual customer words in text or the visual presentation of a video? How about a case study that captures the key points of how a product helped a customer accomplish a given goal?

In the bite-size summary of this law, Greene writes, “Demonstrate, do not explicate.”

Consider company websites. As much as we emphasize “calls-to-action” (explicating) to foster conversions, there is also power in being indirect (demonstrating). Sometimes people don’t want to be told what to do. Instead, you gently lead them along the path until they determine for themselves the best choice of action. In a way, the whole discipline of content marketing rests upon this premise. By demonstrating authority and knowledge on a particular topic, a marketer makes the product (and business) look attractive. In fact, this usefulness—the value of this particular content—draws buyers in and creates an affinity for the company or brand.

To go back to the example of my weekly contributions to this blog, each of my articles serves as an individual argument in itself, but the fact that I am dedicated to writing them weekly in a predictable fashion serves to demonstrate my committed attempt to be helpful. It also reinforces whatever authority I may have among our audience (That’s you, gentle reader!). Essentially, these regular posts indirectly demonstrate my (and Fathom’s) passion for sharing marketing knowledge. This passion—and the steady depth of knowledge that accompanies it—is ultimately what persuades more than any single verbal argument. People feel passion; they don’t feel arguments. Contributing to your own company blog can have the same effect for you.

Another great lesson contained for marketers in this law is the concept of diplomacy, i.e., being careful not to insult the intelligence (or worse, ego) of the other party. Consider your website audience, who may expect the world to work in a certain way. If you are looking to influence them with your contrary point-of-view, hitting them over the head is not likely to yield long-term success. Being heavy-handed typically turns people away, especially before you’ve gained any trust. Rather, you need to show sensitivity to their worldview by gently suggesting the alternative answer (or convincing them that you believe them even though you don’t). People’s emotions can be volatile. Sympathy = trust. Arguing = distrust.

How does the marketer accomplish this feat? By speaking the language of the customer and being user-friendly. When marketers present a problem or situation in the terms of the buyer, then the buyer automatically feels buying needs are genuinely being addressed. The answer then becomes intuitive: It just feels right. And when buyers feel good about their needs being addressed, they can trust that the company is worthy of their business.

As a result, be sure to truthfully demonstrate the power of your offering(s) on your website in the language of your customers. They will drop their defenses and trust you for who you are.

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Photo is in the public domain courtesy of the United States Navy via Wikimedia Commons.

Paul Richlovsky

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy and editorial direction. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He has written/edited multiple marketing guides, including those aimed at healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing audiences. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He is particularly interested in usability, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

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