How to Begin

As marketers in today's landscape, we must walk a different path. No longer will our product-centered, mass-market habits serve us well. The interconnectedness of emerging media means we must focus on the customer and create persuasive systems that have at their core an understanding of human motivations. Our unfolding experience economy makes this demand on all of us.

Waiting for Your Cat to Bark? presents Persuasion Architecture as a set of big principles. Sometimes, the scope can seem daunting ... it can feel like sitting in front of a great big feast of roast elephant with your little knife and fork. How, you sensible want to know, do you go about eating an entire elephant?

A perfectly sensible answer? One bite at a time!

The very first steps

My loyal readers are familiar with the phases of Persuasion Architecture, but everything we have been working towards since 1998 is synthesized in our new book. So, quite shamelessly, I encourage you, as your very first step, to acquire Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?.

Second step? Read it!

Then you're ready to take your knife and fork to that roast elephant.

Uncovery is essential

Don't mistake me. It would be great if you could revisit your business objectives and design - or redesign - from the bottom up (or all in one big bite, as it were). But undertaking the task in smaller, discrete bites will definitely produce results. Sometimes budgets limit how much folks can tackle at any given time. Sometimes folks just need to be convinced the process works!

If you can focus on only one element of Persuasion Architecture, focus on uncovery. Uncovery provides a foundation, without which any attempt at persuasion crumbles. The goals of uncovery are to identify the value of the business and articulate it in a way that matters to the customer, so you can create the best merger between selling and buying for your situation.

Uncovery is the only piece in Persuasion Architecture that can stand alone. You can turn directly to optimizing an existing scenario once you have completed uncovery. But no other step in Persuasion Architecture can take place in the absence of uncovery.

Know your audience

Toward the end of the uncovery process, you start creating personas that give insight into the customers' buying processes and help you understand each customer's individual needs, wants and desires through detailed narratives.

Invest some time thinking about your personas ... what they would find relevant, how they will approach you, what they need from you. Even if you simply toss around persona ideas, you will benefit.

Take it for a test drive

With the information you've learned through uncovery, plan a small, simple scenario. It doesn't have to be complicated - a pay-per-click, a television or banner ad, an e-mail. You can revisit material you've already developed, or start your little scenario from scratch.  Flesh out the narrative. Execute the structure and persuasive elements of your scenario. Develop it, take it out for a test drive, then evaluate your results.

A system for continuous improvement

Because Persuasion Architecture is a meticulously planned process, the attention to detail allows the persuasive system to become self-identifying. During uncovery, we explore objectives and assumptions. During wireframing, we are creating the strategy that will allow us to reach our objectives. During storyboarding and prototyping, we are planning the tactics to implement our strategy, and during development, we are executing.

Once we actually experience how customers interact with the system, we can go back to revisit anything from the underlying assumptions to the actual tactics - they all are connected to each other within this process.

People often ask us, "How do we know this will work?" and "How do we know we'll be collecting the right data and making the right assumptions?" It's the process that works; it's only partially reliant on talent. If a business can commit to being a part of this process, it will work. And if mistakes get made, as they inevitably do, you'll know exactly where they are. The mistakes are always self-identifying.

When our clients understand the Persuasion Architecture methodology, they are much more confident about proceeding. After all, it's an intuitively sound process. It has to work. By the time uncovery concludes with the creation of personas, those who entered into the process with trepidation are complete believers. We suspect that's because very few people have ever given this much thought to their persuasive systems before.

Finishing-having a perfect persuasive system-isn't as important as having something. If you start applying these principles to your business, even in incremental stages, we guarantee you will see better results-not just by percentages but by multiples!

The good news is Persuasion Architecture is an extremely practical methodology. Even when applied in smaller, less-than-ideal pieces, it will still improve any persuasive system. Tackling these principles one at a time is a perfectly reasonable way to start.

Everyone here urges you: please, do try this at home. The only wrong response to Persuasion Architecture is no response at all.

Volume 133: 06/21/06

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