How to Simplify Persuasion With
Marketing Ju-Jitsu

Ju Jitsu

Content marketing and copywriting is all about crafty persuasion, right?

We’re changing people’s minds so they see things our way and buy our stuff.

Not really.

Changing people’s minds can be extremely difficult. And when core beliefs and values are involved, it’s downright impossible. Let’s face it… it can be tough enough to persuade people to act when they already agree with you.

Why make things tougher than they already are?

You don’t want to challenge the core beliefs and values of your prospects, because they’ll tune you out. Instead, yield to the bundle of beliefs that are common among your prospects, and you’ll find it much easier to keep their attention and prompt them to action.

The Art of Marketing Ju-Jitsu

Ju-Jitsu (or Jujutsu) is a martial art in which a smaller fighter can dispatch an armored opponent by using an attacker’s energy against him, rather than directly opposing it. The art was developed by the samurai of feudal Japan for situations where the use of weapons was not feasible or permitted.

Marketing Ju-Jitsu (a term I first heard from Clayton Makepeace) follows the same principle. You’re acknowledging and using the core beliefs and values of your prospects to persuade, rather than trying to change firmly set minds.

Taking a Kung Fu approach to marketing these days won’t cut it. Your direct persuasive strikes are easily rebuffed by today’s heavily-armored consumers, and if you challenge core beliefs too strongly, you’re the one who’ll take a beating.

But if you align yourself with the core beliefs and values of your prospect, then you have that existing momentum on your side. Rather than striking against today’s marketing savvy consumer, you employ their existing energy to take them in the direction you want them to go.

To give an over-simplified example, which of these two assignments would you rather tackle if next year’s salary depended on your success?

  1. Convince Mac users to switch to a PC.
  2. Convince Mac users to buy an iPhone.

Swimming against the tide of strongly held convictions is a quick way to sink. And it’s getting tougher every day, especially online.

They’re Not the Enemy (and Neither Are You)

Using a martial arts analogy for marketing may seem like prospective customers are the enemy, but nothing is further from the truth. What you want to accomplish is a level of empathy and identification that establishes that you are not the enemy.

In most cases, this means that your prospect’s enemies become your enemies. Having a common enemy with your prospects is invaluable, even if that enemy is an abstraction.

We live in a highly polarized world. People have strong opinions about anything that comes near their core beliefs and values, and the web allows them to seek out like-minded communities that further reinforce and insulate those beliefs.

What this means is by identifying and aligning yourself with your prospects on this emotional level, you’re naturally alienating others. That’s ok… in this world, you create enemies simply by being of service to the group you choose.

In other words, to be a hero to your tribe, you become a heretic to others.

Effective Marketing Ju-Jitsu requires three things:

  1. An understanding of who your prospects are and what they believe
  2. A relationship that allows you to bond with your prospects over time
  3. The courage to annoy or alienate those who are not your prospects.

That’s a tall order, and it’s tough to manufacture. So why not seek out groups who already share your own core beliefs and values? Group’s you already belong to?

Why make things tougher than they already are?

About the Author: Brian Clark is the founding editor of Copyblogger, and co-founder of Lateral Action. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. You really have to be able to read your “opponent”, even though they’re not the enemy! Great list and article.

  2. Or which is easier

    PC users —> to buy a MAC
    PC users —> to buy ipod/iphone

    much easier to buy the small item first, then go in for the kill once they’re customers :)

  3. A very good article. You have an excellent grasp of this martial arts concept and one that I had not considered in this context. Very enlightening, thanks!

  4. Good stuff. It is much easier to build upon what already exists instead of tearing down and starting over with something entirely new.

    I guess we resent the pains of a wrecking ball but love the joy from a well placed accent piece.

  5. PPC’s example is perfect. The Trojan Horse, right?

  6. Tai Chi is a kind of kung fu and do exactly the same thing. you apply the forces of your opponent and redirect it back to it.

  7. “The courage to annoy or alienate those who are not your prospects.”

    When you say this, are you meaning, exclude by merely “de- targeting” them, or actually doing something that is more, confrontational and/or hostile?

  8. Apple fanboys have a common enemy: Microsoft. In politics, marketing to your constituents involves rallying against your common enemy: the other party.

    I listened to a phone interview between Frank Kern and Clayton Makepeace where Clayton spoke about creating a common enemy out of the head of the Federal Reserve to sell stock-trading info products and it worked like a dream.

    I’ve toyed with this idea and was amazed at how well it worked. But I think the real courage comes in when the “enemy” decides they want to poke back.

  9. We’re talking about that in triiibes, too–part of what makes many tribes is “we’re not them.” That’s a technique to be used with a lot of thought & care about the ethics, but it has a place. And as Michael said, it works amazingly well.

    My problem is usually that I think the enemy has a potentially valid point of view. It would be useful for me to get over that, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen.

    I like the idea of thinking of buying desire as chi, to be gathered and directed. I just hope Brian doesn’t start referring to James, Jon & I as “Grasshopper.”

  10. I have that same problem Sonia, I can usually see how someone else’s point can have validity too.

    Hmm. Rallying. Michael, now I have to go back over my client list and see who we could possibly be rallying against.

    “buying desire as chi”- love that.

  11. Wow, great article! I haven’t read a marketing article so easy to understand in the 25 years I’ve been alive.

  12. Bruce Lee rules is all I have to say.

  13. As a jiu-jitsu practitionaer, there is so much more to jiu-jitsu than mentioned but great article and nice lifestyle association.

  14. I confess I was totally lost until this point:

    1. Convince Mac users to switch to a PC.
    2. Convince Mac users to buy an iPhone.

    Couldn’t agree more (2), much easier to sell a new beer brand to a beer guy than trying to convince him to have a bourbon.

  15. After reading this article, I kind of realized that blogging is like having your own restaurant. Your place needs to offer great ambiance and fine reception to attract attention but its the food and service that will keep your customers coming back for more. Serving great food and great customer service will assure you of loyal patrons as well as produce word of mouth marketing that will open new business for you. Yeah. this article really makes sense. Oh by the way, I’m a novice blogger and I knew I struck gold when I found your site. I’ve linked you up so my other blogger friends can benefit from your posts. Its a goldmine!

  16. Sonia, Janice, another point of view doesn’t have to be your “enemy”. You are really both just one. Part of the great universal chi, yin – yang, white – black, Mac – PC…

    The other point of view doesn’t have to be invalid, just different. Thanks to this difference you can http://www.copyblogger.com/differentiate-your-blog-or-die.

    Endless invalidation of your “opponent’s” point of view just leads to politics.

  17. Thank you for another great post.

  18. A very good article.YOu know exactly what you are talking about.Nice work.

  19. Its very similar to the Dale Carnegie stuff. I love it!
    Thanks for the great post!

  20. Another nice article :), I love the connection to martial arts from marketing :)

  21. Wow…great article! Thanks for making the distinction so clearly!

  22. Interesting way of describing a tactic rarely thought of. Great way of explaining.

  23. Thanks Gary for highlighting that post. It is one of my favorites. I see what you are saying.

    “Naturally alienating”, aligning…is more about differentiation than becoming ” hostile”… I can do that…

    well, unless someone is just flat out wrong…:)

    I would like to see something about that, sometimes confrontation happens. We’ve seen it in action. Since the art of debate is so lost in public, political life…it woud be fun to see some “rules of engagement” brought back to light.

  24. Civil, courteous debate and disagreement with ‘rules of engagement’ requires us to 1. know something about the issue and 2. have less soft thinking and acknowledgment of our position on that issue after we know about it.

  25. 1. Convince Mac users to switch to a PC.
    2. Convince Mac users to buy an iPhone.

    There are many PC users who have Ipod and intending to buy iPhone.

  26. I have seen some “debates” here. They have been interesting. Especially when backed up with value added facts. I think there is a difference, maybe only in my mind, between controversial and enlarging.

    I am curious because if we are good at our ju jitsu, you know that opens us up for attack.

  27. Both can be quite entertaining and enlightening. Sometimes my opinion/mind is the one that will change.

    I have seen where a ‘wrong’ position is the one that helps launch the research for a better one, but only after controversy. The wrong idea, program or project had a useful purpose be stimulating the rabble to rise against it AND find different solutions.

    A journalist friend used to protest being named a ‘rabble rouser’, but I encouraged her, because I think the rabble must be “roused” and aware. Or they risk dozing through opportunity.

    I love a good discussion; am soon bored with immature flaming and have aged on the Internet long enough to recognize the difference (usually).

  28. Yes, rabble must be roused. Brings the whole thing forward.

    Ackroyd’s, “Jane you ignorant slut” SNL debates just popped into my head.

    I am off to look at those …in the name of research…of course. :-)

  29. Excuse me for particpating in thread piracy, but if you are an SNL fan, we can’t get on the opposite side enough to have a sensible debate! It’s hard to discuss things when laughing.

  30. Nicely written! Your tips are priceless. I have been preaching this for a quite a bit though it’s kind of self-contradictory since I’m trying to convince clueless marketer to change his way instead of letting him continue selling Macs to PC users.

  31. Brian …

    another enlightening post!

    As we all know, copywriting is salesmanship in print (online too).

    And, ever since the very first person tried to convince another to do/buy something — or to think ‘my way’ –the smart person would provide benefits that played into his pre-existing beliefs/values.

    Our job is not to discern what is true or real or worthy … but just to psychoanalyze our victim (humm, I mean audience) and present accordingly, right?

    So, aren’t we really psychological masters who prey on unsuspecting victims to trick them into buying … because we convince them that we think, feel or believe the way they do?

    Maybe we firmly believe there is no right/wrong. That beliefs are like belly buttons — everybody has one — and they’re all so very subjective and meaningless, really, that it doesn’t matter if we prey on their gullibility?

    Or, do we really care? Do we genuinely want to get into their heads and hearts to deeply ‘understand’ them, so we can simply explain the virtues of any given product or service we’re trying to sell?

    Probably not.

    Pondering,

    Carolyn

  32. I like your co-relation regarding persuasion marketing and martial arts analogy Ju-Jitsu.

    Let me explain what I mean, when you think about effective marketing, you can focus on the mechanics and techniques of the sales process by identifying needs and handling objections.

  33. I like the thinking here – that’s something I’m going to apply to my next marketing campaign. Many thanks!

  34. From my viewpoint, the principle of Ju-Jitsu is more akin to tricking the customer into giving up their money.

    What we really want is to start by following the customer’s lead, and then finally extend them a little farther than they originally intended to go (i.e. into a purchase). This is Marketing Tai Chi!

  35. Great post.

    It took me a long time to develop “the courage to annoy or alienate those who are not your prospects.” When someone unsubscribed from my lists, I used to struggle to avoid taking it personally. It actually used to ruin my day if someone canceled their membership or unsubscribed from my lists, even if it was 6-7 months down the road.

  36. A very good article. You have an excellent grasp of this martial arts concept and one that I had not considered in this context. Very enlightening, thanks!