You may have seen that Robert Cialdini, author of the marketing classic Influence, has a new book out.
It’s called Pre-suasion, and you should read it. It’s all about setting the right context before you make the “ask.”
(In other words, it’s all about content marketing.)
Like his earlier book, it’s full of fascinating little insights that will be keeping marketing and copywriting dorks like me thinking for months.
I was particularly interested in what he had to say about:
- The stages of “pre-suasion”
- Using mystery to keep an audience engaged
- The right time to use a popularity-based argument (everyone is doing it!) versus a distinctiveness-based one (you’re a special snowflake!)
But the section I was keenest to read was the one on the “new” principle of persuasion he’s uncovered, in addition to the six he identified in his earlier book. He calls that principle Unity, and — as it happens — it’s one we’ve written about many times here on Copyblogger.
In the context of persuasion, the experience of a shared identity is what Cialdini calls Unity.
The experience of Unity is not about simple similarities (although those can work too, but to a lesser degree, via the liking principle). It’s about shared identities.
If you’ve been listening to my podcasts lately, read my recent posts, or if you came to my talk and workshop in Denver last week, you know that I’m a little obsessed with values these days.
Values are those lovely abstract words that attach themselves to entire constellations of assumptions and beliefs.
I’ve been working with them quite a bit because they’re an effective “battery” to help you do the things you want to do.
There’s a nice pile of research showing that when you do simple exercises that connect you to your values (like taking a few minutes to write a paragraph about one of them), you tend to have an easier time taking effective action toward your goals.
But connecting with your values also has the lovely benefit of reminding you just why you’re in the game in the first place. What you care about. What you believe. What you cherish.
And for content creators, those points of focus start to make themselves felt in your content.
Writers connected to their values tend to create content that resonates with those values. And that’s the kind of content that triggers the Unity principle Cialdini talks about.
Values are the “big ideas” that make up our identities. Closely tied to values are beliefs, the more specific ideas that spring from those values.
Let’s look at a couple examples.
Beliefs that are clearly relevant to your business
Some types of beliefs and values are directly relevant to your business and how you approach it.
For example, at Rainmaker Digital, we believe that building your whole business on someone else’s virtual property is unacceptably risky.
That informs how we do business. So the Rainmaker Platform, for example, couldn’t be built on some proprietary framework that would be hard to migrate away from. We’d just feel sleazy and unethical if we tried to lock people into something like that.
This belief informs our marketing, our products, our conversations inside and outside the company, and the content we put into the world.
The connection to values? It may not be World Peace, but it is pretty closely tied to values like Autonomy and Freedom.
Beliefs that are less visibly relevant to your business
We also have some organizational values and beliefs that are a little less clearly tied to our product mix.
For example, all five of our founders have school-age kids. Many of our employees have school-age kids, and other close ties to family members. Many also have tight relationships with beloved friends, folks we might call “bonus family.”
Practices like working remotely, a highly flexible vacation policy, and focusing on outcomes rather than time clocks are deeply resonant with the value of Family.
You don’t see that one show up as much in the product mix, but I think it makes itself felt in the culture of the company and the folks you interact with on our team.
It’s a very different culture than what you see in a stereotypical startup like the ones satirized on Silicon Valley. At some companies, sleeping at your desk, living on delivery pizza, and mainlining Red Bull are badges of honor.
That’s not our culture; it would be completely counter to our values. We work hard, but we also believe that the highest quality work comes from people who have balanced lives.
“The relationships that lead people to favor another most effectively are not those that allow them to say, ‘Oh, that person is like us.’ They are the ones that allow people to say, ‘Oh, that person is of us.'” – Robert Cialdini, Pre-suasion
The cynical reason to cultivate the Unity principle is that it creates an incredible environment for persuasion.
This is sometimes interpreted as meaning you don’t have to sell, but that’s not correct.
When you’re in Unity with your audience, selling looks different. It’s more about education, giving all of the information needed to make a good decision, and being honest when a particular product or service isn’t the right fit for some segments of your audience.
It’s also about careful listening to learn what kinds of products and services would be most valued by the community.
But the cynical reason isn’t the real reason.
(By the way, don’t miss Cialdini’s discussion of why using persuasion unethically is a terrible, business-destroying practice that no intelligent person should participate in.)
The real reason to seek and build Unity
The real reason is that it’s about a billion times more enjoyable to build your business around people whose values resonate with yours — people you find to be “good people.”
- You’ll have more energy to create great work
- You’ll help more people, in more meaningful ways
- You’ll attract astonishingly wonderful people to work with you
- You’ll be more resilient when the rotten days happen (and there are always some rotten days)
- You’ll be far less vulnerable to economic disruptions (if you keep listening carefully to what your audience wants and needs from you)
When you build a business that’s rooted in things that really matter, you create a much better experience for your customers. You also enjoy your life a lot more.
Hm, I think that might mean that one of our core company values is Fun. Rings true to me.
How about you?
Is there a value that informs your professional life or your company?
Have you ever created an experience of Unity in a business or marketing context?
Let us know about it in the comments!