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You Cannot Manipulate Your Way To Engagement.

Key Concept: Engaging prospects on an emotional level with positive intention and authenticity does not mean manipulating people’s base emotions.

I came across a fascinating article the other day that illustrates how business-as-usual thinking misunderstands what it means to authentically engage prospects and customers.  The article, entitled, “Say It With Heart” appeared on the Fox Business website on May 11, 2011.  As this is a main theme in our business philosophy, of engaging the mind, heart, and spirit for breakthrough performance, I was intrigued to read what they had to say.

What I read revealed a gross misunderstanding of what it means to engage one’s prospects on an emotional level with positive intention and authenticity.  The article reflects the old school’s misinterpretation of the conscious work that is emerging from enlightened researchers, behavioural economists, performance psychologists, and Transformational Entrepreneurs.

The author, whose background is in producing commercials and jingles, pointed to five elements that he believes will enable marketers to “make an appeal to the heart”.

The first element discussed was a call to appeal to a customer’s “Moral Compass”.  While this may sound fine, the example the author used (buy local vs. sending your money to Asia) sounded a bit more like xenophobia than appealing to one’s core values and beliefs.  Now, supporting local businesses is a wonderful thing, and we do so whenever possible.

If buying local is a moral imperative in someone’s value system there’s no need to demonise another part of the world…the intention there is to trigger a fear, if not a hate-based response.  It simply does not sound like an appeal to a higher purpose.  If we are to appeal to another being’s moral compass shouldn’t we do so through our own?

The second element explored was “Phobias”.  This is another fear-based approach, and the example used was a classic “hurt-and-rescue” technique every sales representative in the 1980s (including me) was taught in an attempt to scare the customer into buying.

In fact, this goes beyond triggering simple fear, as the dictionary defines a phobia as, “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it”.  Sounds a bit like bullying to me…bullies find a weakness and exploit it in their victims.  How does that appeal to the heart?

The third element was “Self-Reward”, which as it was explained read more like self indulgence.  Perhaps the author had also written the jingle, “You deserve a break today, so get up and get away…” I’m sure you know the rest of the commercial.

The example the author provided pointed to an appeal for selfish behaviour…you’ve been burdened all day with the responsibilities you’ve incurred through your life decisions, so you deserve a shopping spree.  Not only is this an attempt to trigger resentment, it also cultivates a sense of entitlement.  These are all concepts rooted in ego-driven behaviour that isolates us rather than connecting and engaging us on a deeper, heart-felt level.

And speaking of ego, we come to the fourth element, “Peer Pressure”.  The opposite of living a mindful life is succumbing to the insecurities of peer pressure.  Goodness, isn’t this a fundamental lesson we try to impart with our children?  To think for themselves, embrace their own values, and ignore the negative behaviours that can emerge from peer pressure.  The example the author used was even more onerous; attempting to cultivate jealousy and envy because someone with a lower paying job is driving a nicer car than you.

The final element the author explored was “Guilty Conscious”.  He pointed out the powerful technique of leveraging the fears that keep people awake at night to motivate buying decisions.  Lovely…as if we are sleep deprived enough!

The point I’m trying to make is the importance of intention.  The sum of the elements from this article suggest that cultivating fear, hatred, xenophobia, insecurities, jealousy, envy, guilt, entitlement, and selfish behaviour is the way marketers can “Say It With Heart”.  This is remarkably in congruent, manipulative, and clearly resonates with negative intention.  It reflects a predatory mindset and zero-sum game.  For me to win, someone else must lose.  And just to emphasise the negative intention behind these techniques, there was no place to leave a comment in response to this article on the Fox Business site!

The fact is, people can sense when they’re being manipulated and it is the quickest way to disconnect any opportunity for meaningful engagement and relationship to emerge.  Intention matters, and the companies that understand this and walk their talk will create a flourishing, preferential advantage in their marketplace.

About Dave Solomon

Dave Solomon is a serial entrepreneur influenced by Terry Murray, one of the greatest business mentors of 21 century. This Blog is an initiative to recollect the lessons of Mr. Murray and help aspiring entrepreneurs become transformational entrepreneurs

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