Getting People to Do What You Want: Two Paths to Persuasion
Decades of research demonstrate there are two main paths to persuasion — direct and indirect.
Think of your products and services as a house. You want people to come into your house. They can come in the front door, which is the direct, straightforward path. Or they can wind around to the side door or back door. That’s the indirect path.
The direct or “high involvement” path presumes (often wrongly) that people understand and care about what you care about. On this path, they would gain knowledge, form a positive attitude, and engage in the behavior you want — in that sequence.
The indirect or “low involvement” path meets people where they are. The focus is getting the behavior you want to happen, regardless of why. On this path, the attitude and knowledge you want are not precursors to the behavior. They are results of the behavior.
Example: You are offering a nutrition program. Jill takes the direct path and signs up because she is concerned about her blood pressure and believes your program will improve her numbers. In contrast, Jane takes the indirect path and enrolls not for your health reasons, but because she heard that good nutrition can make her hair look better and nails stronger, and because of the freebies you give away. Once in the program, Jane gets interested in the health benefits you care about.
Don’t be myopic. Assume most people take the indirect path most of the time.
Do you know what will get your customers in the back door?
Moshe Engelberg, Ph.D., M.P.H.
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