And don't forget... Ask for the order!

How One Persuasion Principle Got Us an Entire Industry as a Client

Long before Dad wrote his groundbreaking book I had my first lesson in the persuasive power of the Friendship Trigger.

To be honest it’s not my favorite of Dad’s trigger labels because “friendship” has distracting personal connotations. In fact this trigger is activated by a simple but important recognition of sameness or similarity — social, cultural, geographical, generational; any aspect or category that can serve as a shortcut to familiarity and trust between people.

Case in point: My first new business venture was one of those early dot-com wild rides. It was New York in the ‘90s, and for an internet startup that wound up on the cover of PC Magazine, The New York Times, and CNN, the fact that none of us knew anything about technology or even computers might have seemed a hindrance. In fact our IT ignorance turned out to be a key factor in our success because of the remarkable (and often unrecognized) power of the Friendship Trigger.

We were distinguished with an array of “firsts,” including first live online coverage of the Oscar®, Emmy, and Tony awards; first digital media brand on the motion picture premiere junkets; and first to upload movie trailers, including exclusive access to Disney animation. Programmatic and mundane today, back then it was a very big deal. Our posting of the trailer for The Lion King was so groundbreaking and popular it crashed servers all over the world.

So, why us? Why us rather than the dozens of other firms (including major players like Microsoft) that had sought to engage the entertainment industry for their wildly popular marketing content?

In fact the folks at the studios and networks told us exactly why: because we were not technologists. Everyone who had come before us to engage them for online distribution seemed and sounded like they were from another planet.

We didn’t speak geek. All of us had come out of burgeoning careers in media and entertainment and we spoke the same language as those in the show biz marketing departments. We understood their concerns, risks, rewards and, importantly, we didn’t intimidate them with technobabble.

Reading a draft of Dad’s book years later, I was finally able to put a name to the phenomenon that made us the most persuasive choice in an early competitive bid for the entertainment industry’s business: The Friendship Trigger. No, we didn’t have to form close personal relationships, but the degree of sameness and similarity with our prospects, especially as compared with our competitors, made us the preferred choice to help move them into an exciting — and unknown — new media category.

The Friendship Trigger is foundational to reduce risk and increase comfort, two critical strategies for successful persuasion, and can be activated in various ways from communication style to shared interests to cultural, social, or professional commonalities.

In our case there was a natural synergy. We weren’t any more qualified than anyone else, and we certainly had no notion of triggers or the tools of persuasion. It was, quite frankly, luck and timing.

Smart business people today reduce dependance on luck and timing by using tools of persuasion which only became available since the advent of live brain imaging around the turn of the century. The surprising discoveries from this technology revealed to neuroscience the disproportionate impact of the emotional brain on human decision making, and proved the effectiveness of emotional triggers for more persuasive communication.


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    Consider the culture, manner, and communication style of your colleague, prospect, or market and either match yours with theirs or assign someone who matches them naturally.

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    Do your homework; find aspects and areas of personal and professional similarities to which you can refer.

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    Don’t dismiss mentions of personal or professional alignment as ‘small talk,’ it’s more important than you may think; the value of good rapport is not just FOR “greasing the wheel” but for easier, faster, more effective persuasion.

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    Speak their language, not yours; don’t try to impress with jargon or arcane knowledge unless that’s their practice or inclination.

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    In a climate of uncertainty, threat, or fear the right solution is more often than not the one that’s comfortable; be the path of least resistance — and watch your yes ratio soar.

When it comes to getting new business, credentials are key (see: the Authority Trigger). But if you’re already in the room (virtual or otherwise), the value of human connection, established or strengthened by activating the Friendship Trigger, will almost always get you farther faster in your persuasion campaign.