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August 13, 2009

Your Website As Persuasion Machine

The combination of the Internet, the Web, and technology has democratized business almost beyond recognition. Today the small, nimble, clever adaptor has the competitive advantage over their bigger, slower moving, ‘we’ve-always-done-it-this-way’ competitors; but the confluence of the Web environment and digital technology is one thing, how to use it effectively is another. Not every trendy social networking gimmick, user generated irrelevance, and pointless viral voyeurism is a productive business communication tactic.

The Day Dinosaurs Died

Like the dinosaurs that once ruled the world, the giant behemoth corporations that once dominated the business landscape have become fat and lazy, relying on muscle rather than brains, on statistics rather than understanding, and on technology rather than insight.

As these companies got bigger, they became top-heavy, corrupt, and stagnant, throwing their weight around rather than innovating and adapting. Oh yes, the big boys are still around, still doing what they’ve always done, jumping on every trend ‘du jour’ promoted by the ‘blogosphere’ without any real understanding of what it can accomplish, but hell, they figure if they throw enough you-know-what at the wall some of it is bound to stick, or so they hope.

But the handwriting is on the wall, the giant Internet meteorite has already hit these corporations right in their balance sheets and they are tumbling into irrelevance. The list of extinct corporate giants grows, and the march to Chapter 11 continues unabated.

So how does the smart, fearless, innovative thinking, business decision-maker take advantage of the Web’s ability to even the playing field? The answer lies in their ability to use the Web as a persuasive communication medium.

Persuasive Communication

The Web is really a very simple concept: it is a place that allows you to communicate your message to your audience. What could be simpler, but like anything democratic, it’s messy: a jumble of the very good and the very bad, and a whole lot of mediocre in-between. And in today’s overcrowded Web-centric business environment there is little room for the mediocre.

In the final analysis all marketing, branding, positioning, advertising, and public relations is about communicating a persuasive message that attracts attention, generates interest, stimulates desire, triggers experiences, produces memories, and prompts action. And what Web-enabled communication tool gives you the best chance of delivering that kind of persuasive message? Web Video.

Persuasive Web Video Communication

The Web has some of the most effective creative video presentations you would ever want to see, and it also has some of the worst.

Easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive technology has created a plethora of do-it-yourself efforts. Some DIYers do it because of cost, others do it because of ego, and some just figure they’re smarter than the people who do it for a living; and in some cases they may be right. Not all professionally produced Web-video is created equal. If your Web-video team is not pushing you to be bold with a focused, defining, differentiating message, then you’ve hired the wrong people.

Communication intended to persuade is a complex undertaking, one that requires a better understanding of how messages are communicated than it does the technical production issues. When people watch a video, what they see is far more susceptible to both intended and unintended nuance than a simple face-to-face conversation.

Every Move You Make, I’ll Be Watching You

“Every move you make; every vow you break; every smile you fake; every claim you stake; I’ll be watching you.”

– From the song ‘I’ll Be Watching You’ by The Police

Everything a person does or says is a sign, not just a communication of the obvious intent but also of the underlying subconscious subtext. In person, people have a built-in monitoring system that filters-out irrelevant verbal and non-verbal distractions, glitches and eccentricities, but on your website, in a video, those performance issues get magnified and can destroy your entire presentation.

In his book ‘Messages, Signs, and Meanings’ Marcel Danesi states, “Humans convey over two-thirds of their messages through the body, producing up to 700,000 physical signs, of which 1000 are different bodily postures, 5000 are hand gestures, and 250,000 are facial expressions.”

If your website lacks a video presentation, and instead relies solely on text communication, you are handicapping your business’s ability to persuade, convince, and convert website visitors into clients. And, if you do have video on your site, but it’s not producing the intended results, perhaps the verbal communication is in conflict with the nonverbal message, creating confusion and distrust rather than confidence and understanding.

Forget all the things you think your website should be doing; its most important and most critical purpose is to deliver an effective communication to your audience.

A Recipe for Web-Video Communication

Persuasive Web-video communication is a complicated process that involves numerous creative and technical talents, as well as psychological insight into performance issues: scripting, casting, producing, directing, editing, music, and sound design, all complemented by communication psychology, emotional resonance, and business savvy are required to create effective presentations.

Ingredient One: Attract Attention

Job one is to get people to take their hand off the mouse and pay attention; it’s the equivalent of someone yelling, “hey you” in a crowded room, everyone stops and turns to find out what’s going on.

Mark Hughes author of “Buzzmarketing” suggests six criteria that provide the hey-you-pay-attention affect: the taboo, the unusual, the humorous, the outrageous, the remarkable, the secret, and the titillating. Which of these criteria you choose to use depends on your brand image, your audience, and your message.

All these elements individually or in combination can produce the stop-look-and-listen effect you want as long as they are appropriate for your target audience.

Ingredient Two: Generate Interest

Sarah Wood of Unruly Media, a company that specializes in paid viral seeding points to high value relevancy as an additional key ingredient; it’s what turns the viral-for-viral’s sake into a purposeful, persuasive, viral marketing communication.

High value relevancy is based on the connection made through your video presentation. If your video doesn’t resonate in some way, you will lose your audience. Resonance can be established through the performers’ personality, the delivery of the dialogue, the scenario presented, the subject matter discussed, the point-of-view perspective, and/or the emotional content.

The idea of course is to convince and persuade; that’s what makes the whole exercise worth the investment. Resonance builds trust and allows you to present your message in a way that gives the audience pause: a kind of “I-never-thought-of-it-that-way” sort of reaction. You’re not trying to get your audience to buy into something they don’t want, need, or care about, but rather get them to see what you are offering in a new light, so that they see it as something they do need, or better still want.

Ingredient Three: Stimulate Desire

Once you’ve attracted the audience’s attention and gained their interest through some kind of cerebral or visceral connection, the next step is to stimulate desire. Generating desire is key to the ultimate conversion from audience spectator to active client.

Everyone likes to think of him or herself as intelligent and rational, as someone who makes decisions based on logic and need, but the truth is we are emotional creatures motivated by desire, only tempered by logic.

When products, services, and ideas fail to capture their share of the market, even when they are superior to their competition, it is often because their marketing focuses on their technical superiority rather than their emotional benefit. The marketing challenge for cell phone supremacy between Apple’s iPhone and RIM’s Blackberry is not about which is better, but rather which provides the status-buzz buyers get from ownership.

Web video provides the ideal vehicle for delivering both logical and emotional benefits in an easily digestible format that penetrates the audience’s subconscious and delivers all the necessary desire-building components. In an over-crowded marketplace, need alone is not a sufficient enough motivator.

Ingredient Four: Create An Experience

Far too many website business models are based on the idea that customers should make instant decisions. By focusing your attention on the quick sale, rather than a client seduction, you are giving up on the vast majority of your potential customers.

The old high-pressure direct marketing tactics of a bygone era have little relevance in a Web-marketplace where potential customers are safely hidden behind a wall of remote access. A website needs to do more than present a bunch of photos and order buttons and expect people to just follow commands to “Buy Now”; there are just too many options available for that strategy to work.

A website has to be a memorable experience, one that forces your audience to keep your offering in the forefront of their minds, where every competitor must stack up to the memorable experience you present.

For example, take e-commerce clothing websites; why present clothes like you were limited to a print catalogue with static images when you could present video of models moving to display how the garments look from all angles with a voice-over commentary providing detail and incentive: a simple but far more effective presentation sure to sell more clothes than a series of static lifeless images.

Ingredient Five: Be Memorable

Getting an order is important, but getting a customer is far more valuable. Because your audience is hidden behind a veil of Web security and remote access, pushy high-pressure tactics just won’t work, and if they do work, they’ll probably only work once. By providing a memorable experience your site stays top-of-mind, and when a prospect finally decides to buy, your site will be the one they remember, and not the other dozen or so faceless, boring, characterless websites they visited.

If you are not prepared to take a chance, and woo your audience with some memorable relationship building content that delivers emotional resonance and meaningful memories, then your chances of converting traffic into clients is slim.

Ingredient Six: Prompt Action

The idea that you need to blatantly ask for an order sounds like a sound sales tactic, one you hear all the time from sales experts, but let’s face it everyone knows you’re out to sell him or her something. By being too pushy or too obvious, you appear to be untrustworthy or desperate.

What you really want is for your audience to take some action, commit to remembering you by signing up for a newsletter, book marking your site for future reference, or better still phoning or emailing for more information. It’s all about building a sustainable business relationship with viewers by staying in the forefront of their minds and establishing trust and expertise through communication and dialogue. It’s the true value and meaning of the Internet’s promise of being a means of generating global conversations.

What to Remember

In the end, business success is all about how well you communicate your message to your audience. Websites provide the opportunity to deliver a meaningful, memorable marketing message through the use of Web-video.

There are many fine technologies available that allow you to dialogue with customers over the Internet, but real conversations are sloppy, frustrating, rambling exercises in point-counterpoint discussion, whereas Web-video is an organized, focused, concentrated presentation of the message you need to deliver.

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio
and Web-video. Visit,, and Contact at or telephone (905) 764-1246.