In my keynote at the ConversionSUMMIT in Frankfurt (an amazing one-day conference I highly recommend!), I introduced a new concept I’ve been working on: The Persuasion Slide™. In short, it’s a simple model for persuasion that encompasses a variety of conscious and non-conscious factors.

I’ll be publishing more on this topic, but I’m eager to get some reader feedback. So, here’s a super-short introduction to the Persuasion Slide concept…

The Persuasion Slide


Gravity is what makes playground slides work, and in our persuasion model it represents the customer’s needs, wants, and desires. (I’ll use the term “customer” for simplicity, though what I mean is “target of persuasion.” It could mean a visitor you hope will request information, or a co-worker you are hoping to get some help from.) This gravity is what the customer brings, and, like the physical gravity we experience every day, it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Gravity is not something that you create. Rather, you need to understand this customer starting point and align your offer and your language with it. Just as a slide won’t work if it’s sloped uphill, your offer won’t work if it’s pointed in the wrong direction. If you are trying to generate leads from a website, it’s tempting to say, “Complete this simple form.” In fact, the customer has no interest in your form or the possible spam that may follow if she gives up her email address. “Lose weight fast! or “Make winning sales pitches,” on the other hand, will resonate with customers who are thinking about those topics.


When you are at the top of a slide, you are on a little horizontal ledge. You won’t budge from that ledge unless you propel yourself forward a little bit, or someone gives you a shove from behind. This is the “nudge” in our model – it’s what you do to get your customer moving down the slide.

This nudge can take many forms – an email, a big “Buy Now!” button, a call to action, or a sign in a retail store. To be effective, the nudge has to be seen (or otherwise detected) by the customer and should begin the motivation process.


The angle, or slope, of a slide is critical. Without a steep enough angle, slides don’t work. In our persuasion model, the angle is determined by the motivation you provide. If this motivation isn’t strong enough, the customer will begin to slide and then stop. I break this into two types of motivation: Conscious and Non-conscious.

Conscious motivators are what many marketers focus on: features, benefits, price, discounts and sales, and so on. These appeal to the rational decision-making part of your customer’s brain. These are important in many situations, and also help customers justify an emotional purchase in rational terms.

Non-conscious motivators are the many elements of your offer that appeal to the customer’s emotions or how his brain works. Cialdini’s six big persuasion factors (liking, reciprocity, authority, etc.), appeals to our “mating” instinct as described by Geoffrey Miller, BJ Fogg’s behavior model and grid, all fall in this category. Many other factors, like our brain’s aversion to loss and avoidance of things that require hard thought, also fit into the non-conscious motivator area.

A good slide uses both conscious and non-conscious motivators to create a steep angle.


Friction is the enemy of an effective slide. We’ve all seen a child get stuck halfway down a slide because it was rusty or poorly maintained. When a physicist looks at a slide (or an “inclined plane,” if you want to get technical), friction is a force that directly opposes motion down the slide. In our model, friction represents difficulty, both real and imagined.

Real difficulty includes many expected categories of barrier: long forms, confusing user interface, awkward payment procedures, and so on. Imagined difficulty is much more insidious: a step to completing the process may be easy enough, but it may seem more difficult in our mind due to disfluent design. (See, for example, Convince with Simple Fonts”.)

Building Your Slide

Here’s a highly simplified set of steps to build your slide:

  1. Align your offer with gravity, i.e., the customer’s interests, not yours.
  2. Get the customer’s attention with a nudge: send an email, display a visible call to action, etc. This nudge should begin the motivation process to get the customer moving down the slide.
  3. Create a steeper slide with conscious motivators – features and benefits, sales and discounts, free gifts, etc., are just a few commonly used approaches.
  4. Further increase the slide’s angle with select non-conscious motivators – emotional appeals, mating triggers, Cialdini’s six principles, and a host of other techniques. One or two may be enough.
  5. Minimize friction by eliminating difficulty in every part of the process. Making forms short and ordering simple increases conversion. Ensure there is no customer confusion at any point. Finally, eliminate things that look difficult to our brains, too – hard to read text, long instructions.

The Cost-Effective Slide

All of the above steps are important, but some are more costly. Offering a customer a discount or a free gift will almost always make your slide steeper and increase conversion, but these enticements always come with a price tag. Non-conscious motivators, on the other hand, are almost always far cheaper since they may require simple changes to your advertising or website.

Most important, in my opinion, is eliminating as much friction as possible. Making things easy for your customers is almost always far less expensive than offering them incentives to act.

Your Turn!

What do you think of the Persuasion Slide model? I haven’t provided specific examples of good and bad practices here as I did to my German audience, so I hope this makes sense. Please leave a comment with your reactions and suggestions. In the coming weeks, I’ll get more specific by providing real-world examples in a variety of persuasion and conversion situations.