Where Brain Science and Marketing Meet

The Persuasion Slide: An Introduction

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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

Grab a free Persuasion Slide Workbook to apply it yourself! Download by clicking HERE!

Gravity

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.

Nudge

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.

Angle

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.

Grab a free Persuasion Slide Workbook to apply it yourself! Download by clicking HERE!

Friction

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.

Grab a free Persuasion Slide Workbook to apply it yourself! Download by clicking HERE!

60 Comments
  1. Steve Freeman says

    Roger,
    It is evident you put a lot of thought into this. It brought me right back to my childhood dumping sand down the slide before I went down to reduce friction. That’s actually how I broke my arm, but that’s another story.

    I agree one of the most important features is to present the option and action you would like the customer to perform. On my website I would love to ask them to signup, and click through to products…oh don’t forget clicking to my other posts. Instead, as hard as it is I choose one action and try to improve on it.

    This is a great post I am shared this on my Scoop.it page, here is the link;
    http://www.scoop.it/t/small-business-marketing-and-sales

  2. José Luis Cruz says

    Roger, the slide analogy fits just perfect to the persuasion process. Your model seems quite simple to understand and even to explain to others who are not in the field. What I’d like to know is more about those non-conscious motivators with a little neuroscience back-up and which specific friction elements could cause both of the difficulties you mention.
    And one more observation, what about the landing? what about the customer wanting to go up and slide again?
    Congratulations on your work! Useful and interesting as always.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      All good points, Jose. Going forward, I’ll write more about the non-conscious motivators. In my book Brainfluence, I have 100 chapters, and almost every one deals with a non-conscious motivation strategy. Cialdini’s six principles are broad, and each one offers the opportunity to build in a non-conscious appeal of some kind. And there are many, many more.

      The landing is an interesting topic, as is the return trip. Another way of looking at the slide is that it’s like one of those huge amusement park slides that have flat spots at intervals. Some conversion processes are multiple slides, to be sure: getting the target to request information may be one, then to schedule a conversation, then to place an order, etc.

      1. José Luis Cruz says

        Yes, your book is being incredibly helpful with my thesis. Hope you already found a spanish publisher!
        And I totally agree with the multiple slides for conversion… Looking forward to read more from you soon.

        Regards,
        José

  3. Roger Dooley
    Twitter: rogerdooley
    says

    Conversion folks will tell you to focus on one thing if you really want people to do that, Steve. What you describe, though, is common. In particular, it reflects the dilemma of many companies where competing interests vie for top billing on the all-important home page. What you end up with is a muddle of options that bewilder the visitor and increase the likelihood that nothing at all will happen!

  4. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    Where is the experimental, peer reviewed research to support any of these claims?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I see this more as a framework that other research findings can be plugged into, BMM.

  5. Charles Johnson says

    Love it Roger. Using the slide as a metaphor embeds the information into my head. Very well done and a quick way to evaluate a selling process. Looking forward to more. Thank you!

  6. John Keating says

    I like simple and this is also an excellent analogy. I suggest there should be someone behind the client to push, to be a human “nudge”. That is the real role of the persuader. As stated above, memories of my own childhood, sometimes being “nudged to hard”, sometimes no friction, sometimes kids coming up the slide and sometimes flowing freely.

    Memories of taking my children to the top of the slide for the first time and their fear. Then in time their fear replaced with fun.

    As always Roger great ideas and I thank you.

    John Keating, Cork, Ireland

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Always great to hear from the county of my ancestors, John! Generally, we provide that push with the nudge by first getting the target’s attention and then providing some initial motivation. In simple persuasion tasks, the nudge and motivation may be combined. In others, the nudge may be an ad that stimulates a click to a landing page. In that case, the nudge includes enough motivation to get clicks but the landing page does the heavy lifting.

  7. Ralph Harvey, MD says

    Roger- I am a Family Practice doc, and I look at your Persuasion Slide as a great example of ‘chronic care management’, and patient motivation. As a doc, I have to ‘sell’ my viewpoint, my ‘diagnosis’, and my treatment plan to my patient. The idea of just telling someone a diagnosis, and giving them a prescription for a drug, or an exercise has never worked well. If the patient doesn’t ‘buy” the doctor’s concept, and the importance of making a change, long term health does not improve.
    I am looking forward to ‘translating’ this into a more medical framework.
    Thanks- great visual, and great explanation of the forces!

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thanks, Ralph. I think in the context of, say, compliance with a drug regimen, the “nudge” (say a reminder of some kind) and minimizing friction (having the pill right next to a cup and water source) would result in higher levels than simply putting a bottle in the medicine cabinet and hoping for the best.

      For long term behavior change (e.g., adopting an exercise program), you might check out BJ Fogg’s behavior model and behavior grid. One of his keys to changing habits is to start small, like “do one situp,” to begin the change process. His classic example is, “floss one tooth” before bedtime. If that simple, easy task forms a habit, extending it to more teeth is far easier than beginning with a full flossing nightly.

  8. Michael Sobus says

    Liked your model very much because it expresses in a fun way many principles of an effective sales process. So many of us when selling wing it without using a process!
    Not sure that I am comfortable with the nudge. Sometimes people are drawn to you or your business by you drawing it from them, kind of a reverse nudge. What do you think of that?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Some people require a bigger nudge than others! If someone is actively seeking what you have – say, they have a flat tire and you are the closest tire store – you won’t need much of a nudge (or motivation, for that matter). More typically, though, a customer has multiple ways to satisfy a need and may not be in any hurry to do it. In that case, a nudge (say, a phone call or an email) may help get the process going.

  9. Mark A Carbone says

    Roger,
    I love it. You embraced the Cynefin framework brilliantly. Wish I would have thought of associating this to a slide before you.

    I like it so much I am going to incorporated your slide concepts into my Customer Buying Journey framework – http://www.pinterest.com/pin/232357661997541521/

    JOURNEY MAPPING
    While a company goes through the journey mapping process they take along side the journey their prospects/customers take, I go through a series of filters below.

    FILTERS OF THE CBJ
    – Gravity (Roger Dooley) i.e., The customer’s initial motivation – needs or want realized.
    – Persuasive Angle (Motivations) (Triggers)
    – 6 Triggers + why now (aversion to pain/change/risk)
    – Conscious – much harder and expensive – discounts, free…
    – Non-conscious – Cialdini triggers + aversion to risk and pain and change
    – track the X factor as well
    – Motivators – Enjoyment, conviviality, belonging, security, control, recognition, power, vitality
    – Friction (ability) – use the Cynefin Filter (simple, chaotic, complicated, complex)
    – track the real and imagined friction
    – We all want to eat healthy but 7-11 and McDonalds are more convenient
    – Track Leakage – during stages in the journey, where is service leaking
    – Power 3 – identify the why change, why now, why buy from us questions
    – Context – setting – location, behavior, channel and device at each journey point
    – The 6 Senses Test at each stage and journey point (TEDTalk cite)

    Thanks again, great post.

  10. Daimon says

    Your slide image captures so much. As I compared it to both sales and real life experience I thought of slides that don’t work and got the image of someone (me, in memory) standing at the end of a high dive board. Maybe your slide image could become a dynamic visualization with quantifiable factors, making the sticking points visible. I know that’s way beyond your image.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Hmmm, interesting, Daimon. Coming soon: Persuasion Slide, the Movie! 🙂

  11. Natalia Goloskokova says

    Great model, Roger! I like that it really shows 2 way “communication” process, our customer finally has his own starting point and friction, he is not just an object 🙂 maybe to show it in different colours, that there are some points we can influence (nudge and angle), and some that we need to keep in mind.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Actually, Natalia, a similar thought came to me… perhaps making the positive forces green for “go,” but keeping friction red since it’s trying to stop the process.

  12. Xavier Genot says

    Roger,
    Great ideas. I love the simplicity of the picture. My only comment would be that the nudge is probably not necessarily conscious and external: I think for instance in smells of food that get you hungry and drive you to buy a candy bar.
    Great blog

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I totally agree, Xavier. Supermarkets often let the aromas of freshly baked bread and roasting chicken waft through the store – that’s enough of a nudge for some people to stop at the bakery or pick up a roasted chicken.

  13. […] en el excelente blog https://www.neurosciencemarketing.com, un esquema que explicita magníficamente los mecanismos de la persuasión. Aquí […]

  14. […] Here’s a simple model of persuasion from Roger Dooley at Neuromarketing. He calls it The Persuasion Slide. […]

  15. Neil Butterfield
    Twitter: neilbutterfield
    says

    Great analogy Roger. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Christine says

    Awesome Roger! I like the idea of having the arrows in green and red. That would be interesting also if you could illustrate the result at the bottom of the slide. We all have expectations when we’re up right? In this case we have expectations about a product/service, then going down the slide, we experience the easiness/difficulties of going through the purchase process. Once we have acquired the object of our desire though, we have another feeling, and this feeling I think is the most important one for future success. In other words, as marketers, we need to create the desire to climb up on the slide again and generate repeat purchases. What do you think?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      That’s an interesting extension of the model, Christine. I think the slide could be iterative, as in repeat purchases or brand adoption, or sequential, as in tasks that require multiple stages to complete. Even an online order might have some mini-slides as the customer clicks through several pages of order processing. Each of those pages offers the opportunity to continue forward or abandon the process, so maintaining motivation and eliminating friction is important. The danger, though, is adding too much complexity to a fairly simple model.

      1. Christine says

        Agreed 🙂

    2. Podium Wisdom says

      Reading this in 2015, I would agree with Christine: what happens at the bottom of the slide might be a really worthy addition. If we can help people see what lies at the end of the slide – the better future they’ll attain as a result of your service & product, it’d be pretty powerful.

      As it is though I love this model. Compelling both visually and logically 🙂

  17. Carol says

    I really like this metaphor as a way to help students new to marketing think about the funnel, or customer decision journey, in a more tangible way.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thanks, Carol! If you or your students come up with any insights, please pass ’em on. This is an evolving concept at the moment!

  18. Jenny Spring says

    I like this analogy, and I’m looking forward to seeing where you take it to.

  19. Trevor Lambert says

    Love it. What a terrifically simple and fun summary of a complex concept.

    I think you could add a little more detail without cluttering the image (eg listing Cialdini’s 6 factors) to make an even more comprehensive model.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Good idea, Trevor, though the scale might need to be bigger. I’ve been thinking of doing an infographic that might provide that kind of detail and look more polished, too. Thoughts?

  20. Phil says

    This is a great analogy Roger! Definitely worth remembering.

  21. Ranjan says

    Hi Roger,

    Excellent and a thought provoking article. Motivated me enough to go look for your book at the bookstore-and have ordered it.

    I work for a solutions company that designs campaigns for telcos. I have mainly be dealing with the conscious motivators as part of the campaign design. How does one look at incorporating the non-conscious motivators into such a design. How can these be used in motivating the end customer to take the offer? Are there any thumb rules or key words that drive such a take?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Ranjan, one starting point for a B2B campaign would be to identify the buyer’s pain points. Your features and benefits will address those, but for example, “fear of loss” might be incorporated into your messaging. Hope you find Brainfluence interesting. If you skim through the 100 chapters, perhaps a few ideas will present themselves. You only need one or two to give your campaign an extra boost. Good luck!

      Roger

  22. […] Roger Dooley’s Persuasion Slide Model […]

  23. Ken Broda-Bahm says

    Wrote a blog piece applying this idea to legal persuasion: http://www.persuasivelitigator.com/2014/02/use-the-persuasion-slide.html

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Great application, Ken. Thanks for sharing!

  24. Paul Hewerdine says

    Really useful model Roger. Thanks for sharing. On the point about non-conscious motivators, Phil Barden’s Decode team has done some interesting work in this space. They came up with the decode goal map which aims to capture the six implicit motivational goals that drive us. These comprise: Security; Enjoyment; Excitement; Adventure; Autonomy; and Discipline. We’re focused on the B2B marketing space and have been working on a model that applies to decision-makers in a business context. We’re still stress testing them but essentially they rank into 3 implicit goals geared around the desire for promotion (Progress, Recognition, Stimulation) and 3 geared around prevention (Avoidance, Control, Obligation). The Persuasion Slide seems pretty universal though and stands up to scrutiny in our field. Thanks!

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thanks, Paul. It’s intended to be a sort of framework into which different scientific theories can fit. Cialdini’s principles are the classics, of course, but there are a lot of ways to think about it. Evolutionary psychologists would get into mating triggers, for example. Maslow doesn’t get much love these days, but you could plug his hierarchy in if your customers could be categorized in a way that it made sense. I hadn’t heard about the Decode work (a hint of Maslow in there, it appears), sounds interesting.

  25. Ali Stone says

    I would also add that if the slide is too step then the person riding the slide will slip down without enjoying it or being conscious of the ride. Like the metaphor though, works really well.

    Thanks

    Ali

  26. […] the variables of a person on a slide to show how different factors affect the outcome of influence. Here’s the graphic he created to explain the […]

  27. […] Introduction to The Persuasion Slide (article) […]

  28. […] and differentiating the various forces at work in any persuasive situation. The idea is called ‘The Persuasion Slide,’ and it starts with the simple physics involved in an ordinary playground slide. Like a good […]

  29. Jonathan says

    This is really excellent Roget – do you want me to share it?
    All the best – your man in London – Jonathan Gabay

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      By all means, Jonathan! Share away! And, if you see any way to improve or clarify the model, please let me know.

  30. Chris McConaughey says

    A very nice illustration of what can be a complicated topic. I particularly like the reference to “conscious” and “non-conscious” motivators, and that fact that many marketers are only focused on the “conscious”. At Wilde Agency, we’ve built our business on helping clients add “non-conscious motivators” to dramatically improve marketing performance.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Thanks, Chris, the need to include both conscious and emotional/non-conscious motivators is key to the model. Do you have a specific framework for the non-conscious side of things, like a checklist or menu?

  31. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    There is no such thing as conscious motivators – in humans, or any other animals – duh. Without evidence, peer-reviewed data, these comments and ideas are worthless pop gobblygook – duh again…

  32. Roger Dooley
    Twitter: rogerdooley
    says

    Perhaps it’s a question of terminology, BMM. The conscious/non-conscious split is well established. I usually use Gerald Zaltman’s 95% number, though any such division is more qualitative than quantitative, at least for now.

    As far as “motivators” I think information presented in an ad, sales pitch, etc. is intended to be processed either logically/consciously (features, specifications, etc.) or emotionally/non-consciously (e.g., aspirational images, loss framing, etc.). These more or less map to Kahneman’s System 2 and 1.

    The point of the Persuasion Slide model isn’t to represent how the brain works, but rather to provide a framework for marketers to look at a landing page, print ad, etc. and think through the elements they are including, or not including.

  33. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    Look, are there any marketers, professionals, companies, business people or policy makers who have the time and resources to spend on ideas that aren’t evidence-based and backed up by the latest bench science!? I don’t know any.

    Zaltman’s work has been debunked long ago.

    What cause behavior is the brain, duh…anything to do with the brain is a medical topic and requires knowledge of advanced biology, physiology and molecular chemistry. These kinds of ideas are worthless – without medical facts to support them.

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      I have to disagree. The goal of marketers is to predict and influence human behavior. Insights can come from neurochemistry and brain imaging, but also from social science lab experiments, observation of human behavior in the real world, etc.

      The tools that we use to measure it may vary, but human behavior is human behavior.

  34. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    Look, this is really simple. The brain cause behavior. The brain is a medical topic. it is highly technical and only experts really can make any claims back by peer-reviewed bench science.

    But we are marketers. We don’t care if voodoo or the tooth fairy can predict behavior – but we have a professional duty to have evidence, proof and data supporting our claims and statements. Nothing in pop culture or business schools or psychology and the social sciences, including economics is evidence-based – nor on this web site.

    None of these claims can be true because they are contradicted by brain science. Effectively nothing marketers are getting paid for, or economists, can be true because it violates what is known about brain science.

    marketers should be held to the same standard as other professionals – if it’s not evidence-based – it’s malpractice.

  35. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    If business problems are going to be solved, professionals will have to understand the details of the brain as it determines behavior. This is an example of the kind of complexity future marketers will have to master –

    ““… in animals that developed PTSD symptoms following chronic stress and a traumatic event, serotonin promotes the process of memory consolidation. When the researchers blocked amygdala cells’ interactions with serotonin after trauma, the stressed animals did not develop PTSD symptoms. Blocking serotonin in unstressed animals after trauma had no effect…stress is enabling a serotonergic memory consolidation process that is not present in an unstressed animal.”

    Memory consolidation is the process by which short-term memories are converted into long-term memories and stored in the brain. Some memories are consolidated more strongly than others. For example, “flashbulb” memories, formed in response to a highly emotional experience, are usually much more vivid and easier to recall than typical memories.

    … chronic stress causes cells in the amygdala to express many more 5-HT2C receptors, which bind to serotonin. Then, when a traumatic experience occurs, this heightened sensitivity to serotonin causes the memory to be encoded more strongly, which Goosens believes contributes to the strong flashbacks that often occur in patients with PTSD.

    “It’s strengthening the consolidation process so the memory that’s generated from a traumatic or fearful event is stronger than it would be if you don’t have this serotonergic consolidation engaged,”

    This memory consolidation process can take hours to days to complete, but once a memory is consolidated, it is very difficult to erase.

    The findings also suggest that the antidepressant Prozac and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly given to PTSD patients, likely do not help and may actually worsen their symptoms. Prozac enhances the effects of serotonin by prolonging its exposure to brain cells. While this often helps those suffering from depression, “There’s no biological evidence to support the use of SSRIs for PTSD,”

  36. bibhulal sinha says

    the steps going up to the slide is the effort required to place a product/service on the nudge!

  37. Brain Molecule Marketing says

    Gee, can we have some peer-reviewed research or ANY independent data to support any of these claims!? duh

    Or does the author think his readers are really dum and gullible?

    1. Roger Dooley
      Twitter: rogerdooley
      says

      Dum [sic] indeed…

      1. Brain Molecule Marketing says

        Predictably, hucksters don’t get irony.

  38. HT says

    Only works for men. Women have at least 30% less persuasive power. So the angle is like a very gently pitched slide.

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