Marketing isn't about convincing.

Those people you’re selling to, they aren’t going to change their minds much. Finding the audience of a business is what sales and marketing are all about. Contrary to popular belief, selling is more about finding those willing to buy rather than convincing people to buy. A business relying on changing their audience’s beliefs, is in for a long, tough battle which will probably end in defeat. Can you imagine your success rate of going to a Catholic Church and convincing them to change to some other type of religion?

Take a typical sales call, has anyone ever called you out of the blue and convinced you to buy something you didn’t want?

Not likely. You just hung up.

Can you think of any successful coffee shop that convinced a significant portion of the initial customer base to like coffee?


With the understanding that it’s not convincing, but finding the right people, often the part that seems like persuasion is overcoming the tension between wants and needs. Parents of a large family want a sports car or luxury vehicle because of the status provided, but they need a minivan for comfort and stress relief. They purchase the minivan because the marketer and salesperson overcame the want/need tension. How did the salesperson do it? Did he change their minds?


The salesman showed them a need that they knew they had, but was hiding in their decision making.

Minivans tend to go to families, so for the automakers it’s easy to know their audience. They are busy. They need something that makes life easier. The key fobs for minivans are built assuming the driver already has their hands full with kids, or boxes, or luggage. The fob has buttons that automatically open the back and side doors. The minivan makes life easier by removing obstacles of full hands for families and for parents any decrease in stress is a godsend. The practicality supersedes the higher status a luxury vehicle would bring because the parents’ sanity is at stake. The parents weren’t persuaded that they don’t want a luxury vehicle, they were just shown something more important, a vision of a lower stress life.

If all that wasn’t enough, how much status will you get from an expensive luxury car that’s got a dirty back seat from the kids. You won’t want anyone to ride in it anyway. Deep down, the parents know that.

What about the parents that got away? The ones that didn’t buy the minivan, should the salesman have convinced them?

Possibly if he lacked enough other customers, but convincing someone to change their mind means shattering their reality. Are you going to buy something from someone who shatters your reality?

No. Not in that moment anyway.

Here’s a thought experiment, convincing people to buy pizza. Consider the following four types of audiences:

  1. Eats pizza daily.
  2. Eats pizza at special events like birthday parties, sports events, etc.
  3. Never eats pizza due to healthy lifestyle obsession.
  4. Doesn’t eat pizza because they just had a heart attack and their life is on the line.

The first doesn’t need much convincing. They don’t even get away from the product long enough to forget about pizza. There is no real need to market to them other than to make sure they buy the right brand. They want pizza all the time, no convincing necessary. Fulfilling a want is easy.

The second audience may need to be convinced of which brand to order for their event. They don’t eat pizza regularly so they may not have a particular brand. Show them your brand is great for parties because it’s cost effective, or cut in ways that are easy to hold, or the best tasting pizza, they don’t need to be convinced about pizza, they just need to overcome the obstacle of figuring out where to order from.

The third doesn’t want pizza. Convincing them it’s a need is necessary. Showing pizza as a way to destress is an option. Even that’s a hard sell. However, changing their mind that pizza is a fine meal would be an example of shattering their reality. They believe a healthy lifestyle is high stakes. It won’t happen. They’ll write you off as an idiot or scammer. Instead, marketing it as an occasional cheat, a comfort food that one can relax with is a way if they are extremely stressed. That is something they can believe without shattering reality because you’re not telling them it’s okay to eat it all the time. The problem is this subdivides the audience into stressed and destressed, and this audience already doesn’t eat pizza much. Better to pick one of the other audiences to serve.

The last audience is one that can’t be convinced. They nearly died. Their life is on the line. Overcoming that is next to impossible. They know their stakes and it is their life. If someone said, “Jump off this bridge, worst case scenario, you die.” Not many would do it.

What is the difference between all of these audiences? Wants, needs, obstacles, and stakes. For these five audiences, the stakes are different for each:

  1. The first sees the stakes only as what he will eat for a meal.
  2. For the second, the stakes are how good the special occasion will be.
  3. Staying healthy, having high energy, and good mood is on the line for the third group.
  4. Life is on the line for the last group.

Audiences 3 and 4 are not likely to be convinced. Building a pizza business around serving them is a terrible idea. It’s better to find the audiences 1 and 2, connect with them and serve pizza they love.

Here’s a quick exercise:

  1. Pick an audience.
  2. Write out their wants, needs, obstacles, and stakes.
  3. Attempt to understand the tension between their wants and needs.
  4. Give them an offering that overcomes their obstacles and sweeps their stakes in the winning direction.

This can be done for presenting yourself, a product or a business.

Sales and marketing isn’t about convincing people, it’s about serving data, stories, and products that align with things the audience already believes in, pitching something in alignment with their wants or needs. That pitch should eliminates or ease their obstacles and moves them in a positive direction towards their stakes. Simply figure out who is your audience and serve them.

None of this is Right is written by me, Brandon Donnelly. I believe that small business is the backbone of a healthy economy and democracy. Small business encourages competition through generosity, creativity, and skill. Small business provides more opportunity for workers to find a job that works for them. If you believe in small business, generosity, or creativity, my writings are for you.

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