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- Danielle Steel, Bittersweet.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

The Power of Opinion

I was recently reminded of P.T. Barnum's famous words about opinion. Yeah, every single person does have an opinion. And FYI, he used very different words to express such a sentiment.

It all started when I made a content marketing proposal to someone whose target market is people who need detailed and very credible information before committing to a purchase.
This is for the simple reason that the products and services involved in this particular market run into millions of shillings. Even worse, it is a market rife with cons, pyramid schemes and endless court battles.

Admittedly, not all pitches are, or have to be successful. But sometimes, a situation emerges where a client may not fully understand what needs to be done. In fact, Apple Inc. is famous for pointing out that most of their breakthrough products are made with absolutely no end-user input - for the simple reason that the consumer does not always know what s/he wants.

Anyways, the problem is that when some people fail to understand some things, or why they are necessary, they promptly go into full know-it-all mode, thereby dismissing and ultimately missing out on what may have been of great utility to them. Believe me, it is a head-honcho pitfall very many often succumb to.

Once again, it all boils down to opinions and how they are expressed.

Opinion can be Shaped

We do not exactly live in a world where everything is in black or white. A key mistake often made by those selling products and services is assuming that the consumers will on their own seek information about what you sell to them. Sorry to disappoint, but offering all the necessary information is part of your work.

Less may be more, but inadequate invariably does more harm than good since it leaves plenty of room for doubt. Doubt that erodes trust.

You see, being in business is not only about making money. It is about meeting a need or offering a solution. Or adding value to an existing product or through service.
Money is ultimately part of the reward you get for doing this. So where does offering information come in?

Because useful information, especially information that is essential to using the product or service, is part of what the buyer pays for. Or more important, the buyer makes the purchase decision based on, and thanks to, the information you provide.

It is for this reason that forward-looking brands are now embracing content marketing as a core part of business operations towards customer acquisition and retention. And, it goes without saying, revenue generation.

Opinion affects Decision making

The obvious question at this point, I submit, is just how much information should be available to the customer (potential or otherwise).
And should it be purely devoid of emotion and factual, or there is room for persuasion and emotional appeal.
We shall get to that shortly...

First off, decision making is largely swayed by opinion. And no place else is this as well demonstrated than in politics.
Prior to elections, politicians who are worth their salt will oil their public relations and propaganda machinery in readiness for the big day. Elections are very rarely, if ever, won on the polling day.

All that matters happens before the ballots are cast, all the campaigning and country-wide tours - that is what makes a particular candidate more appealing to the voter.

This is equally important in business.
For companies with big marketing and PR budgets, they do it so well that their product announcements are carried by media outlets for free since they are packaged as press conferences.

Newspapers and periodicals will then be filled with native ads that are carefully made to look like informative content. The icing on the cake is when senior officials of such companies are hosted on various high-value shows such as breakfast and drive shows on radio, as well as during prime-time TV.

By the time an ad from the advertising agency of such a company first airs on TV or on radio, chances are you have already heard about the product on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, on blogs, on radio and TV. At this point, you start trusting...

Where then does this leave the small and medium enterprises who lack such far-reaching and all-encompassing ad-spend?
The truth is, you have a finite number of followers on social media, cannot make your stuff trend based purely on a euphoric hashtag and obviously cannot afford prime-time TV or radio commercials or full-page newspaper ads.

The trick is to engage content marketing outlets that operate in your niche. You have to get adequate worthy mentions that make you trustworthy in the eyes and hearts of your target audience.

Purchase decisions are mostly Emotional, not Rational

We have talked about persuasion and emotional appeal above.
Here is the surprising truth: Most purchase decisions are purely emotional. They are based on something very hard to come by - trust.

It is for this reason that the most credible candidates are not voted for during elections. It is for this reason that a good number of people marry those with whom they establish an all-consuming passionate bond. Partners who sadly, do not have companionate affection that is essential for a life-time bond.

Emotional appeal is therefore of utmost importance in influencing potential customers. Through your marketing message, you have to catch their attention, and keep them interested long enough to allow for engagement.
It is during this engagement that you can have a conversation or interaction that makes your product or service desirable and compelling enough to convince the buyer that he or she is better off purchasing it.

Such a purchase action is seldom easy to come by. And it is not often based on how good your product is, but how it is perceived. Is it trust worthy?
And as we just outlined above, opinion has the ability to affect decision making.

Remember a marketing message is never successful because of what is said. Is is always because of what a targeted audience hears.

That said, go ahead and engage content marketing that can shape opinion and affect decision making in favor of your products and services. Here is a good place to start.

* * *

The customer is someone you have to woo, so said the advertising gurus whose insights we have come to greatly appreciate many decades later.
Imagine you want your customer to come out and enjoy what you promise will be worth his or her while. Can s/he trust you?
Let's convince Prudence to come out and play...