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Persuasion is a hot topic. But do you also know which of your customers you can persuade?

I recently talked to one of the leading figures in Data Science, Eric Siegel, author of Predictive Analytics. And he concludes that organizations in essence don’t just want to know what consumers will do – they want to know what they can do about it.

I never really thought about it that way, but it makes sense right?

It turns out that it's not that interesting to know what customers will do. Knowing a customer will click, or doesn't click, will move left or move right, isn't useful data. The key is to know which of your customers you can persuade to behave the way you want them to.

By focusing on persuadables marketers can achieve better results. Next to that, it could just help improve marketing's reputation.

Predictive analytics techniques like Uplift Modelling zone in on so-called persuadables. With their black box model,s data scientists can divide your customer base into people that are likely to react to a marketing message and people that are not. Targeting is more effective to persuadables.

The only problem is that these black box models don't tell you why persuadables are persuadable. Behavioral science is more suitable to identify reasons why someone can be persuaded. 

Combining behavioral science and data science Dr. Maurits Kaptein came up with persuasion profiling. This new technique opens up new ways to identify persuadables and take advantage.

Using persuasion profiling to identify persuadables

Already in the 1950s people like Solomon Ash ran experiments trying to figure out how to persuade people. Robert Cialdini's six keys to persuasion are well known in marketing and also often discussed on this blog.

For example, we know that people tend to follow the herd, obey authority or are influenced by the perception of scarcity. The research by Kaptein has shown that people react consistently different to different persuasive messages.  

With this scientific discovery he also revisited many conclusions done years ago. In these experiments, resukts such as 30% more people reacting to a persuasive message then to a neutral message is a staggering yet common result.

But it leaves out the 70% of people that didn’t react. More importantly, it ignores the people that would have reacted aversely by a specific kind of persuasive message. These kind of insights are invaluable for marketers.

(c) Flickr by @arjanharing
By building persuasion profiles you can identify persuadables, but you do that on a level of persuasive DNA. In the above example Mike is most persuaded by a social proof message. And he seems to be even less persuaded by a scarcity message than a normal (neutral) message. 

Next to indentifying Mike as a persuadable, you also know how communicate with him. Personalising content to customers' persuasive DNA increases satisfaction.

Even with persuasion profiling in place you will have a group of people that are non-persuadable. On the one hand it's every marketer's challenge to find out the exact persuasive DNA of each customer. Another way of looking at it, is that these people really don't want to get a marketing message. 

Improving marketing's reputation

On a final note, something which I think is a nice side effect of thinking about your customers in this way.

Marketing has been a field of tiny successes. A lot of customers receive a lot of marketing messages without the message having the desired effect. Focusing on persuadables also means we don't have to bother people that wouldn't be persuaded in the first place.

Leaving non-persuabables alone will also help improve marketing's bad reputation.  

Arjan Haring

Published 19 June, 2013 by Arjan Haring

Arjan Haring is Co-founder at Science Rockstars and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

3 more posts from this author

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