When I was six or seven years old I was struck in the head with a large rock thrown by a neighborhood bully who lived down the street. I remember the gash in my head that required several stitches across my scalp. I don’t remember getting the stitches or even being at the hospital. What I do remember was my mother. When we arrived back home from the hospital she marched with me hand in hand as we hastily walked down the street to that bully’s house. I was thinking, oh my this kid is in trouble! My mother marched to the front door where this kid lived and knocked firmly. I remember her being very articulate and persuasive to the lady who answered the door, describing what the punk kid did to her son and pointing to my head. She then handed the hospital invoice to the lady and told her where she could pay and we left. I never had a problem with that kid again!
That event shaped a portion of my belief system for the rest of my life. I learned at that moment what it means to stand up for what you believe. Thanks Mom!
Shaped by experiences
Now as an adult over the past 20+ years my life’s work has afforded me a behind the scenes look at creativity, new technologies, and leadership in action. I’ve been involved in new startups, product launches, countless branding initiatives, marketing campaigns, business processes, and sales strategies.
I’ve had the privilege of conceiving ideas, building systems and processes, working with skilled salespeople, advising business owners, and working with talented leaders who were wanting to implement an idea, create change, and often at the top of that list, develop a lead generation machine.
Recently I had the opportunity to read an excellent book by Tom Asacker, called The Business of Belief. In his book Tom presented two realities in today’s marketplace.
The first is, our choices, in every area of life. Each day we all have more choices than the previous day, all competing for space in our minds. The result is every new product, idea, service, and cause must work overtime to capture our attention.
The second is a result of all our choices. Many people have become easily distracted and distrusting, overwhelmed by the number of competing choices. In 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said, “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” We live in an age of distraction, of overwhelming amounts of conflicting information and competing priorities. Today it takes a lot of money, talent and energy to sustain people’s attention and become a trusted ally. This is why forward-thinking people and companies today are moving beyond attention. They’re actually aware that it’s not enough to simply have people know about their services or products. They need people to choose them, support them, work with them, and recommend them. In other words, they need people to believe. Belief however requires focus. It demands that we follow the lead of our feeling mind, of our intuition and assumptions.
We choose, therefore we believe
Beliefs touch every facet of our lives. Whether it’s the clothes we wear, the friends we have, the car we drive, the school we attend, the charity we support, where we live, what we eat, how we pray, or for whom we vote, it’s all part of a powerful, personal narrative. It’s an evolving story of who we believe we are, how we believe we should behave, and why. Like my personal story of getting hit with a rock.
The choices we make are a direct result of our beliefs. Our beliefs determine how we feel, what we think, the direction we choose in life, the goals we pursue, our set of opinions, our prefabricated interpretations, and the actions we take or don’t take. In essence, we choose what we choose because we believe in it. Our beliefs are influenced and reinforced by a host of factors, including our present circumstances, our mood and personality.
In 1921, Bertrand Russell wrote, “Believing seems the most mental thing we do.”
Understanding our desires and beliefs
Tom Asacker wrote, “Changing a belief is like crossing a footbridge stretched above a deep chasm; it requires motivation (a reason) and consideration (evidence). Life presents us with a myriad of these bridges. Most are short, clear and relatively stable, like choosing a new wine in return for a novel experience.”
But there are also the long and dark ones, like launching a new career and making a major change in business. Only those who truly desire what’s on the other side, and who feel relatively safe and in control, will be moved to venture across.
Moving beyond attention
Those skilled at motivating people to cross a new bridge, to change their beliefs and behavior, are not trying to cajole or manipulate others against their will. Rather, they are seeking to guide them to a new destination, a transformed way of feeling, thinking, and acting that’s aligned with their personal desires and values.
In short, altering someone’s beliefs is not an act of short-lived persuasion; it’s an act of leadership. And every leader knows that before you can lead people, whether it’s a customer, prospect, or a team, you have to know where they want to go. Want is not the same impulse as need, nor is it simply a wish or a dream. Want, or desire, is a motivating force which shapes our choices. Effective leaders and marketers understand this distinction and draw powerful inferences from it.
Steve Jobs imagined the iPod and iTunes by connecting his deep involvement in technology and design with an in-depth knowledge of the wants of consumers, and the fears and desires of the music industry.
Effective leaders and marketers know that the essential first step to changing people’s behavior is to understand their perspectives and embrace their desires and beliefs.
Following are some thoughts to consider that I gleaned from the book, The Business of Belief:
- Great designers design new beliefs that resonate with the audience’s values and desires. A horseless carriage? Sounds ridiculous.
- Great marketers discover our beliefs, they probe deeply to uncover what’s in, and on, our minds
–the images, words and symbols that attract, inspire and motivate us.
- Make things easy to interpret and accept.
- Creating belief is about affect before effect. It’s about finding people who want to believe, and then making them feel comfortable, correct in their assumptions, through the right signals and associations.
- People don’t venture down an unfamiliar path, unless they can visualize their desired destination.
- “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” — Konrad Adenauer
–To discover someone else’s motivation, and bring it to life in a provocative way, is difficult. Yet despite the fact that it’s widely misunderstood, the essence of influencing others is simple.
- Effective marketers and leaders ignite people’s imaginations by painting vivid, compelling, and personally relevant pictures
–ones that move them.
- “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
–John Quincy Adams
- Great marketers (leaders) are viscerally aware that they are simply guides on our trips, and so they do everything possible to make our journeys feel special by strategically pushing decisions and actions in our direction.
- Why do we like to shop, but hate to be sold? Because shopping is ours, selling is theirs.
- Great marketers make it ours by making us feel that we are at the center of things.
- Great marketers simplify the belief process by eliminating difficulties and competing options on our attention. They work really hard to make belief really easy. Example: Apple believes in making everything easy; attractive to the eye and easy on the brain.
- Belief is a result of experience and repetition
–both within and without –which makes our actions feel familiar and safe. Great marketers help create those experiences by deliberately influencing our behavior.
Resources and References
Tom Asaker, The Business of Belief – How the World’s Best Marketers, Designers, Salespeople, Coaches, Fundraisers, Educators, Entrepreneurs and Other Leaders Get Us to Believe, 2013