To Win Support for Your Idea, Think Like a Marketer

By Leslie Zane
September 18, 2019

If you want to get the green light for a project, you can’t just put together a presentation and rely on your ability to make a rational argument. You need to think like a marketer. And that means appealing to the subconscious minds of the decision-makers you’re presenting to.

For more than 25 years, I’ve worked with Fortune 100 brands to get them to rethink their marketing strategies. We teach marketing leaders to influence the hidden drivers that dictate purchase behavior. As Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman has argued, 95% of consumers’ purchasing decisions take place in their subconscious minds. This is because inside the mental shortcuts that people use to make quick decisions lies an ecosystem of accumulated associations and memories that have become glued to certain brands over time.

So how can employees leverage what we’ve come to understand about effective brand building? To maximize your chances of getting your ideas approved, follow these three rules:

START EARLY. The sooner brands begin building positive associations in the subconscious minds of customers, the better. In the workplace, the “first-mover advantage” is just as valuable. The more time you spend accumulating positive associations around your idea, the larger its brand matrix will be by the time the decision is made.

CREATE POSITIVE BUZZ. When a brand aggressively promotes itself, customers can grow skeptical. But when someone else endorses the brand, positive associations grow in the subconscious minds of prospective customers. Business people need “influencers” too, ideally from different parts of the organization.

DEVELOP AD CAMPAIGNS, NOT PRESENTATIONS. Try comparing your plan to a successful, historic business development that your boss tends to reference. Use compelling metaphors that evoke images of success. When there’s a match between the cues you provide and those that already exist in the mind of the decision-maker, you’re more likely to make the sale.

(Leslie Zane is the founder and president of Triggers Growth Strategy.)

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

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