Persuade versus convince

Persuade versus convince
Persuade versus convince

Combining the powerful effects of convincing and persuading can give marketers a winning approach when communicating with healthcare professionals.

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin writes, “Marketers don't convince.  Engineers convince. Marketers persuade. Persuasion appeals to the emotions and to fear and to the imagination. Convincing requires a spreadsheet or some other rational device.” Interesting thinking. Works great if you're selling cars or soft drinks. Not sure it applies to the world of pharmaceutical marketing—particularly that of healthcare professionals (HCPs).

One aspect of marketing pharmaceuticals I have most enjoyed over the years is the subtle interplay between the art of persuasion and the discipline of convincing. In any interaction with an HCP, you need elements of both to be successful.

Even the origins of the words themselves, while being very different, can allow you to see how they could become a powerful combination.  Literally, convince comes from the Latin vincere, “to conquer”; persuade, on the other hand, stems from suadere, “to advise” or “to make something pleasant.”  When you intertwine their meanings, you have the very essence—and excitement—of pharmaceutical marketing.

Doctors are trained to be skeptics; they develop a hypothesis and then either prove it or disprove it. So when you speak to them, you must also think this way.

When an HCP is convinced of something, he or she can be persuaded—but not the other way around.

Yet typically, this approach is the opposite of the way that advertising works in the non-pharmaceutical world, which says show me something that stimulates my senses and then tell me why I can't live without it! 

What it really comes down to, then, is the dialogue that takes place between you, the marketer, and your audience, the HCP.  When you create a meaningful dialogue with your customer by providing real world data, you lay the foundation for a long and productive relationship.

Over the course of the dialogue, you can set up convincing arguments that will persuade your audience to see your point of view. But that's not always easy.  It can be like pitching a tent in a windstorm: If you haven't properly tied down one side before you move on to the next, then your whole tent will most likely blow away!

The problem is that the “conversation” with HCPs often happens in 15-second sound bites, which occur intermittently over months in a variety of media that may include sales calls, journal ads, emails, and websites. So it's critical that you build your brand and ultimately your campaigns so they incorporate elements that both persuade and convince and are consistent in their design.

Stay true to your overall strategy, be disciplined in your approach to campaign development, execute consistently across all media, and you will be in a much better position to convince and persuade your customers to prescribe your brand.

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