Crystal Blue Persuasion

(Listen to this post, here.)

I ordered the Vegetarian Stir Fry: “Linguine tossed with sauteed broccoli, mushrooms, onions, finished with sesame ginger sauce and homemade sriracha aioli.”

It seemed like a safe choice.

Only it wasn’t.

One bite and I knew that it was WAY too spicy for me. My bald head began sweating immediately (TMI?).

Was the description of the dish on the menu accurate? Absolutely. 

After all, as anyone can tell you after they return home, dip their tongue in a bowl of ice water, and google the word “sriracha,” this is a sauce whose claim to fame is its spiciness.

But I had no idea. And, in my defense, none of the usual restaurant warning signs were present:

The waiter didn’t say anything; I saw no asterisks or chili pepper icons next to the item on the menu; there was not a fire extinguisher to be found within arm’s reach of our table.

Accuracy and Effective Communication Are Not the Same Thing

Were my tongue-burning complaint to go before the Supreme Court – wouldn’t that be a refreshing change – one thing is certain: I would lose.

The restaurant stated right there, in black and white, that there was siracha in the dish. The only problem was that I didn’t know what it meant.

The restaurant was “right,” but it missed an opportunity to fully inform its target audience. It may have been my fault, but I was still disappointed in the experience.

Your marketing works the same way: Your primary goal is not accuracy … it’s persuasion.

Consider this example…

Just yesterday, I was helping a client with the promotion of an upcoming event.

In writing the sales page, this question came up: Do we call it a webinar? A virtual event? A master class? Something else?

As of this writing, the question remains unresolved. But wherever we come out, the task at hand is not about finding the word that most accurately describes the event.

Rather, it’s about finding the word that will be most appealing to our target audience.

If, for example, this population equates “webinar” with “boring, PowerPoint-based presentation” – even if technically, the structure of the event fits perfectly within the definition of a webinar – then it’s the wrong word to use.

Persuasion, not accuracy.

How Do You Describe Yourself?

The same logic applies here.

Do you call yourself a consultant? Coach? Trainer? Freelancer? Business owner?

The “right” answer is overwhelmingly a function of what the various words mean to those who would hire you.

Does “consultant” mean “experienced, capable professional” to your target audience? Or does it mean “fast talking guy who takes your money and accomplishes nothing?”

If it’s the latter, instead of trying to convince others that consultants are good people (note: we are), you’re better off simply choosing a word that your prospective clients already feel good about.

Here’s the bottom line.

People don’t choose between options … they choose between descriptions of options.

You don’t sample the food at a restaurant before ordering; you don’t try out a webinar before registering; and you don’t work with a professional service provider before hiring.

When it’s time to make a decision, it’s the words – not the thing itself – that push us one way or the other.

Worry less about describing what is and pay more attention to what your audience wants it to be.

Time-Wasting Word Challenge

Sum up today’s newsletter in traditional haiku format: 5-7-5 syllables. (Alisa, this one’s for you!)

Share your answer below…

If you liked this article you’ll love the next one (I’ve been holding back on the good ones until you subscribe). Click here to sign up for future posts.

34 thoughts on “Crystal Blue Persuasion

  1. Laura

    Another good essay with a good message. And a fun challenge. My first time trying haikus.

    Even Jane Austen
    Knew that persuasion is best
    At changing a mind.
    Speaking their language
    Makes your marketing efforts
    Much more productive.
    Don’t call your course a
    “Webinar” if they’ll only
    Buy a “Masterclass.”

  2. Don Sadler

    Very clever how you used the song title in your subject line this time. I’m sure you’re doing some kind of test with this!

    This song always reminds me of Breaking Bad!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      I’ve actually never seen “Breaking Bad!” But I was a big sixties music fan back in college (well post-sixties, I hasten to add) and this song along with several other TJ and the Shondells hits was always on the playlist.

      1. Graeme Roberts

        Thank you, Michael. I would save the points to apply to my subscription, but your advice, though brilliant, is priceless.

  3. Cyn

    I appreciate the detail you called TMI.
    Reminded me of a spicy story. No, not THAT brand of spicy.

    My former spouse’s sweating.. no… dripping bald head.
    The waitress warned him. I guess she didn’t think an entree’ name including Diablo wasn’t warning enough.

    My little story has nothing to do with your topic, but I felt like sharing it.

    This newsletter was enlightening. I know it will help me. Thanks Michael.

  4. Brad D

    Describe what you do
    In how they want to hear
    Then do what you do


    Sweat Michael’s bald head
    With spicy Asian dish
    Become blog lesson


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