Connect-The-Dots Persuasion

Every child learns to play connect-the-dots, usually by the age of two. It’s a game we mentally play in our heads as adults even though we give up the paper and crayon version by kindergarten.

As persuaders, we often assume that our audience or prospects are incapable or have forgotten how to play connect-the-dots. Consider the following ad I saw on Facebook

Headline: This Popular Diet May Cause A Sudden Heart Attack

This was “sponsored content” from a random news site. I like to check these out and see what people are doing to generate online business.

This is a typical fear based headline. Sometimes fear works and I’m guessing this was one of those times. The article then continues the thought from the headline, bombarding the reader with questionable proof of the dangers of this diet. As you delve further into the article you feel like you’re being bullied into believing the claims. Then at some point they ask for your email address, promising you a better solution, presumably to try and sell you something else. I didn’t bother going that far.

The problem is that the advertiser is trying to beat the reader into submission. They are asking me to accept their conclusions. They’re not letting me connect the dots and draw my own conclusion.

Here’s my revised connect-the-dots story:

This 38 year old mother of two had a close call with heart disease after three months on the [fad] diet. A routine physical showed evidence of an imminent heart attack. An alert doctor discovered the problem after a discussion with the woman about her diet. He ordered a blood test as a precaution. The results came back and he was stunned. The doctor called her and told her the results of the blood test. He then told her to check into an emergency room.”

The woman was treated and instructed by her doctor to follow the [healthy] diet. Within a month her blood levels of toxin “xyz” were undetectable.

It turns out the doctor read the study in Medical Journal Magazine that women who follow the fad diet have a 68% chance of developing this toxic condition and only the [healthy] diet can unwind the results quickly and safely.

Of course, this made up story would need some polishing if it were true, but it’s an example of letting the reader connect the dots so she says to herself:

Hmmm, I’m on the fad diet. I wonder if I have this toxin.”

Let’s Rethink Show Don’t Tell

You’re probably familiar with the old saying show don’t tell. I don’t think that quite fits what we’re trying to do here. Then, create your connect-the-dots picture and let your reader draw the lines so he says, “ah, I see what’s going on. Now I get it”

When you’re passionate about a topic, it’s a struggle to hold back your desire to command. I often guilty of this rule myself in early drafts. That’s why I keep the connect-the-dot rule in my post writing checklist.

Here’s the thing:

If you have a lot of credibility with your prospect you may be able to get away with telling them what to believe instead of letting them connect-the-dots. Wouldn’t it be more powerful if they came to the same conclusion on their own? Wouldn’t it be more powerful to walk away from your letter feeling like they’ve been enlightened instead of convinced? This emphasizes of one of my primary persuasion rules:

“Your prospect may believe your claims and assertions but will NEVER doubt their own conclusions”

The mechanics of connect-the-dots moments take some work to execute. Here is an ultra-simple example to show you how it works:

Example 1 — Apple Computer became the biggest company in the world through their creative genius

Example 2 — Apple Computer hired the best designers, the most innovative coders and promoted an “out of the box” decision making process. They became the most valuable company in the world.

Yeah, that’s overly simplistic but it illustrates the example. Go to it!

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