The smartest marketers use both approaches to get results. Here’s what you need to know.

We all face different times in our lives, both personally and professionally, where we’d like to persuade someone to change their mind.

But how do you actually accomplish that goal?

Basically, there are two pathways you can consider to persuade someone to your way of thinking — dual processing and persuasive marketing. Here’s what you need to know about each, and why the smartest marketers use a combination of both.

Dual Processing

The theory behind this approach to persuasion was developed in 1980 and is called Dual Process Theory. The goal behind the theory was to help explain the mental process we all go through when it comes to changing our minds about something, which is particularly relevant to the field of marketing. The concepts were popularized when Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

The first pathway to persuasion is by tapping logic and reason. Think about how you might approach buying a car. The first thing you might do is look at all the data to help make your choice: what kind of gas mileage does it get, what are its reliability ratings, what is the size of its trunk, etc. By analyzing all this data, we can come to a very logical decision about what the best car to buy might be.

Persuasive Marketing

But there’s another way we might be persuaded to buy that car. That path is rooted in emotions and intuition. In this case, we might be influenced by whether we know someone else who owns a similar car, maybe even a big-name celebrity. We might also be persuaded by how the color of the car makes us feel or even if we smile a lot while test-driving it. In this case, we’re less worried about the data and more about our feelings.

From a marketing point of view, there’s a lot we can learn about how a customer might be persuaded to make a purchase decision. While you might think someone could be persuaded just with the facts, you might be leaving money on the table by not tapping their emotions as well.

A lot can depend on the stakes involved in the buying decision as well. The risk factor behind a situation — whether it’s something that could sink your boat or not — can help determine an approach. For low-risk situations, pulling the emotional lever might drive amazing business results. But the larger the stakes are, the more logical and rational your approach should be, while providing emotional context.

Playing Combinations

Personally, I think the most effective approach is to employ some combination of both persuasion strategies. As the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “If you only use facts to make a sale, you will have the best-educated prospect in the world. But when you can also use emotion, that’s when you have a customer.” In other words, the best strategy might be to engage prospects emotionally and give them just enough facts based on the risk level of the decision to help them make their decision.

You can also try mixing and matching your strategies to see which pathway is more effective in different scenarios.

The point is that when it comes to your approach to marketing, don’t overlook the fact that there are two different paths to persuading people. Sometimes you need to rely mostly on the facts, while other times you need to play to someone’s emotions. Both pathways can be very powerful — so don’t miss the opportunity to make them work to your advantage.

Jim Schleckser