Persuasion’s role in building productive healthcare marketing relationships

Tips from HBR’s “The Necessary Art of Persuasion”

The theme of much of our content this quarter will be “relationship management.” We’ll look at how healthcare marketers can strengthen alliances within their organization, from the marketing team to executive leadership, physicians and frontline caregivers. Our recommendations will draw on some of the best sources of information on relationship management and forging productive relationships for positive change. In this post we’ll share some tips from “The Necessary Art of Persuasion” by Jay A. Conger, published by the Harvard Business Review. We’ll also suggest how you can apply these ideas to influence and align others to the brand-building and marketing goals of your organization, whether that’s a hospital, a health network or a physician practice.

In “The Necessary Art of Persuasion,” Conger presents persuasion as a powerful but often misunderstood and even underutilized skill for businesspeople. It is commonly perceived as a tool for selling or negotiating, and seen as a deceptive or manipulative practice. When used in a positive, constructive manner, however, persuasion can be an effective negotiating and learning process that leads the team to a problem’s shared solution. Here are Conger’s four essential steps for effective persuasion.

Four Steps for Effective Persuaders:

Establish your credibility

To get others to accept and embrace an idea that may be risky or contrary to their own, it’s important to first have the confidence of the audience that’s being persuaded. Credibility comes from expertise (a proven history of sound business decisions or successes, for instance), and relationships, the familiarity and trust already established by working in the best interests of others. For a hospital marketer, these factors can be strengthened by gaining firsthand knowledge and experience of a new marketing channel or service area. Credibility can also be gained by collaborating with an established expert, or developed by working closely with the physicians or executives that are being persuaded.

Frame your position to identify common ground

When planning a new initiative, effective persuaders define and describe their position in a way that identifies and highlights the tangible benefits to those they intend to persuade. This requires an understanding of the issues that matter to them, and insights gained through conversations with physicians or hospital leadership. How can your position help them reach their goals? Finding that common ground may require some compromise on your part before the persuasion process even begins.

Reinforce position with vivid language and compelling evidence

Facts and figures may not be enough to bring others to your position. Persuasion requires stories and examples that help them visualize your viewpoint and bring your supporting data to life. Share stories of physicians or practices that boosted patient volumes or improved the care they delivered by trying a new process or marketing tactic. Help them see the outcome with compelling imagery and relevant metaphors.

Connect emotionally with the audience

Persuasion takes an emotional connection from both sides. It requires that the persuader is emotionally invested in the idea, that they believe in it. And it requires the persuader to match the feelings of the audience, to draw on their emotions and their expectations.

Conger suggests that persuasion can be used for great good within an organization. “It can pull people together, move ideas forward, galvanize change, and forge constructive solutions. To do all that, however, people must understand persuasion for what it is – not convincing or selling but learning and negotiating.” And like any other art form, persuasion requires commitment and practice.

Watch for more posts about managing relationships in our healthcare marketing blog. And keep an eye out for an eBook before the end of the year.

To learn more, download the original article from Harvard Business Review or buy the book, “The Necessary Art of Persuasion” by Jay A. Conger.