The Hidden Persuasion Secrets Of Pizza

In the midst of the chaos we forgot about dinner. Play dates, appointments and random errands kept us all busy.  We had no leftovers in the fridge and it’s too late to make something from scratch. Like many American families, we opt for the easy solution.

We order pizza.

As healthy conscious eaters we hate falling back on pizza. Despite our healthy ways, we cave in three or four times a month. Sometimes super easy wins out over healthy. It makes the kids happy too.

There’s something magical about pizza for dinner. It hits us on so many levels. What makes it the go to meal when you’re on the go or just unprepared. Why do we turn to it so often? Sure, it tastes good. That’s not enough. Lots of food tastes good. What else makes it such a compelling choice?

As marketers, sales people or persuaders we’d be wise to emulate the benefits of a pizza pie.

Pizza taps three powerful impulses.

Trigger Insatiable Desire

The mere sight and smell trigger those feel good chemicals that make it irresistible. We feel excitement, desire and a craving to dive in. It takes an iron will to resist a slice of pizza just out of the oven.

Lesson: Trigger an insatiable desire for your product or solution and you can overcome almost any hurdle.

The Lure Of A Great Deal

I spent thirteen dollars on a large pie (plus tip). That pie fed our family of four. Where else can you order in dinner for such a low price? I get more benefit from a pizza pie than I spend to buy it. Each of us eats two slices so there’s no waste. Even if we do leave over a slice we can reheat it the next day. Ordering Chinese food or sandwiches and salads leaves us with a problem. Those leftovers sit in the fridge for days before we finally throw it out. They lose their tastiness the next day.

Lesson: Does your prospect feel she gets more value than what she spends? Will she walk away thinking she gets the better end of the deal? When I spend thirteen dollars on a pizza pie I get a lot of bang for my buck. When I spend close to forty on other takeout options, I feel like I throw away money.


Zero thinking required. Ordering is simple. No utensils needed. You grab a slice and eat. Plus, the cleanup is a snap. My family eats pizza at the table with plates. In a bind, however, you can eat standing up with just a napkin.  All these benefits make pizza such a popular food choice at parties.

Lesson: Simplicity wins over complexity, now so more than ever. Is your solution easy to grasp? Does it require a lot of thinking or decision making? With pizza your decision is made for you. You only need to decide on the toppings.

Triggering an insatiable desire, a great deal and simplicity made pizza an American pastime.  What if your business mirrored those same benefits?

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How To Create Fear Of Missing Out… And How They Did It In 1949

Do you ever feel the need to chime into an email chain? Or maybe the urge to comment on a social media post overtakes you?

That happened to me yesterday. Family duties kept me from my phone for about two hours. When I checked it again I found eighteen emails that began with the infamous “RE” in the subject line. The subject itself bored me. I still wanted to respond.

Six other people replied at least once during the chain. I spent the next five minutes pondering my response.

“Something edgy with a bit of humor…”

My actual response turned out quite mundane.

Fear of missing out compelled me to enter the fray and make my voice heard.

Yes, it really is a thing. The FOMO acronym might be new but the concept is timeless.

One of my favorite movies of all time played on a similar concept.

A Priest On A Bombing Raid?

12 O’Clock High is a movie from 1949 starring Gregory Peck. It’s a WWII drama that still holds relevance in leadership training programs today. In one scene Peck said his goal was to make it so  every man would fight just to go on a mission.

… The thing that will solve it is Pride. Pride in this group. The kind of pride that makes it the last thing they want to do is to get left on the ground.”  

Quote From: 12 O’Clock High (46:38)

He achieved that goal. At one point even clergy and an office jockey slipped onto a mission to share in the glory.

Although he never stated it, you can infer it from his quote. He created a culture of Fear Of Missing Out.

That’s the kind of mindset you want to create when it comes to persuasion. You want your prospect to think:

“If I say NO, I fall behind. I get left out.”

That feeling creates a strong pull to say YES.

How Do We Create FOMO?

Let’s pretend there’s a new restaurant in town. All your friends rave about it. You want to try it too. It’s just not a priority. Your friends talk about it in conversation. You feel like the odd one out.

That social pressure creates a natural desire for you to try this restaurant. The pressure is subtle. Nobody demands you eat there. They won’t eject you from the group if you resist. You still feel the pressure. You feel that urge to jump in and make sure you’re one of them.

The example mirrors the portrayal in 12 O’Clock High. The commander created a winning team. Pride ran high. It became contagious. They all craved a piece of the glory.

Both examples point back to the same principle. We all crave to sit at the cool kids table or be part of the in group (at least our vision of it).  Create a fear of being left behind environment. It makes your sales effort much easier.

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I Finally Downloaded An App I Resisted For So Long

Do you know what it feels like to battle traffic every day? It frustrates the heck out of me. A colleague of mine lives in the same town as me. I often complain to her about the traffic. She keeps telling me to get the app WAZE. The app helps drivers find the best route to a destination. It guides you away from the heaviest trafficked roads. Several friends and colleagues praise it as the most helpful app in their lives.

I take them at their word. Stubborn as I am, I refuse to get on board.


I keep asking myself that question. It takes one minute to download the app. It costs nothing. There’s almost no hurdle to overcome to start using it, except maybe one.

The Comfort Zone Trap

It takes me out of my comfort zone. When I drive to work I take the same route every single time. That gives me a sense of control. Putting my hands in WAZE means I sacrifice that control. It means each morning I face a new unknown. Does that sound absurd? It does to me, now that I talk it out.

As marketers, business owners or salespeople we puzzle over prospects like this.  They refuse to buy even though they crave what we offer. We know they need what we sell. They agree they need it. We remove all the hurdles. We provide all emotional and logical reasons. They still refuse to pull the trigger.


The same reason I refuse to exploit the benefits of WAZE.

The 3 C’s

The three “C’s” refers to why we refuse to take that last step when all other hurdles have been removed.

The comfort of a common (familiar) thing gives us a sense of control.

I take the same (common) route to work every day.

The familiarity of the same routine gives me comfort.

That comfort gives me a sense of control over my life.

Here’s the thing.

My reasoning makes no sense. By sticking to the same route, regardless of traffic conditions, I sacrifice control. I let the traffic control me. By giving up just a bit of control to WAZE, I gain more of it back by taking the most efficient route.

Overcoming The 3 C’s

My little story also demonstrates how to overcome this quirk in human behavior. I talked out the reality. Now, I realize how silly it is to resist.  I just downloaded the app and will use it tomorrow. The picture below shows proof that I jumped on board.

You can do the same with your prospects, customers and colleagues. Help them see that by giving up a little control they gain more of it back with the benefits your solution provides. Identify that common (familiar) behavior that gives comfort. Connect the dots to see how that gives a sense of control. Show how your solution requires giving up some control but yields more of it in return.

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Does it feel like every time you turn around somebody goes off on a rant? Sometimes I love them. Other times I hate them. It all depends on who rants and what they bitch about.

It feels like someone is always complaining about something.

So, what’s the deal? Why the epidemic of whiny complainers?

Sometimes rants come from lack of self-control. Like the guy we all know.

That Constant Complainer

A peer sent me an email yesterday ranting about some bullshit. Every one of us has a coworker, friend or family member who complains about everything. They end or start their emails with a predictable smear.

Nobody does their job but me

Why do I have to fix everyone’s problems?

Who’s getting fired for this stupid mistake?

How Do We Respond To Rants?

We respond in one of three ways:

  1. We roll our eyes and bite our tongues to keep the peace. “Wow. What a whiny baby. Better to just let it go”
  2. We respond with support. “Finally. Someone with the guts to say what we all think”
  3. We respond with opposition. Of course, there are degrees we can oppose. We can temper our response or we can let loose our fury

Here’s the takeaway:

There’s always a few people ready to pat him on the back for his rant.

Ah. You’re speaking my language buddy. Finally, someone brave enough to tell the truth”

Interesting, right? One group ignores him, another wants to destroy him and the third worships him.

How do we explain this conflicting behavior?

The Power Of Groups

The ones cheering  identify with him, his complaints and his pain. They see someone who finally puts into words exactly what they feel. They look at the issue through the same lens.

The ones condemning him look at him like a child who cries when things don’t go his way. They have their own perspective through which they evaluate.

The one who does the ranting strengthens his followers.  They now feel connected. His opposition also strengthens as they rally against him.

Does this sound familiar? Politicians like to exploit this tactic. We may even have a guy in the White House who seems to know how to rant with great effect.

Ranting With Purpose

If you are trying to build a business, brand or reputation, a good rant helps your cause.

The CEO of one of my favorite brands wrote a blog post a few weeks ago. He ranted about the use of inferior materials in a competing product. Most of the responses hailed him for speaking out. They praised the high quality of his company’s products.

A few dissenters accused him of being a cry baby. They saw him as someone complaining about competition, lying about his own quality and accused him of price gauging.

A good rant will provoke strong reactions. It strengthens the loyalty of those who already love you. It also strengthens the hate of those who already hate you.

Can you live with the inevitable backlash? If so, an occasional rant may help solidify the support and loyalty of your tribe.

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Spinning A Bad Situation Into Something Worse

On one of the first (sort of) warm days of the year we decided to play basketball. My four year old son loves the game. By the end of last year he became a fantastic dribbler.

Today, he ran outside, grabbed the ball and started dribbling. With the long winter layoff his skills diminished. This frustrated him. He’s too young to understand the concept of practicing to keep your skills sharp.

As any good dad would do, I put a different spin on it.

I explained to him how much better he is today than he was the same time last year.

“Imagine how good you’ll be at the end of the summer. Just make sure you keep practicing.”

I think he gets the picture.

The Art Of Spin

Spin often takes on a negative meaning. It often depends on who it comes from. When we spin a personal setback into something positive we see that as a positive outlook. When politicians spin policy setbacks or decisions into a more positive outlook we label them as evil.

But why? What makes spin positive when I help my son feel better about his basketball skills? What makes it negative when politicians use it to explain policies or decisions?

Here’s an example that shows the difference. I’ll spell it out in a nice neat soundbite at the end.

Back in my software days we once delivered some buggy code to a customer. Before we explained the situation to our customer, we held a meeting to discuss how we would frame our position. In other words, what kind of spin do we put on this bad outcome?

We held the meeting with our customer and we presented our framing of the event. It backfired. We insulted their intelligence with our flimsy spin. We would have been better off admitting our screw up and moving on.

That’s the problem you see with politicians and businesses who make poor use of spin. They forget only two important rules to making it work.

The Two Rule To Good Spin

First, your spin must intend to help. The spin on my son’s basketball skills helped him get past his frustration. Compare that to how politicians use spin. They exploit it to deflect blame for their own poor judgment. That just feels dirty, right?

Next, an important rule for any kind of business or personal relationship..

Do not treat your audience like they are stupid. Ask yourself if you would believe your frame of the situation. If the answer is no, then assume your recipient will do the same.

We fell into that trap when we explained our buggy software. Politicians fall into that trap when they use terms like alternative facts. It demonstrates you think of your audience as the village idiot. If you really believe they are stupid, you will face bigger challenges than poor use of spin.


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Do you have a friend working a job she hates? What about a friend who sticks with a doomed relationship?

Do you tell the hard truths or comforting lies? Some lies comfort us. Sometimes we tell lies to comfort others.

“Your relationship still has a chance.” 

“You’re doing the responsible thing by sticking to your chosen career.”

Most of us both give and receive these comforting lies. They’re easy to spot when it comes to relationships, careers and personal issues. In business they hide beneath the surface.

Yesterday, I met with a client. This client signed up for a service. They needed more than what they signed up for. For the last few weeks I fed them comforting lies.

I told them as long as they possessed the skills, they could do the work themselves. They could save money and do without the extra service.

What I neglected to tell him was that he lacked the skill to do it. I wanted him to figure it out himself. Otherwise, it would come across as self-serving.

Why We Tell Comforting Lies

We tell comforting lies because it’s painful to give people bad news or we fear how they might react. We listen to comforting lies because it pains us to face bad news.

This forces us into a dilemma. One side avoids giving bad news. The other side refuses to recognize bad news.

How do we fix this?

As a persuasive writer, delivering bad news head on almost always fails.

It’s too easy to dismiss your conclusion and stick with the comfortable lie.

My client, ignorant that he lacked the necessary skills, finally came to the conclusion on his own.

We never argued with him. Instead, we talked about all the skills he needed to do the job. We acted as trusted advisers rather than parents teaching their kids a lesson.

“Since you’re doing this yourself, here’s a checklist we use to make sure we hit all the steps.”

He replied:

“I have a questions on some of these. Can we talk it out?” 

After discussing the various steps, the client realized the risk he faced in doing this himself. He lacked the skills and resources to do it right.

“It’s clear we failed to take some of this into consideration. We don’t have the skills in house to do all this stuff. What if we wanted to outsource this to you?”

Will we end up getting the additional business?

Maybe. Maybe not. At least we have a chance. Had we forced it down his throat, he would have rejected us.

The Real Secret To Persuasion

The client came to the conclusion all on his own. We simply led him down the path.

That’s the real secret to persuasion. Lead the other side to conclude that your desired result is what they want too.

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Are You Pressing The Right Emotional Hot Buttons?

Traffic slowed to a crawl. I could see an electronic sign in the distance. It read:

Two lanes closed up ahead. Extreme delays”

Why must they use the word extreme? A surge of anger followed.

Some jerk driving like an idiot caused an accident and forces the rest of us to suffer.”

The fate of those in the car accident meant nothing to me. I only cared how it disrupted my commute. It’s a common knee-jerk reaction. Inconvenience me and I throw a fit.

My Anger Evaporates

Thirty minutes later I arrive at the crash site. Confusion reigned as cars waited until the last second to merge into the one open lane. As I drove past the site, I took a peak at the damage.

“Oh my god. I hope everyone is okay.”

My anger evaporated. The minor disruption to my commute seemed petty. Now, a surge of guilt raced through my bloodstream.

“How could I be so inhuman?”

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. That’s what humans do. We react. We often react without thinking. It’s like a reflex or impulse.

Most of us replace our primal reactions after we take time to think and reflect.

What does all this have to do with persuasion and influence?

What lesson can we gain from this experience?

Sparking Emotional Madness

If we desire to persuade others through our writing we need to stoke the emotions of our reader. All emotions boil down to changes in our body. Our heart rate increases, stress may increase or decrease, perspiration levels change. It’s up to the individual to assign a label (emotion) to those feelings.

All this occurs without thinking. These are reflexes. It’s why my anger boiled when that sign warned me about traffic delays.

Think about the emotion your writing intends to generate. Does that get you closer to your goal? Are you eliciting anger when you really want compassion? The only way to know is to connect with your audience.

Pressing The Right Buttons

Let’s suppose you write about policies to curb global warming. To those who support your view, your words may rally the troops into action. The same writing filtered by global warming deniers may elicit anger. They see it as a personal attack on them.

Rousing emotion in your audience is crucial but tricky. These four steps help you craft your message to press the right emotional hot buttons. Go through these steps before and after you write your piece.

  1. Who Is Your Audience?
  2. How Do You Want Them To React? What emotions do you want to stir?
  3. How Are They Likely To React?
  4. Revise your approach to trigger the desired reaction

The drivers of both vehicles suffered no serious injuries. I saw them both surveying the damage as I drove by. The rear of one of the cars looked like an accordion. Good thing nobody was sitting in the back.

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How To Sell To Lazy Buyers

I often put off buying decisions. Analysis paralysis and laziness fuel most of my inertia.

Read these next three paragraphs. Each one tells a brief story. They all share the same theme and teach the exact same persuasion lesson. Can you figure it out before I reveal it to you?

If you learn nothing else, this one lesson forces you to become a better persuader, marketer or salesperson.

Story 1

Every spring I sign up my family for our community pool. They open up the sign up page in February. They offer an early bird rate until the first week of April. I refuse to sign up until a day before the early bird discount expires.

Story 2

Three years ago we had a tree removed. When they took down the tree it left a bit of a ditch in our yard. I filled it up with dirt but the ditch still remains. Plus, the grass always dies by the end of the summer. One of these days I’ll get my landscaper to fix it.

Story 3

Each January, before I receive all my tax statements, I estimate my refund. The bigger the refund, the earlier I file my taxes. We got our biggest refund in 2014. I filed our taxes the first week in February. This year I expect a smaller refund. I have yet to file.

What’s the key lesson here?

Action is likely to happen when we feel compelled. We avoid taking action when we feel we have a choice.

Dictionary Definition

Compel – to force or drive, especially to a course of action.

I prefer to think of it as a formula:

Compelling = Insatiable Desire + Urgency

Sure, a fantastic salesman or copywriter can wield their magic and excite us to the point of taking action. A smart salesman or copywriter compels us to take action. When they do their job right we feel we have no choice but to act.

Let’s use one of my stories from above as an example.

Desire Plus Urgency

How could my community pool get everyone to sign up in the first week instead of waiting until the last minute?

First, turn the question around and ask: what would compel people to sign up in the first week?


What could make this offer sublimely nail-biting that customers disrupt their lives to take action?

Let’s use our formula. We’ll add urgency and desire . Here are two ideas:

Sign up in the first five days and get ten free guest passes

The early bird price set at $500 for five days. The price increases $25 per day until it reaches $750.

Each of these options makes signing up in the first five days more compelling.

Make your job of crafting a compelling message easy. Add desire plus urgency and your audience feels compelled to act.

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The Big Fear That Scares Away Buyers… That Nobody Ever Talks About

It’s the one fear that grips almost every potential buyer of high priced products. If you sell something that costs a good chunk of dough you better confront it.

I experienced this myself as a buyer just yesterday.

Improving my interviewing and negotiating skills became a top priority this year. As an introvert, I struggle with these skills.  I decided now is the time to tackle it. I found a program that fit my needs. It’s a bit pricey but that only added to the lure of it.

The sales pitch got me excited. I could see my struggles vanish just from the act of buying into this.

When it came to the moment of truth, I failed to pull the trigger. I couldn’t fight past the inertia. I passed on the offer.

The seller of the program ignored a critical piece of salesmanship. I won’t be too hard on him. Few teachers in the field talk about this. Only in direct response marketing do you see it used in a consistent manner.

The One Question Every Buyer Asks

Here’s the problem:

Every buyer of high priced products asks themselves some variation of this question.

How do I justify/defend this to my (spouse, peer, family)?

Let’s suppose you buy a five dollar e-book and it sucks. You just go on with your life. Nobody else ever needs to know. Nobody will ever care.

Now, pretend you find a training program that promises to win you a high paying tech job?  That training costs a thousand dollars. What if that training fails to  deliver on its promise? That failure may cause regret, embarrassment or even financial pain. How will you explain it to your spouse?

Unless you can answer that question, it’s likely you’ll decide against the purchase.

As the seller, it’s your job to ease that fear. How do you do it?

Gauge Your Buyer

First, determine if you need to address it at all. Will your price point cause any kind of financial pain for the buyer? Is it something he’ll need to explain to his spouse or family? If it’s something that she might lose sleep over?  If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you must deal with it.

Lucky for us, we have a simple technique to deal with this.

The Secondary Benefit

We sidestep the issue by presenting our prospects secondary benefits. These are abstract benefits our prospect gains. He gains these even if the primary promise fails to work out in his favor.

Here’s an example of a secondary benefit.

Product: Career Training

Big Promise: Get a new job in the tech industry for six figures in six months

Secondary Promise: Even if you choose to stay in your current field, you’ll need this knowledge to keep up with your peers. Plus, it may give you that edge for the next promotion

See how the secondary benefit gives our prospect an out in case our big promise doesn’t work out for him? Now, he can tell his wife that he needs this training just to keep pace in his current job. He may even out-jockey that coworker for a promotion. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even snag that awesome job in the tech industry.

Our secondary benefit now clears a path for our buyer to move forward.

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I Nearly Lost It Speeding Down A Highway… And Safer Ways To Break Your Prospects Out Of Their Routine

I may have yelled a four-letter word or two. My blood pressure sprang up a few points. 

My anger got the best of me as I stepped on the gas of my car. The speedometer reached seventy-seven mph before I regained my composure.

“How could I be so stupid?” I said out loud (even though I was alone).

Getting Out Of A Routine

Each morning I go through a routine. Between waking up and getting in my car for my commute I complete fourteen steps. Each morning I’ll do each step in the same order.

Today, something broke me out of my routine. I’m not quite sure what did it. By the time I realized what happened, there was no turning back.

As I drove down the highway, I grabbed my coffee thermos. Then I realized my flub.

I left my coffee in our family room. I nearly lost my sh*t. Skipping your morning coffee can do that.

I regained my composure after letting out my frustration. Speeding down a busy highway left me no choice.

The Silver Lining

The mishap turned out to be a benefit. It reminded me of the importance of breaking up your audience’s routine or pattern. When your reader opens up your article, sales letter or any other material they expect it to follow a certain pattern.

By following an expected routine something unfortunate happens. They forget you. You blend in with all the other stuff that looks, feels and reads the exact same way.

Do something different. Stand out. Write something they don’t expect. Those are the kinds of things they’ll remember.

Do you write white papers? Don’t open up with facts, figures or boring jargon. Open up with something shocking. Tell a story. Even calling it something different helps you stand out. Call it a white-ish paper or forbidden insights. Pick something nobody else uses. Once you label it you own it.

Come Out With Guns Blazing

A former mentor of mine once gave me great advice. Boring openings kill ALL content. Always come out with guns blazing. I love the analogy. It reminds me to always make sure my opening shocks, thrills or agitates.

Stuck with a bad opening?

First, always open in the middle of the action. Forget the setup. Start in the middle like I did in this article. I started with “yelling an expletive” and came back to the morning routine later.

If you’re stuck, keep these three things in mind. They make your openings better.

Three Tricks To A Killer Opening

Open with something shocking

What would they never expect to hear? What would surprise the heck out of them? Ask yourself these two questions as you assemble your opening. You need to know your audience in order to make this work.

Open with something revealing

Reveal something about yourself or your business. It must be something most others keep to themselves.

Open with something controversial

Lots of social media personalities tend to abuse this technique. They stir things up just to get attention. It still works. Even flimsy attempts to create controversy generate buzz.

I cannot recall the last any of the last twenty commutes. They were all the same. They all blend in together. I’ll remember today for quite some time. The day I forgot my coffee will stand out.

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