Nearly all of us make decisions based on our beliefs — including decisions about what to buy and which businesses to connect with. The 7 Circles of Belief are a spiral path that can bring customers or clients ever closer to your business.
Belief binds us together, often creating micro-tribes within our larger communities. And people want to connect with products and services that are aligned with their beliefs. When you learn how to communicate your values and beliefs, you’ll pull your audience closer to you, along what we’ve identified as a 7-stage spiral path of belief.
In this 16-minute episode, I talk about:
Listen to Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer below ...
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Sonia Simone: Greetings, superfriends! My name is Sonia Simone, and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me yet, I am a co-founder and the chief content officer for Copyblogger Media.
I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.
Today, we’re going to talk about the seven circles of a belief-based business. The subtitle might be ‘What People Have to Believe in Order to Do Business With You.’
Sonia Simone: There’s a bit of a mini-trend lately to talk about belief and marketing as if this were something new. There are some interesting new findings in neuroscience and some interesting new books out about the role that belief plays — you could call it faith plays in our decision-making.
Of course, the decisions that we make about purchasing or interacting with a business are an important part of the decisions that we make in our daily lives. I think that it might be that this topic is trendy right now because, in a lot of ways, our culture is in a belief crisis. There are many competing beliefs all over the Western world — clashing beliefs, crises of faith.
In simpler times, which tends to translate to less diverse times, people tended to believe the same things within their communities. It was a much more comfortable belief environment. Today, we’re in a very uncomfortable belief environment, where we’re rubbing up against people with different belief systems all the time.
I’m not talking about only religion. Of course, religion is a part of this, but I’m talking about political beliefs, parenting beliefs, societal beliefs, beliefs around justice and equality and inequality, talking about beliefs about nutrition and exercise, which can spark unbelievable wars.
If this topic of belief interests you, I would strongly recommend John Haidt’s fairly new book, The Righteous Mind, which looks at the possibility that this is something that is innate to us, that we are a believing creature just like we’re a thinking creature, and that is as much a part of what makes us human as opposable thumbs or the ability to tell great stories.
Looking around at my fellow human beings, I have never found anyone, no matter how ‘logical,’ how Spock-like they seem to be in their affect, and in the way they approach the world, I’ve never found anyone who doesn’t have strong beliefs that are resistant to change based on evidence.
We all carry around these beliefs. They become part of us. They become something that we are willing to fight for, argue for, and of course, in some cases, people will live and die for their beliefs.
Neuroscience is pretty clear, evolving neuroscience, that we make decisions with what’s called the ’emotional’ part of our brain. That in itself is an artificial distinction. Thinking is thinking, but the thinking that we do is much more emotional than it is logical when you really look at it. And, of course, copywriters and good sales people have known that forever. We make emotional decisions, and then we justify them with what we call ‘logical facts.’
This, obviously, is going to play a role in your business because businesses are all about people and how people interact. Belief binds people together. It creates micro-tribes. For most of us in the 21st century, it creates mini-tribes that sit within a larger context of a larger community.
If you think about your Facebook feed — there’s something there. Again, it could be nutrition, politics, child raising — where people believe so passionately that they will metaphorically speak and go to war with each other. Of course, at times, people literally do go to war with each other over these beliefs, over these ideas.
As a quick aside, for yourself, I would like to make the case for you to learn to hold a little less tightly to your beliefs and ideas. To make a little bit more room for somebody else’s evidence, somebody else’s facts. Try and look at the world and recognize the role that belief is playing in giving you a set of lenses to look though. Try and look through some other kinds of lenses.
The reason being that the more kinds of lenses you can try on and the more you can be aware of the role that this highly emotionally charged belief system is playing in how you see the world, the more you’re going to be able to see. The more you can see and understand and make room for in your thinking, the wiser and smarter you’re going to get.
Being a wiser, smarter person is good for your business, but much more important, it’s just really good for you as a person interacting with the other people on the planet.
But here’s reality time. In the real human world, 99 percent of people do not do this — ever. I want you to learn how to communicate your beliefs and pull your tribe closer to you.
At Copyblogger, we talk a lot about the Circles of Belief. These are what people need to believe in order to move forward with your business.
Most purchases today are not made in an environment where you make a sales pitch, they listen to your offer, and then they decide yes or no. Most of the time today, especially if you’re doing business with any kind of online component — even if your company is a bricks-and-mortar company — people are researching you, looking into you online, looking you up, checking you out before they ever make that purchasing decision.
The Circles of Belief are a spiral path, closer and closer to the heart of your customer or your client. This is different in many ways from the more traditional simple sales formulas — for example, formulas like agitate, problem solve, or attention, interest, desire, action (AIDA), which is a classic copywriting formula.
The bones of those are still in there, but this is a more nuanced path, partly because on the web people have so many options. What I want you to be able to do with this material is just to create a richer, more belief-based relationship so that you can compete better in the 21st century.
These ideas can to be used by tiny, tiny companies. They can be used very well by tiny companies to compete with the Goliaths out there. These ideas are also used by some of the smartest big companies out there. Apple is the one that springs immediately to mind, but you also see this with companies like Levis or Coca-Cola. Even Nabisco has used this.
Communicating your values, communicating your beliefs, communicating what you believe in and what’s important to you is a tremendously powerful tool. I want to talk about the kind of path that your customer or your client walks to get closer and closer to you and closer and closer to making a purchasing decision — and what some of the markers are on that path.
Sonia Simone: We’re going to start with people who follow you on a social network — your Facebook fans, your Twitter followers, your LinkedIn connections. These people need to believe that “we’re in the same tribe, that we believe the same things.” They need to believe that “my values are aligned with your values.”
The deeper level of this and the more powerful level of this is, “I need to believe that I will not be embarrassed if I share your work, your content with my friends. I need to believe that I am going to look smart when I share your content.” In other words, your podcast, your blog post, whatever it might be.
Sonia Simone: On a similar ring of belief, this is the cooler traffic, if you will, people who don’t have the strong connection to you yet are your search engine visitors.
What these people need to believe in order to keep moving forward is that they’re in the right place — that this is the place that’s going to answer the question they had when they entered that query into the search engine, that this is a safe place.
So the design does not look fly-by-night. There’s not a security warning making them nervous or something that looks like it might be a security breach, a hack, or malware. That you don’t have misleading advertising. This is a really common one that I see. Buttons to download different applications I don’t need or want, they border on malware — even that there’s a mobile-friendly designation on the search results page.
Safety and “being in the right place to answer my questions” is what people need to believe about search. Being in the same tribe, sharing beliefs, and that “me sharing you on my social circles is going to make me look good” is for social.
But they’re both way out on the outer fringes of these Circles of Belief. They’re really just starting the path. They’re getting to know who you are and how you might be able to help.
Sonia Simone: Coming in a little closer on this spiral path is your general content audience. That means your blog readers, your podcast listeners, your YouTube subscribers — the people who tune in for your content regularly, your web-based available content.
They need to believe the same things that the outer circles need to believe, but they also need to believe that “you have information that will be valuable to me. You will inspire me, you will teach me, or you will entertain me.” In a perfect world, you’re going to do all three of those things.
Now, you notice that the general content audience is closer in then social and search. Each of these steps, you want to invite people to keep coming in closer into the circles to keep making a tighter connection with you and a tighter connection on the Circles of Belief.
You always want to be giving your social followers and people who find you in search that opportunity to subscribe to your content — subscribe to the YouTube channels, subscribe to the podcast, sign up for blog updates by email — something along those lines.
You want to give them every opportunity to know how they can tune in and develop a tighter connection and get more value from what you have to offer.
Sonia Simone: Walking further into the spiral path, you get to an email audience, an opt-in email audience. Again, just like from search and from social, you’re always inviting people to subscribe to your content. From your content, you’re always inviting people to subscribe to an opt-in email list to allow you to talk with them more intimately, to have more conversations with them that are more in depth. It’s a closer circle of intimacy.
Now, they’re not just seeing you on the web. They’re not just seeing you on a browser. They’re seeing you in their inbox, so it’s a more intimate connection.
The belief that people have to have in place before they will be ready to take this step is that “you’re not going to spam me.” You might want to look at my podcast on how not to be a spammer inadvertently.
That email audience has to believe that “you’re going to send me something valuable. That I can trust you with my email address. You’re not going to go sell it to some creepy company.” They have to believe that the relationship is worth pursuing. It’s worth their time and attention.
You know, I know, how much email is in your inbox right now. It’s probably not that pretty. If you’re asking somebody to sign up by email, you’re asking them to take a fairly big trust step that you’re going to send them something that they want to get. You need to honor that. You need to honor that trust.
Traditionally, if you’re marketing online, you will send an invitation from that opt-in email list to a page or to some ability to make a purchase — so some kind of a page that describes something that’s going to be valuable to this customer or this client and that give them the ability to complete the transaction.
It could be anything from knee surgery, to a fountain pen, to a copywriting course, to drawing up plans for your house. It could be any product, any service. Normally, you use email to send them the offer, but then the offer is typically made on what’s called a landing page, where you just explain to people all the benefits of going forward with the action.
The core cornerstone belief for somebody to become a customer or to become a client is that “you can solve my problem. That your product or your service can solve the problem I originally set out to solve when I first made that search query or I first saw you on social media.”
Sonia Simone: Paired with that, they have to believe that they’re not going to feel foolish before moving forward with this purchase. They’re not going to kick themselves for buying something that doesn’t work properly or for falling for something that’s shoddy or fly by night. They have to have that trust that they are not going to feel foolish for buying from you.
Feeling foolish about the purchase is really the granddaddy objection that lies underneath a lot of the other objections — “I don’t think it’s going to work for me, I’m not sure it’s a good fit, or I’m not sure that this part works or that part works.” The underlying fear is that they’re going to feel stupid for spending their money on something that doesn’t work.
Sonia Simone: The seventh Circle of Belief — the deep one, this is the one that you want to align your whole business to move toward in a steady way, and you want to make sure every element of your business supports this goal — is the repeat customer, the repeat client, or the referral customer.
The belief that person has to have is that not only “can you solve my problem, and I’m going to feel good about making this purchase,” but “I feel good enough about it that I would recommend you to my friend — you’re not going to embarrass me. You don’t have a sales process where my friend is going to feel mauled by...