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Politics, Emotion and Software Buy-in

October 23, 2008

I was having an email discussion about decision making and buy-in relative to software adoption, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a connection for you given the current focus on politics and Joe the Plumber. It all relates to something you need to know if you are in the position of driving software adoption across a team or an organization.

First a question to illustrate a point. OK, you have 15 seconds, two questions:

1. Do you remember the character of “Joe the Plumber” and what he was going to buy as discussed by both candidates?

2. Do you remember exactly what would each candidates’ proposed health care policies do for the employees of the company Joe was going to buy?

If you’re like me, it’s a lot easier to remember the discussion about Joe and imagine him in my mind, even to remember that he was going to buy a company, than to remember the specifics of how each candidate’s policies, including health care, would effect his prospective employees.


Because it turns out we remember and make decisions about stuff that evokes feelings. Joe the Plumber is an individual, a character that we can wrap feelings around, the implication of health care for his employees much less so.

Turn on Fox or CNN and notice the candidate quotes they focus on, and how many are designed to evoke a feeling from you the listener. You the listener are to have your feelings triggered, aroused. The candidates do go over facts, but it’s on the way to the emotions around decisions, whether it is fear (the other person is going to ruin the country), anger (get those guys on Wall Street), comfort (I’ll protect you, do what’s best, get you health insurance, keep someone from taking your job), or anxiety and urgency (we’ve got to make a change) if not something else.

I write this not to critique the emphasis in any way, it’s exactly how we make decisions as humans. We feel before we think. We feel before we even pay attention. In fact we don’t think or even recognize stuff if we don’t have some type of feeling about it for the most part, but that’s another blog.

Whoops, I wanted to make this one quick and to the point, and I’m rambling.

So here’s the point.  Well the first point.

Our presidential candidates are well coached, and they are coached to talk about and describe stories and experiences which evoke feelings… because it works. You remember the stories, you have FEELINGS about what they say, you’re willing to act… to vote.

How does that apply to software adoption?

Many times we work with one or more individuals who have had an emotional experience which has led them to deciding to buy our software and have decided others should use it as well. One of the things they most want, is to have all the prospective users WANT to use the software. They want them to caste their vote for the new software.  They want them to buy-into using the software. In fact they want them to share some of the feelings they themselves had, that led up to the decision to get a new software tool.

Most of the time our customers don’t know how to create that buy-in, and in case you’re fuzzy about that like I’ve been in the past, I’ll go over some of the emotions that are key to buy-in with a following blog.

Boy, I need more coffee tonight, I’m rambling again. Ok, here’s the final point I want you to get.

If you are in this situation, and often it is a politically tinged situation, DON’T approach getting buy-in from others in your team or your organization by having a discussion about features or some such thing. It’s entirely the wrong approach!

I can’t emphasize this enough.  Features don’t evoke emotions. Focusing on price typically only evokes or avoids “rule-out” emotions… not the kind you need to garner buy-in.  Without a certain set of emotions, you don’t get a “heart felt” decision. Without emotions, you don’t get a strong call to action… you don’t get software adoption.  Buy-in requires emotions.

By the way, everyone needs to have their own emotional experience, even when it comes to software buy-in and adoption, and NO the people who decide on the software can’t have the emotional experience for everyone else.

I’ll talk about what the emotions that are necessary for buy-in and how to create the emotional experience for everyone in the next couple of blogs.

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