How to Win Friends and Influence People: Making Dale Carnegie’s Old Principles New

Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, is a self-help classic. While the book may be old news, its advice on how to be persuasive and likable is still useful to marketers today.

Target consumer psychology—then reap the profits.

With over 30 million copies sold worldwide, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People has become a self-help classic. Although many of its principles are common knowledge today, glimmers of wisdom can still be found within its pages. In the book, Carnegie offers a bounty of advice on being persuasive and likeable—two must-have characteristics in the modern world of marketing. 

Here are a few principles from the book that, when implemented, may add purpose and pizazz to your sales copy. 

Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view

“There is a reason why the other man thinks and acts as he does. Ferret out that reason—and you have the key to his actions.”

Putting yourself in another person’s shoes, however cliche, is a useful practice in empathy and a key maneuver to gain customer insight. The more you know about your customer, the better chance you have of forming a connection with them. Not taking time to understand your customer is a lost opportunity, and can also make you seem out of touch and unrelatable. 

A few months ago, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, actress Gal Gadot shared a video of herself and her celebrity friends singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  You can imagine how well that was received, with millions facing unemployment and economic insecurity in the United States. The chasm between Gadot’s reality and that of most Americans sparked criticism—but even more frustrating was her failure to recognize this beforehand.  

Knowing your audience is a core principle in every type of writing. Who is your target customer? What do they already know about your product or service, and what do you need to teach them? Answering such questions can help you meet your audience where they are and market to them more effectively. 

Appeal to the nobler motives

“When no information can be secured about the customer, the only sound basis on which to proceed is to assume that he or she is sincere, honest, truthful.”  

In recent years, people have become more attuned to the power of their purses, which they’ve leveraged to transform industry after industry. Socially conscious consumers are in search of sustainably sourced and ethically manufactured products. They don’t want to purchase things for the sake of purchasing them anymore; they want to know that they’re making a difference.

Businesses are waking up and smelling the corporate social responsibility (CSR) coffee—and recognizing that profit lies within it. A 2019 study showed that firms with high CSR tend to have larger valuations and lower risk, proving that good deeds pay off. Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing, and Ben & Jerry’s are among the many powerhouse brands using CSR to their advantage. 

Some businesses pursue a Fair Trade or a Certified B Corporation label, two certs that show consumers you produce goods ethically. By pointing out that your goods are sustainably sourced and your employees are cared for, you make people feel better about their purchases. In other words, you’re appealing to nobler motives. 

Throw down a challenge

“The desire to excel! The challenge! Throwing down the gauntlet! An infallible way of appealing to people of spirit.”

Whether you’re marketing to other businesses or to individuals, apply this principle to garner interest in your service. Throwing down a challenge doesn’t have to be literal; simply demonstrating to your audience how your product or service will make them grow is enough. As Carnegie observed, people have a desire to excel. Show how your service can help them do so, and soon they’ll come knocking. 

Sporting goods brands like Nike and Under Armour have built empires on this premise—but you don’t have to be in the fitness arena to apply the idea. Show customers how your app can make them more organized or how your social media expertise will bring them 200% ROI, if only they give you a call. 

After you’ve sold the customer on why your product or service will make them better, lead them to action. For some, this call to action might be a phone number or a link to a product. Inspired and motivated, prospects may end up buying those running shoes or that new piece of exercise equipment. 

At the end of day, copywriting and marketing are just as much about psychology and human nature as they are about words and numbers. Learn how to influence people, and you’ll be winning customers in no time. 

Anne Paglia

Anne Paglia

After dabbling in journalism, communications, and science publishing, Anne found her way to MarketSmiths. When she’s not writing, this New Jersey native is likely spending time outdoors or expounding on the importance of the Oxford comma.

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