The Uses of Argument

Inbound marketing is undoubtedly more effective than traditional marketing tactics, yet it can be difficult to persuade your team members to make the change from traditional marketing to inbound. Marketers should consider the Toulmin Model of Argument when making the pitch for inbound marketing.
  • The Toulmin Model backs up a claim using solid evidence
  • It includes making the claim, explaining its relevance, backing the claim with additional information, using qualifiers, and preparing a rebuttal

What if a marketing strategy could bring you more traffic, more leads, and more customers at a fraction of the price of traditional marketing?  It’s called inbound marketing, and it’s changing the way most companies fill their funnel. Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  It may be to some, but to others who have years or decades of experience doing marketing a different way, you’ll need to make a compelling case to get their buy-in.  This is especially true when you add in the cost of the marketing software needed to support it and the additional need to hire or outsource people with the skills needed to execute on that strategy.

This is where a bit of persuasion skills and creative writing can go a long way.  If you’re going to secure the budget you need, mobilize the team, and get buy-in to change the way you do marketing, you’ll need to have a compelling argument.

One tried-and-true technique to consider is to incorporate the Toulmin Model of Argument in your pitch.  The model was created by Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher, author, and educator who dedicated his works to the analysis of moral reasoning. In 1958 he published his influential book, The Uses of Argument, in which he outlined the six core components of an effective argument.

This model is a simple, yet practical way to make a compelling argument based on data, evidence, and reasoning.  It takes into consideration the opposing view, and backs up a claim with solid evidence to support it.  Let’s break down each component of the model.

The Claim – The change or action you want someone to accept

This is your main point, thesis, or recommendation.  It’s your request to change the status quo.  It is the conclusion that you need to your audience to come to.

For inbound marketing, an example might be:  I believe that ACME Co. should adopt an inbound marketing strategy in 2016 and invest $$$ to launch our first campaign.

Grounds – The facts, data, and evidence that supports your claim

This is the foundational data or evidence you would use to validate that your claim is justified and real.  It is the rock-solid fact on which the claim is based. It can also be a proof of expertise or a personal experience that is irrefutable.  It’s essential to make sure your grounds are indeed true, or your entire argument will quickly fall apart.

Example: The average purchase decision is already 57% compete before a customer first contacts a vendor. Most of this research is happening online through search engines like Google.

Warrant – How the grounds are relevant to your claim

The warrant enables you to bridge your grounds to your claim. It is the overarching principle that ads legitimacy to your claim by making it relevant.  It should make it clear how the data you presented proves that your claim is true.

Example: Entering the conversation earlier in the buyers journey, before the 57% point, would have a significant impact on our business. Inbound marketing tactics such as blogging, content, and social media are effective tactics at engaging with prospects at this stage of their buying cycle.

Backing – Additional information that supports your warrant

Now here’s the deal. You might be the most eloquent speaker or writer on earth, and have used extremely compelling data to back up your claim, but chances are you’ll still face some skeptics.  People can be stubborn and often stuck in their ways.  To really convince someone you need to drown them with data.

Example: Inbound leads tend to close at a higher rate than outbound leads, and often have a lower cost of acquisition.  This is appealing one of our primary business objectives in 2016 is to improve our efficiency.

If you need more data and facts to back your claim, check out Hubspot’s Marketing Statistics resource.

Qualifier – Words or statements of certainty the claim is valid or relevant

A qualifier is a word or phrase like ‘most’, ‘many’, ‘often’ and ‘sometimes.’  The stronger the word the greater you will seem confident in your claim.  Very rarely will a claim be 100% true for all situations, so using a qualifier can add a hint of reality and believably to your assertion.  Words like ‘unless’, ‘virtually,’ and ‘usually’ can also be used.

Example: According to Hubspot’s State of Inbound report, most marketers now prefer inbound over outbound, and the majority of marketers, 57%, thought paid advertising was an overrated tactic.

Rebuttal – An acknowledgement of a competing view or objection

Try to anticipate objections before they arise. What could someone on the opposing side argue, and what your answer be to that argument?  Are there legitimate concerns? Address them and accept them if necessary. Find points of compromise. If you are able to completely hold up your claim against a rebuttal, do so and provide the evidence.

Example: Although simply buying our traffic through paid placements and purchased lists might be easier, consumers are increasingly skeptical of ads and now block them entirely using ad blockers, and advertising is costly.

When making the case to your peers, your boss, or stakeholders, you’ll want to go into much more depth than we have in these examples, but each component will give you an effective way to structure and outline your argument.  Additional data from an inbound marketing assessment can also go a long way in solidifying your claim.  Now go take this framework, give it a try, and go spread the good word of inbound!

Download SMART Marketing Goals Template