By Joyce Sunila

Lately I’ve been watching re-runs of “The Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel. You may have seen it. Cesar Millan shows people how to train their dogs by changing the dog’s mental state.

Cesar’s from rural Mexico. He’s always flabbergasted to see American pet owners trying to alter animal behavior by talking to their dogs.

 “No!, Stop it!,” these  Americans will shout, while the dog drags them all over the street. “Hey! Not nice! No fighting!,” they argue heatedly, as the pooch takes a chunk out of the neighbor’s dog.

Cesar takes this in with a flummoxed look. Finally tells the client,“dogs don’t rationalize,” and then he changes the dog’s mental state by signaling dominance (through body language), applies a few behavior-modification techniques, and Presto! Obedient dog. Put another way: Cesar lets them know that he is the alpha dog or pack  leader.

A Change of State

I see this show as a metaphor for email marketing. It’s a reminder that the best communication is about changing emotional states, not transmitting information.

And what’s the best way to change people’s emotions? By telling stories. Since the days of the caveman, humans have told stories to reach each other’s hearts. That hasn’t changed. What do you do when you want relief from the same old boring emotions? You go to a movie. It’s the fastest way to change your state.

Works in Marketing, Too

The same principle holds when you want to change a patient’s state from “I wish I could afford that procedure now, but I’ll have to wait”  to “I have GOT to get that! THAT is what will make the difference in my happiness.”

In our primitive brains we’re all social creatures. We respond best to watching what others do. Instead of filling your e-newsletters with descriptive prose show them someone who’s already experienced the shift. Show before-and-after photos of a satisfied patient and describe the many ways this one small improvement changed his or her life. Patients are likelier to spend money they’ve been holding back when you alter their state with a good story.

Emotion Is the Rocket Fuel

Not only is state-altering more effective than descriptive writing, it’s got a longer shelf life. It sticks. Think about it: You only have to hear the words “Star Wars” to summon up the feeling-state those movies gave you years ago. Does anyone remember what some reviewer said about the movies, or what the publicity said? No. They remember the story.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

The fact is,you do change people’s lives. Appearance is a major ingredient in the destiny people create out for themselves. You have the power to alter that destiny.

Tell your stories.

Lead the Pack as Cesar does.

Joyce Sunila is the president of Practice Helpers, providing e-newsletters, blogs and social media services to aesthetic practices. You can contact Joyce at joy[email protected] or visit the Practice Helpers website at