Ever feel like you're pushing an enormous rock up a very steep hill when it comes to convincing your boss to accept new ideas? Does your boss say things like, "I'm not sure that would work here" and "We need to do more research to make sure we haven't overlooked anything"?

Then it's time to try an essential influencing method that I call The Touchstone Technique. The idea is simple: Find the companies, leaders or practices your boss admires, then connect your recommendations to those best practices.

If you're thinking that this hardly a new idea, you're right. Remember Robert Cialdini's famous principles of influence? The Touchstone Technique draws upon at least three of those principles: social proof (if someone's already doing something, it's safer to do the same), liking (we're drawn to people or organizations we like) and authority (someone with a uniform or a big building knows the right answers).

The concept is so established because it works. That's why consultants casually throw brand names into conversation: "At Apple, they always do X." And why benchmarking is still a sound business practice.

You don't have to conduct an extensive research project to use The Touchstone Technique. In a recent MediaPost column, Michelle Denogean reminds marketers to Always Know Your CEO's Favorite Brand.

How do you find out your boss's favorite brand, company, leader or practice? Just ask a few simple question: Who do you think does this best? Why? How does this apply to our practices or challenges?

Once you know the answers, use this information to:

  • Draw analogies. How can your department be the Lexus of customer service or the Disney of surprising and delighting?
  • Relate your ideas to the admired organization. "I've drawn upon X Company's practices to recommend Y."
  • If you need a big splash, go right to the source. One of my clients struggled with making a change until the team was able to make a visit to The Company Their Boss Admires Most on Earth. The team was able to mine that visit for more than a year by simply referring again and again to what they experienced.

Easy, right? And extremely effective.