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Over 30 years ago, Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote a book on persuasion and influence. In it, he listed science-based 6 principles of persuasion according to research in the field of Psychology.
Even now, 30 years later, his persuasive techniques are used by marketers to increase conversions of potential customers, no matter the industry. Think word-of-mouth marketing—referral programs, influencer marketing, affiliate marketing. Even from your brand story and messaging down to how you customize your product description, persuasive techniques are integral.
After all, having the ability to influence people is incredibly powerful, especially when it comes to the business of selling a product or service.
The best part?
His persuasive techniques can be used to increase conversion rates in every part of your marketing strategy, from content marketing to basic brick-and-mortar type interactions.
Here’s a recap of how Dr. Cialdini's 6 Principles of Persuasion work, and how to use them in your own marketing strategy:
1. The Reciprocity Principle: In many social situations, we pay back what we received from others.
When you offer something first, people will feel a sense of indebtedness, which will make them more likely to comply with your subsequent requests.
It's because as people, we're deeply wired to be reciprocal.
There are three factors that will make this principle more effective:
- Offer something first - allow them to feel indebted to you
- Offer something exclusive - allow them to feel special
- Personalize the offer - make sure they know it’s from you
(Pro-Tip: Leverage the Reciprocity Principle by installing a referral program on your online store.)
2. The Commitment & Consistency Principle: We tend to stick with whatever we've already chosen.
We are bombarded with hundreds of choices to make every single day. For convenience, we simply make a single decision and then stick to it for all subsequent related choices.
The way to earn customer loyalty using this principle is to make them commit to something, whether it is a statement, a stand, a political affiliation, or an identity.
The principle of consistency says that they will then feel an automatic compulsion to stick with the decision they've already made.
This is especially helpful for you as a business owner because it means that you spend less time persuading your potential customers to do something and more time connecting them with the product or service that best suits their stance.
Follow these three ways to leverage off this principle:
- Ask your customers to start from small actions – so they’ll have to stick to it.
- Encourage public commitments – they’ll be less likely to back out.
- Reward your customers for investing time and effort in your brand.
3. The Social Proof Principle: We tend to have more trust in things that are popular or endorsed by people that we trust.
Have you ever wondered how social media influencers have gotten to be so... powerful?
It's because of the principle of social proof. People are more likely to endorse a product or service or to perform a certain behavior that has already been endorsed by a person they trust, whether it's friends, family, or an expert in the industry.
This is why one of the most powerful persuasive techniques used today comes in the form of social influence...
...because it works.
How to work it? Tap on the influence - or social proof - from these types of people:
- Experts – Approval from credible experts in the relevant field
- Celebrities – Approval or endorsements from celebrities (paid or unpaid)
- Users – Approval from current/past users (ratings, reviews and testimonials)
- ‘Wisdom of crowds’ – Approval from large groups of other people
- Peers – Approval from friends and people you know
4. The Liking Principle: We are more likely to comply with requests made by people we like.
For whatever reason, people we like tend to have more perceived credibility than those that we do not like. People we like tend to have the same beliefs, interests, and language as we do. So the mind tends to believe that a person we like is trustworthy, otherwise, why would we like them at all?
People we like can range from our closest friends to complete strangers that we are attracted to.
This explains why we trust word-of-mouth recommendations from our peers, as well as stuff endorsed by our favorite singers, actors, social media influencers, or bloggers. (Partly also why influencers are quite potent - we follow them because we like them)
As you can imagine, liking people can have a tremendous impact on how we make decisions. Marketers who understand this have greater influence and persuasion over their target audience.
Follow these factors to make the Liking principle work:
- Physical attractiveness - [Make your website] well-designed, function and suit what you’re selling.
- Similarity - Behave like a friend, not a brand. Show them that you can relate to, and understand them.
- Compliments - Have a voice; use social media platforms not to broadcast, but hold intimate conversations and form relationships with your customers.
- Contact and Cooperation - Fight for the same causes as your customers. Nothing builds rapport and closeness like good old-fashioned teamwork.
- Conditioning and Association - Associate your brands with the same values that you want to communicate and possess.
(Pro-Tip: Leverage the Liking Principle by installing a referral program on your online store. Your customers will share the referrals with people who like them - like their friends or family or networks.)
5. The Authority Principle: We follow people who look like they know what they’re doing.
This holds especially true in fields where we aren’t experts.
It's easier to trust an authority figure in the field than it is to do your own research on any given topic.
You can see this in a lot of online marketing with headlines and blog posts that include phrases like “scientists say”, “experts say”, “research shows”, or "scientifically proven".
You can give off the air of authority if you pay attention of these factors:
- Titles - Positions of power/experience
- Clothes - Superficial cues that signal authority
- Trappings - Accessories/indirect cues that accompany authoritative roles
6. The Scarcity Principle: We are always drawn to things that are exclusive and hard to come by.
We tend to assume that things that are difficult to obtain are usually better than those that are easily available.
So the principle of scarcity draws upon this belief by creating a sense of urgency within their content or promotional vocabulary.
You can learn to trigger your customers’ sense of urgency with these methods:
- Limited-number - Item is in short supply and won’t be available once it runs out.
- Limited-time - Item is only available during that time period.
- One-of-a-kind Specials - Sometimes utilize one or both of the above techniques. Also from one-off events (e.g. collaborations, anniversaries)
- Utilising Competitions - Our inclination to want things more because other people also want them is often utilized in auctions or bids.
Conclusion: Use these principles to your advantage, but remember to get the fundamentals right.
These principles are powerful because they bypass our rational minds, appealing to our subconscious instincts. They elicit what Dr. Cialdini terms the “click, whirr” automatic response in all of us.
However, do note that while these principles can help bring more awareness to your brand, the biggest factor that ultimately drives customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales is a great product.
All marketing efforts as part of a marketing strategy will only work when they’re supporting a product that brings true value to customers.
Full list of links:
- Giving Before You Get – 10 Examples of Reciprocity in Marketing
- A Foot in the Door – 7 Examples of Commitment and Consistency in Marketing
- I’ll Have What She’s Having – 26 Examples of Social Proof Used in Marketing
- Laws of Attraction – 7 Examples of the Liking Principle Used in Marketing
- Trust Me, I’m a Doctor – 7 Examples of the Authority Principle Used In Marketing
- Hurry, While Stocks Last – 13 Examples of the Scarcity Principle Used in Marketing
Here are a few articles on word-of-mouth marketing that we think might help you in growing your brand: