“I think the power of persuasion would be the greatest superpower of all time.”
– Jenny Mollen
I first discovered the 6 principles of persuasion through a “White Board Friday” on Web Psychology. It instantly intrigued me, and I quickly viewed it as very valuable information. More so, it is extremely practical and the applications to marketing are easy to see.
Dr. Cialdini is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He has spent 30 years studying how people are influenced and subsequently, how they are persuaded. If you are further interested in his work you can read one of his best works called “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” It is a great read and you will have much more insights as to why people do what they do, and will also give you insight on marketing efforts of others. The following is a summary, and also my understanding of his 6 principles.
IN SHORT – Influencing others isn’t luck or magic. There is a science behind winning the heart, minds, and dollars of your fellow man.
Cialdini is quoted in saying that “People’s ability to understand the factors that affect their behavior is surprisingly poor.”
Let’s take a deeper look.
Principle #1 – Reciprocation
In short, reciprocation acknowledges the fact that giving things away, makes people feel indebted to the person or organization that gave them the gift. In exchange for a gift, people likely will give something in return.
The classic example is free samples at the grocery store. At the very least, people feel indebted to at least listen. Even something as simple as personalized hand written notes leaves a huge impression. How can you translate this into online marketing?
EBOOKS – This is always a go to. Giving away free eBooks is a technique popularized by Seth Godin. This is a great way to collect emails to add to a mailing list, to brand yourself, and more importantly to get a person emotionally invested in you and your company.
KNOWLEDGE – Free advice goes a long way. Many marketers make the mistakes of harboring their strategies and secrets. If you know how to do something, and know how to do it well, tell the world about it. People will never forget the advice you gave, and you will surely receive something in return.
SHARES – Free promotion, no matter how small, is always memorable. More times than not, sharing someone’s blog post, image, quote, or whatever will lead to that person returning the favor with a share of yours.
PERSONALIZE – Respond to emails personally. Take the time to respond to Facebook messages. Give out random coupon codes. I assure you it all adds up.
*NOTE* – Robert Greene wrote a very compelling book entitled The 48 Laws of Power. The 40th Law is to avoid the free lunch, and this exactly opposes the concept of accepting free gifts from people because of the debt you will owe. Interesting dichotomy…
Principle #2 – Social Proof
How many times have you bought a name brand product, when an exact product sat right next to it on the shelf? The only difference between the two was the sticker on the package. The difference being that the name brand has established social proof.
Simply put, people do things because other people do things. A stark reminder of the cattle society we find ourselves in.
“Laugh tracks on comedy shows exist for this very reason,” Cialdini says.
The concept is simple, and there are very tangible ways to establish social proof within your website.
SOCIAL ICONS – Many websites make the mistake of simply putting a Facebook like button or a follow button on their page. Go one step deeper, put the number of people who follow you on Facebook next to it. It’s amazing how much credibility you will get by simply showing your users that you have thousands of followers.
Right away, this gives a strong implication of the social value of Sober Nation.
TESTIMONIALS – This is a no-brainer. People like to know what other people’s experience were while they were using your service.
ASSOCIATE YOURSELF WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS – Do you have partners? If so, who are they and what is your relationship? Knowing that you are aligned with other credible organizations is a sure-fire way to increase your social proof.
LANGUAGE – Simply changing the way you say things can establish social proof. For instance… You could say “operators are standing by” or you could say “if the lines are busy, please call again.” One establishes service, the other establishes social proof.
Principle # 3 – Commitment and Consistency
The idea is a rather refreshing one, because it gives some substance to the idea that people, by nature, are true to their word. Obviously there are exceptions, but this principle and supporting data proves true that getting some kind of commitment or agreement will drastically increase conversion or action.
The application is easy, get people to say yes. This is done best through face to face conversation, or phone calls. It does apply in the digital realm as well.
REQUEST FOLLOW UPS – If you are planning an event, or a product launch, do not hesitate to mention that you require an rsvp. Think about how awful it feels to back out of a wedding in which you have committed to.
GAIN SUPPORT – Get commitment from your team members.
SALES – Although not directly related to inbound marketing, getting a yes out of people is a classic sales technique.
The ways you can apply this principle to marketing is endless. It is important to understand that with this principle, studies have been shown that the older people get the more they value consistency and become more reluctant to change. Be sure to incorporate that ahead of time and understand your demographic when using this.
Principle # 4 – Liking
Simply put, if people like you, they will say ‘yes’ to you. Whether you are looking for support on a political campaign, selling a product, asking for a favor – they will be more inclined to do so if they like you or relate to you in some way.
This principle goes deeper then just being a nice person. Everyone on this earth has interests and unique experiences and being able to relate to that is a great way to make them “like” and trust you.
UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE – What kind of people will be visiting your website and consuming your product? Are these people interested in sports? what gender are they? what social background do they come from? This is all very important information.
BE ATTRACTIVE – It is no secret that we are drawn to people and/or things that we deem as “attractive.” You could take this and apply it literally to people. When using pictures of people on your site or in graphics graphics, be sure to use attractive men and women. Use colors that are appealing to the eye. Use fonts that are smooth and match your audience.
RELATE TO YOUR AUDIENCE – Now that you understand your audience, you want to become one of them. If you are a street wear clothing brand, it won’t do any good to fill your website with pictures of lawyers in business suits. Your website must belong and fit into the culture and mindset of your target audience.
Liking #5 – Authority
People respect authority. Authority comes in many forms. People want to follow authority. A business title, impressive and well mannered clothing and hygiene. Even a powerful automobile will instantly change the way people view and respond to you.
It is important to understand that giving the appearance of authority is just as effective as actually having authority. People will comply with requests, even if your authority is illegitimate.
When people are uncertain, the reaction is to look outside of themselves and seek information or even guidance to support their decision.
HAVE A SPOKESPERSON – A very powerful tool in authority is to have a well known or high profile individual back you and your agenda. Again, this authority does not have to be real. Ask yourself, what do Larry Bird or Michael Jordan really know (or even care) about McDonalds? Yet here they are… Nothin’ but net.
BECOME AN EXPERT – No one said this will be easy. To have authority, it is always a good idea to be able to back that authority. Nothing beats a little elbow grease. Knowledge and understanding is the backbone of authority. Business men understand business, doctors understand medicine and health. The business suits and white coats didn’t come without a price. Your website and your brand should constantly be working to advance your craft, and become industry experts in whatever field you are in.
Principle #6 – Scarcity
Supply and demand – the back bone all of economics.
There is more than one way to make your product or service appear or even be scarce. Regardless of your competition, and of the amount of supply there is of your industry, there is only 1 of you. Simple language can create the effect of scarcity. For instance…
It is more effective to use language such as “don’t miss this change” or “here is what you will miss out on.” Studies show that the fear of missing out on an opportunity, has more impact in purchase trends then quality or the benefits of a particular product.
IDENTIFY UNIQUENESS – We don’t recommend making things up. If your product is truly unique, then highlight its unique quality to increase the perception of scarcity. “This product is one of a kind.”
People are truly fascinating creatures. To understand why we behave the way we do is priceless information to marketers of any kind. This article really is just the tip of the iceberg, and again we recommended reading the book.
This information should be studied. We recommend really analyzing your business, and seeing where these 6 principles will apply to you. These 6 principles are omnipotent, and their practical uses and influence extends well beyond the world of digital marketing.