There has been a lot of buzz lately about marketing psychology. With so many technological stimulants out there, it’s difficult for a lot of businesses to stand capture the attention of users. Marketers are interested in what makes a person say yes and what makes a person say no to a product or service.
Dr. Robert Cialdini has garnered a lot of recognition for his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, wherein he delves into the science of influencing other people. His framework for persuading others can be used in your marketing strategy to increase user engagement and to execute effective calls to action. The six principles he outlines aren’t magic, they’re just behavioral tendencies that you can learn to recognize, predict, and target.
That being said, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that while these principles can be used to up your marketing game, they should be used with integrity and discretion. Cialdini says himself that, “When these tools are used unethically as weapons of influence…any short-term gains will almost invariably be followed by long-term losses.” Look at them as a way to understand what drives user behaviour, and to understand when these tactics are being used against you as well.
Don’t you hate when you feel like you owe someone? People often feel indebted when they are offered something. That’s why, as marketers, it’s a good idea to make the first move and offer users something so they will feel obliged to offer something in return.
This doesn’t have to be much--it could be a link to an educational blog post, or a coupon for a discounted service, or early access to a new product. In return, users may feel more willing to offer something in return, like their email address or a referral. It’s a basic example of give and take.
2. Commitment and Consistency
Similar to how many people don’t like to feel like they owe someone, many people also don’t like to back down on their word if they can help it. If you reach out to other marketers and influencers for shares or backlinks, or if you’re doing preliminary outreach before the release of a new product or post, and they agree to give your site a mention, they are more likely to follow through once they have put it in writing in an email.
Expect others to hold you to this principle as well. If you promise excellent customer service, users will expect you to deliver. If you tell them that a product will be worth their money, you need to do your best to ensure that it is.
3. Social Proof
People are always looking towards others for cues. Think about it: if you’re having trouble coming to a decision, you will probably look at what your friends and influencers have done in a similar situation before making your decision, right?
According to a Search Engine Land’s Local Consumer Review Survey, the majority of consumers look up small businesses online before deciding to use their services, and 65% of consumers read 2-10 reviews during their research. That’s why testimonials are such an effective form of content to include on your site.
You’ve probably seen lots of articles suggesting that as a small business owner you should aim to establish yourself as a thought leader. Basically, you should strive to be an authority in your niche market. Things like business titles, a list of prestigious publications and projects you’ve contributed to, impressive clothing, accolades can lend to a sense of credibility.
A sense of authority can also come through strongly in your language. Using a confident and self-assured tone will compel listeners to respect what you’re saying. Making references to past experiences that you learned from and referencing exciting projects that you participated in will send a signal to listeners that you know what you’re talking about.
People are drawn to familiarity. It makes sense, after all--you’re going to trust what you already know. According to Cialdini, people are more likely to favor those who are attractive, with whom they share physical similarities, and those who give them compliments. He suggests that marketers “report on the extent to which the product or service – or the people who are providing the product or service – are similar to the audience and know the audience’s challenges, preferences and so on.”
This is an example where taking the time to come up with market personas is so useful. You can identify the type of person your ideal customer is and you can create content catered specifically to them. You should also strive to add touches of familiarity to your emails and other communications with users--simply addressing them by their name can go a long way. When we do outreach to other markets for campaigns at Venngage, we try to add in a personal comment about our contact’s work and company so they know we took the time to learn about them. We often even reach out to them directly through Twitter.
This principle is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It’s the idea that when there is less of something, the demand for it is greater. You see businesses doing this all the time--they will offer limited early access to a new product, compelling users to act quickly so that they gain a spot.
Cialdini advises that marketers can benefit from shifting the focus of their campaign message away from the benefits of their product and more towards the potential of a missed opportunity if users overlook their product. Highlight the ways in which your product or service is unique and what will be lost if users skip out on experiencing it.
Bonus: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Transparency
This isn’t one of the 6 principles but it’s something that I have found to be true. While few would deny that the role of marketers is to influence consumers to take action and buy a product or subscribe to a service, marketers should not underestimate how very compelling brand transparency can be. Many people are very critical of companies these days, and are likely to favor a business that is open about their processes and their shortcomings. Buffer is a great example of a company that does transparency well in their content creation, and people respond positively to them for it.
This infographic summarizes the 6 principles of persuasion.
Sara McGuire is a Creative Content Specialist for Venngage, an easy to use infographic maker. She has an MA in Literature of Modernity from Ryerson University.