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May 10, 2017

The 6 Principles of Persuasion

Summary:

Why do you buy a product or pay for a service? What motivates your customers to say “yes” to what you are offering?

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Why do you buy a product or pay for a service? What motivates your customers to say “yes” to what you are offering?

Have you ever thought about it, really?

The list in your mind is probably endless, but do you think it has anything to do with persuasion?

Yes, persuasion.

For a number of years many companies have persuaded us (the public) to buy their products or try their service using some very catchy ads like:

Proctor and Gamble’s “Thank you, Mom” campaign;

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The ever-so-catchy “Every Kiss Begins with Kay” that’s helped the jeweler sell loads of diamonds; and

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My local favorite, Digicel, “The Bigger, Better Network.”

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A lot of companies understand the science behind what makes you say “yes,” and you can thank Dr. Robert Cialdini for it. In his book ,“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” Dr. Cialdini showed that people do what they observe other people doing. It’s a principle that’s based on the idea of safety in numbers. For example, when I am feeling for a good doubles (a sandwich sold on the street that those of you not from Trinidad and Tobago are missing out on), I will automatically gravitate to the doubles man who has a lot of people around him. I will be very cautious of someone selling doubles who has just a few people buying.

But that is the science of social proof. If a group of people is looking to the back of the elevator, an individual who enters the elevator will copy it and do the same, even if it looks funny. Companies use this all the time. Anyone shopping on Amazon can read tons of customer feedback on any product. Some companies show their Facebook likes and Twitter followers.

Whether we admit it or not, most of us are impressed when someone has a ton of subscribers, Twitter followers, YouTube views, blog reviews, etc.

Calidini’s six principles of persuasion (which are very similar to mine, even though I didn’t know who he was until a month ago) are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Likability
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

If you are wondering if these principles are still relevant after almost 30 years, yes, they are. As a matter of fact, these principles are the foundation for many marketing campaigns, and many companies use them to get you to buy their product or service. Most people can’t explain why they made a particular decision. But Dr. Cialdini can.

After countless experiments and research, Dr. Cialdini identified those six underlying factors that influence decisions and explained how to use the factors to get more positive responses.

Let look at the factors and their applications individually in a business context:

Reciprocity

According to Dr. Cialdini, reciprocation explains why free samples can be so effective. People feel indebted to those who do something for them or give them a gift. People who receive an unexpected gift are more likely to listen to a product’s features, donate to a cause or tip a waiter more. Give something — information, samples, a positive experience, etc. — and people will want to give you something in return.

A lot of companies have adopted this principle of reciprocity. Netflix, Amazon and Hubspot all offer a free service for a stipulated period of time. And some bloggers offers free downloads, free webinars, free ebooks. These companies and individuals understand that human beings are wired to return favors and, as a result, site visitors will be more likely to feel obligated to buy something from the company or individual’s website.

Commitment and Consistency

People take a lot of pride in being true to their word. Dr. Cialdini suggests that oral and written commitments are powerful persuasive techniques and that people tend to honor agreements — even after the original incentive or motivation is no longer present.

Cialdini indicated that people want to be consistent and true to their word. Getting customers or co-workers to publicly commit to something makes them more likely to follow through with an action or a purchase. Getting people to answer “yes” makes them more powerfully committed to an action.

Conversion Voodoo helped a mortgage company increase its completed application conversion rate by more than 11% with the simple addition of a commitment checkbox. That simple act of commitment propels the mortgage company’s customers toward making a larger commitment.

Social Proof

We dealt with social proof above. People will normally follow the crowd (safety in numbers).

Likability

Dr. Cialdini explained that likability is based on sharing something similar with people you like. People will naturally associate with people who are like them, and this applies to businesses as well. Customers tend to buy from companies they like. Everyone has a favorite brand that appeals to them — the more similarities there are between the customer and brand, the more positive that relationship will be over time.

A lot of companies conduct extensive research to segment their market, target their niche and position the company to appeal to its target market. These companies design their products, services, logos, websites, outlets, etc. to mirror their customers. We are influenced by a product or service we like.

See also: How Customers Really Think About Insurance  

Likability may also come in the form of trust. Being fair, open, genuine and honest in your actions and having a general interest in people and their welfare will begin to build that trust with your staff, which is one of the branches of likability and respect.

Authority

Are you more likely to take instruction from a person who you perceived to be an authoritative person? According to Dr. Cialdini, job titles such as “doctor” can infuse an air of authority and, as a result, this can lead the average person to accept what a person is saying without question.

If you take LinkedIn influencers, for example, their posts attract thousands of views and comments simply because people considers the influencers to be people of authority in their field because of their success. According to Dr. Cialdini, “When people are uncertain, they don’t look inside themselves for answers — all they see is ambiguity and their own lack of confidence. Instead, they look outside for sources of information that can reduce their uncertainty. The first thing they look to is an authority. We’re not talking about being in authority but about being an authority.”

Nike is one of the most coveted brands in the world, and one of their major strengths is their association with very successful athletes who are considered an authority in their sport. So, quite naturally with that association, Nike has become an authoritative brand in the world of sports apparel.

Scarcity

In economic terms, “scarcity” relates to supply and demand. The less there is of something, the more valuable it is. According to Dr. Cialdini, the more rare and uncommon something is, the more people want it.  For example, a lot of companies use phrases like “Don’t miss this chance,” or, “Book your spots early; Limited seating available.”

Many companies may manufacture a limited amount of a product in an attempt to generate a sense of limitation to the general public. Have you ever notice the long lines for a new product? People camping outside a store? If you create that environment of scarcity, you will create a demand for your product or service.

See also: How to Exceed Customer Expectations  

The six principles I’ve mentioned are very powerful simply because they bypass our rational mind and appeal to our subconscious instincts. A good seller will always refer to the positive opinion of other users and how successful the product is. Or the seller will give customers a free trial, etc.

But it is important to note that if you are unethical and are trying to con your customers, people will see right through your scam. These principles will only be effective if you are genuine in your efforts and you deliver on your promise to your customers.

To gain more insight into the use of persuasion, you can secure a copy of my Kindle eBook, “The 6 Principles of Persuasion Everyone in Business Should Know, Release the Trigger of Compliance in Your Staff and Customers.” You will learn influential strategies that many successful companies use to increase their sales, attract more customers, manage their employees more effectively and communicate to influence others.

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About the Author

Gifford Thomas is the author of The 6 Principles of Persuasion Everyone in Business Should Know. He is a writer and researcher for the Caribbean Insight Magazine and a member of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) Advisory Council, an opt-in research community of business professionals.

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