If you are an internet marketer and can read only one book on persuasion, read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. Journal of Marketing Research writes “For marketers, it is among the most important books of the last 10 years.”
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
In Influence, Cialdini shows us how the human brain often takes shortcuts when faced with a decision. And, how a knowledgeable person can trick the brain of another person to make a specific decision.
Cialdini’s work is important for two reasons. As a marketer, you may improve sales and conversions if you use some of the methods of influence detailed in his book. However, be careful as it can easily be overdone and appear manipulative.
More importantly, knowing how our mind works and how it may betray us when faced with weapons of influence, will help us avoid scams.
The ‘reason why’ is a good example of how our mind will take a shortcut to form a decision.
It was shown in experiments that by simply giving a “reason why” will influence people to cooperate. The “reason why” doesn’t have to be logical either.
In an experiment described in Influence, several people are waiting to use a copy machine, when one person asks; “Can I use the copy machine before you because I’m in a rush?” 94% of the time when this ‘reason why’ was given, that person was permitted to move to the head of the line.
I know of an unethical online marketer who sells a bogus marketing course for $300 with no refund. He explains away his no refund policy “because of the time he invests with each of his students.” In reality, he spends no time with his students, but the word ‘because’ satisfies a prospect enough for them to hand over their money knowing there is no refund.
Another trick of influence is used in retail sales. The sales person shows the customer the most expensive product first. Then shows them less expensive products. This strategy consistently results in customers spending more money because, in comparison to the expensive product, the less expensive product seems like a bargain.
Weapons of Automatic Influence.
Cialdini isolated 6 Key Principles of Influence for tricking others into forming decisions. He called these methods weapons of automatic influence. Online, you will see many, if not all, of these weapons deployed in sales pages and videos.
These methods have evolved over centuries of marketing and scams and have been extremely powerful in the age of mass marketing. However, things have changed in the information age.
Thanks to the internet, anyone can research a product, service, individual or company and determine for themselves if an offer is legitimate. Also, if used heavy-handedly, the methods exposed in Influence may appear as hype and hard sell, resulting in fewer sales and conversions.
The 6 Key Principles of Influence.
- Commitment & Consistency
- Social Proof
It’s human nature to avoid indebtedness. Giving a small gift psychologically obligates the receiver to give something in return. This is often a donation or a purchase.
Cialdini illustrates this point with the strategy Hare Krishnas used to collect millions in donations. The Hare Krishna gave away cheap artificial flowers and refused to take them back. This act burdened the receiver of the flower with unconscious debt. The only way to resolve this debt was to make a donation.
Commitment and Consistency.
We value consistency. We expect others to be consistent and we are subconsciously biased to behave consistently ourselves. In other words, we will automatically behave in a way that reinforces an earlier decision.
In digital marketing, commitment and consistency can obligate a newly acquired customer to buy a more expensive upsell. This is why the so-called ‘dime sale’ works. A product is offered for $10, a low threshold to get the customer across. However, once they purchase, they are met with a more expensive offer, perhaps a $29 product.
The customer is inclined to purchase the $29 product too because that would be consistent with the commitment she made when she bought the $10 product.
We are social beings and we want to fit in. This means on an unconscious level we want to behave like the other people in our group.
A bartender might seed his tip jar with a few bills to socially prove that the ‘norm’ is to give him big tips. Some churches do the same thing before they pass the offering plates.
Online, social proof is used in sales pages and in sales videos when images and quotes of satisfied customers are shown.
Not surprisingly, we prefer to do business with people we like and who we feel are similar to us. Studies have shown that we subconsciously attribute kindness, honesty, and intelligence to people we find attractive.
We naturally interact with authority figures differently. The more authority we project onto a person, the more likely we are to comply with their directives.
Authority is used in marketing when an actor in a police uniform pitches home security services or an actor dressed like a doctor pitches a weight loss product.
If we think an item is scarce, we are often moved to buy it. Like all the weapons of influence detailed by Dr. Cialdini, our impulse to purchase a product that is perceived to be scarce defies logic.
Online, you’ll see this on sales pages with regularity and it makes no sense. You’ll be told that there are only 3 copies left of a product although it’s a digital product with infinite copies.
The Last Word on Influence.
Dr. Robert Cialdini holds a Ph.D. in psychology and it shows in his writing. Influence reads a bit like a dissertation. However, the information contained in it is pure gold.
If you found this article helpful, or have experience with the Psychology of Persuasion, please leave a comment below. Thank you.