6 principles to get people to buy
Add these into your marketing to sell more stuff
In 1984 Dr Robert Cialdini wrote a book, The Psychology of Persuasion. In the book, he stated there were 6 principles of persuasion and he explained how to use them. His motive was to help the general public understand how powerful marketing can be in influencing their decisions.
He also wanted to expose how bad actors could easily it is to manipulate human beings. The book became a hit and was adopted as one of the best marketing books of its time.
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The Six Principles of Persuasion
Human beings are social creatures, we like to connect with other people. As a result this leaves us open to being persuaded because of our social structure and the way society works. We all like to think of ourselves as logical and analytical, but in truth, we are emotional beings and those emotions coupled with our need for community can weigh heavily on our actions.
Bad actors have used the principles against us for centuries. Scarily, during the COVID pandemic, Governments used some of these principles to make us conform to some of the strict lockdown rules. The principles can be used for good and bad. These principles help us see why people decide to buy a service and we can carefully use them to help make our business more appealing.
We’re going to look at the six principles and unpack, how used wisely can be a powerful tool in your business.
The first principle is reciprocity. Reciprocity is a simple concept. People feel obligated to help people who’ve helped them. If you’re kind to someone, they feel obligated to in some way repay that.
Some of the top salespeople in the world achieve their success simply by leveraging reciprocity. They are friends to everyone and make you feel like a million dollars when you’re with them.
Reciprocity is like an equation humans need to balance.
I heard about a young guy back in the 90s trying to up his sales game. He was in car sales. He started talking to some of the top performers in his region asking them for advice. At a regional sales conference for a car maker, he managed to get 5 minutes with the top sales guy for the car brand.
He ask him “How have you been the top seller for 5 years?”
He sales man replied “I treat my customers like family. I never forget their special moments”
The young guy was confused, probed a little more and discovered, the top seller attributed his success to sending cards to his past customers when on birthdays and anniversaries. The majority of his sales each year were from customers coming back to trade in their old vehicle and buy a newer one.
The top seller used reciprocity to build customer loyalty.
I’ve heard other versions of this story over the years that also say he regularly checked in with customers, not to sell, but to check the vehicle they purchased was okay.
In one version, he also rang customers before the warranty ran out to check if anything needed doing.
Being generous, freely giving triggers reciprocity.
This one has been abused by sellers so much. The principle of commitment is that people want to be consistent in their words and actions. In essence, if we agree to something, we feel obligated to stick to our word.
This makes sense and I guess we’d all say we want to be consistent in our words and deeds. So how does this help us in marketing?
Well, people don’t like to go back on their word. If someone states they care about the climate, they are more likely to make a purchase that aligns with this.
Here is a simple way to think about this:
Small commitments can often lead to larger ones. Say for example, you offered a free challenge for your leads and prospects. That challenge is aligned with your main offer, it is more likely once the challenge is complete, the leads will convert into buying your main offer.
Likewise, rewarding customers for their loyalty will help you increase retention. It can be very simple things, but people like to stick to their commitments.
The third principles is social proof. As an individual, I don’t like this principle as it flies in the face of individuality. The principle is that we follow the crowd. This is how hype and trends are established.
If other people similar to me like it, I will be more inclined to like it too. Like I said, flies in the face of my independent thinking personality - but it’s true.
This can be evidenced by this social experiment in Korea, it’s 5-minutes, but worth the watch.
Social Proof is really simple. There is safety in numbers. This means ‘other people do it, I should do it too’
This is where case studies, testimonials and showing people they are not the first, they are not the only one, people feel more comfortable.
This is why we look at reviews, we buy the most popular, we believe there is safety in following the crowd.
This is also an annoyance for an independent thinker. We like to conform to authority. It’s human nature to fall into an authority structure. We conform to people who seem to be in authority.
How does this work? Check out the video below:
What does this mean for us?
Simply, people who project authority usually get it. People in uniform, usually get respect and compliance.
This means, people will follow and trust advice from people who are experts or have deep knowledge. This means awards, recognition of your achievements, external signs of expertise and success get adherents.
Authority can enforce compliance. This is how police states work.
Building your personal brand around your expertise, success in the field and being clear on the expertise you have, can help you be seen as the go-to person - the trusted source.
Speaking on large stages, being on podcasts building your authority status will elevate you above the others in your market.
Likability is something politicians have on their minds 24/7. How they endear themselves to people can matter more than their policies. The principle of liking is simple - people buy from people they know, like and trust.
Liking is a world apart from the principles of Authority. This is how some social media influencers build their platform - they let people get to know the real them.
Politicians on the other hand, often try to seem more ‘down with the people’ to be more likable. Most working class people won’t vote for a rich millionaire to run the country, yet, likability can override that - currently the leaders of the two main political parties in the UK are millionaires.
Likability is simple about people connecting with you as a person. This is one of the reason people who share their personal lives on social media tend to attract a crowd - yes there is an element of spectacle - but in most cases, it’s building likability.
Being more personal, showing your face more, posting more video content and being more down to earth can connect you with people. Sharing your personal journey, experiences and story can connect you deeply with a crowd of people.
This final principle is one you’ll recognise more than the others. It’ overt. It’s everywhere. People want what they can’t have. Companies use this more than any of the other principles. Nobody wants to miss out and so scarcity, the fear of missing out or exclusivity makes us want something more.
You’ve seen this on ecommerce stores “only 4 left” - this is playing to scarcity to persuade us to choose that product.
Telling people it might not be for them, can inadvertently make them want it more.
A countdown on a webpage can convince people to make a decision quickly.
Fear of missing out or exclusivity is something people will pay for. In some senses, this principle can work counter to the principle of liking. If you are known but are exclusive, this can make people want to work with you more.
You’ll see this principle at play everywhere you look.
Limited time sales
These are all built on the principle of scarcity.
These principles are human nature. If you didn’t know about them before, you do now. To some degree you can resist them, but it’s hard to resist them all of the time.
If you incorporate some of these principles into your marketing, you’ll be surprised how it will transform it’s effectiveness.
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