Persuasion is power.
The ability to bend people to your will is the mark of a successful person. No matter who you are or what you do, you’re going to have to rely on your persuasive abilities at some point.
Persuasion isn’t just for marketing. You use persuasive techniques in nearly every interaction you have.
Whether you’re trying to get a loan for a new business. Or you’re convincing your friend to choose the restaurant you want to eat at. Or you’re trying to get subscribers for your newsletter.
Persuasion doesn’t necessarily imply selling something for money. It just implies some sort of trade off. Whether this is of monetary value or not doesn’t matter.
The psychology of persuasion is always on. Our brains are constantly making snap judgements and evaluating people on a variety of parameters.
We use these parameters to subconsciously guide us away from trouble and into success. Away from shady characters and sketchy deals. And into prosperous waters with trust-worthy friends.
When looking at the psychology of persuasion, you also need to understand how our brains work.
We throw a ton of information at our brains. We are constantly pushing our cognitive limits, especially living in the 21st Century. There’s no way our brains could store and process every little detail of our lives.
So your brain uses short cuts to cope, understand, and inform your future behavior. And this largely happens behind the scenes, in your subconscious.
By simplifying these complex processes down into simple parts, it helps your brain save energy. But a lot can be lost in this simplification, which is why you should never use the following techniques unethically.
Humans aren’t perfect machines. You often rely on short cuts to help make your decisions. In this case, there’s 6 core factors that determine someone’s influence over us.
Cialdini’s 6 Principle’s of Persuasion
The law of reciprocity is hard-wired into all of us. If someone gives you something, you will instinctively want to pay them back.
So if someone has done you a favor in the past, you will naturally want to return the favor when you get the chance. When I was younger, I was told that the golden rule was to treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
But I didn’t know that this rule was ingrained into us. Just take a look at this study that measured waiters tips with the amount of mints given with the bill.
If given 1 mint with the bill, tips increased 3%. If given 2 mints, tips rose to 14%. But if the waiter gave 1 mint, started to walk away, paused, then turned back and said “For you nice people, here’s another”, tips go through the roof to 23%.
This shows you that it matters how much you give, but it also matters the way you give it. For best results, you should aim to be the first to give and make sure what you’re giving is personalized and unexpected.
Basically we have a natural inclination towards things that there are less of. The more scarce a resource, the more you’ll naturally want it.
So it’s not enough to present the benefits of an offer, it’s also important to say what’s unique about your proposition and what people will lose if they don’t accept.
Scarcity is fueled by this feeling of missing out. It is also the strongest and most exploited of all these principles.
This phenomenon is why limited-time discounts tend to work so well. Although it’s manufactured scarcity, you know that if you don’t act right now, you’ll miss out on a good deal
One of the best examples of scarcity I’ve found is from Growthhackers.tv.
After you’re been visiting around the site for the first time, a pop up will notify you that you can get a free week of membership if you order within the next 25 minutes. A ticking clock counts down the seconds to add even more pressure.
If you don’t grab the promo code and act right now, the deal will expire and you’ll miss out.
You often pass up on deals because you know they aren’t going anywhere. But offers like these are great at nudging people who are on the fence into an impulse decision.
If you can offer your audience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you’ll be able to increase your conversions dramatically.
Authority is an essential aspect of any online presence. Since there is no human interaction, trust is even more important in any relationship or transaction.
Advertisers have long understood this principle. And this is why you see so many celebrity endorsements in commercials. That’s not by chance, they know we are more apt to buy things from people we look up to.
This is also why blogs can be so valuable to businesses. By proving thought-leadership in a niche, you can become the go-to resource on that subject. And once you have that Authority, selling becomes easy.
It’s why Copyblogger has been so successful.
They put out awesome content and prove to you that they know their stuff. So when they launch a new product, you know it’s going to be good.
Their sales pitch is more persuasive and you trust them to buy it.
People want their beliefs to be consistent with their values. You tend to strictly adhere to what you’ve previously said or done. Psychologists believe it’s because humans have a deep need to be consistent.
Because of this, once you have publicly committed to something, it’s pretty much a done deal. You’ll feel the need to go through with it even if you don’t want to, because it falls in-line with your self-image.
And if you’re trying to persuade someone, you can trigger this consistency by asking for small commitments upfront.
One study from Cialdini’s book, looked at 2 different neighborhoods and tested people’s willingness to place a “Drive Safe” sign in their front lawns.
In the first neighborhood, people were uniformly unwilling to do it.
But in the second, they were 4x as likely to put the sign up. Why? Because 10 days previously they had been asked to hang a small “Drive Safe” postcard in their window that signaled their support for the campaign.
This small change lead to a 400% increase in effectiveness.
So savvy influencers should look for voluntary, active, and public commitments for their audience to undertake. Because once you have people committed to something, even if it’s a shadow of your real goal, they’ll be much more likely to go through with it down the road.
In general, we like to do business and spend our time with people who we like. Meaning you are more likely to be influenced by someone you enjoy, compared to someone you dislike.
There are 3 main aspects to likability. (1) We like people who are similar to us. (2) We like people who give us things or pay us compliments. (3) We like people who cooperate with us.
Another study looked at negotiations between students of two business schools.
The first group of students were told to get down to business and not waste anytime. The second group was told to exchange personal information and find similarities between each other first, then begin negotiating.
In the latter group 90% of them came to deals and the deals were worth 18% more to both parties.
So before you get down to business, look for similarities between you and your adversary. Before you push anything on them, find a way to relate.
Humans are very social creatures. For the most part, people will typically look to the actions of others to determine their own behaviors.
While everyone claims to be their own man or women, the reality is going with the crowd is in our DNA. It makes sure that if something happens, you won’t be the only one to look dumb.
This simple short cut is once again about limiting your risk.
If a product has 100 million happy users, it probably means they’re doing something right. You’ll be much more likely to check it out than a product that’s a ghost town.
Check out this study that looked at a hotel’s ability to influence people to re-use their towels.
Hotels often put a card next to the towel rack with the benefits that re-use can have on the environment. This technique tends to be pretty effective and leads to 35% compliance.
But if that same card pointed out that 75% of people who stay in that hotel re-use their towels, compliance rises by 26%. Even more so, if the card pointed out that 75% of people in that specific room re-uses their towels, compliance rises to 33%.
So next time you go to sell something make sure you have some social proof or testimonials to back you up and help ease your audience’s risk. The more specific and personalized the better.
No matter what you do, understanding the psychology of persuasion will help you do it better. Being more persuasive tends to mean being better at your job. Making more money. And living a better life.
And thanks to Mr. Cialdini, you now have a formula to look to.
These 6 principles have been used by marketers effectively for decades. Now not only will you see these techniques for what they are, you’ll be able to implement them yourself.
Want more of Cialdini’s 6 principles? Go buy his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s definitely worth the read.
Do you have any examples of these 6 principles in action? And how do you plan on using them in your search for success? Let me know in the comments!
But before you go, take a second to share this post.