6 Principles of Influence

October 25, 2019 - Reading Time: 3 minutes

Marketing, at its crux, is all about influence.

The ultimate aim of a marketer is to persuade your target consumer to do something, whether it’s to buy your product or engage your services.

This is where Robert B. Cialdini’s book – Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – will come in handy.

In his book, Cialdini lists six principles of persuasion: liking, reciprocity, social proof, commitment & consistency, authority, and scarcity. Here’s how marketers can apply these principles to their field of work.

1. Principle of Social Proof

People rely on social cues on how to think, act and feel from those they believe to be similar to themselves. Cialdini calls this “social proof”. For example, when new mothers see another new mother buy diapers from Brand X, they are more likely to follow suit. Consumers are more likely to be convinced to do something if they see someone they perceive to be similar to themselves do it.

This means that having a visible review and rating system is important. Allowing customers to review and rate your product or service publicly will help alleviate buyer uncertainty and provide social proof. Be prepared to receive both positive and negative feedback though. The thought of receiving a bad review might be frightening but when managed with tact, negative reviews provide opportunities for brands to build a more intimate relationship with their customers. Make sure you’re up to the task before setting up a rating system.

The principle of social proof is also a useful concept to bear in mind while you’re picking an influencer to represent your brand. The person you pick should be similar to your target audience in terms of demographics and psychographics. If you’re targeting mothers, for instance, then your brand representative should also ideally be a mother herself.

2. Principle of Authority

Who would you take culinary advice from – Gordon Ramsay or someone whose diet consists predominantly of cup noodles? It’s safe to say that most of us would pick the former.

In order to be taken seriously, you need to establish your authority in the field. You will have a better chance of persuading your audience to do something if you appear credible. How you establish credibility is really up to you. You could start a blog to establish thought leadership or you could rely on endorsements from celebrated people in the field. Sports brands like Nike and Adidas, for example, regularly rope in athletes to front their marketing campaigns. Do what makes the most sense for your brand.

3. Principle of Liking

The principle of liking is actually pretty common sense – if people like you, they’re more likely to comply with your requests.

In a marketing context, this principle highlights the importance of establishing a common ground with your audience. Do your research to find out what resonates with your target audience and use that to frame your marketing messages.

Another way to make someone like you is to look good. Don’t compromise on good design. A product with visually-appealing, eye-catching packaging will win you half the battle.

4. Principle of Commitment & Consistency

People want to be consistent. If they make a voluntary public commitment, they have a high tendency to follow through.

This foot-in-the-door technique, for example, is a great example of this principle in action. The idea is to get people to agree on something small so that they will agree to something bigger later. Free trials, for instance, can help you attract potential customers before you try convincing them to sign up for a membership.

However, getting your foot in the door doesn’t guarantee a commitment to purchase. You still need to provide value to your customers, even at the initial stage. A free trial, for example, is more effective at attracting customers than, say, simply asking potential customers to give away their contact information. The former provides people with something in return; in other words, it has value. What is the value of your product? Ensure that it is clearly communicated to potential customers at the outset so that it will be easier to close the deal later on.

5. Principle of Reciprocity

Treat others the way you want to be treated. A little kindness goes a long way. People tend to remember small acts of kindness and pay it back later down the road. Pro bono work, for example, is a good way to give back as well as to boost awareness for your brand.

6. Principle of Scarcity

Scarcity is created when demand exceeds supply. People value what is scarce. Highlighting scarcity is an effective tool of persuasion because it creates urgency. One way to incorporate this principle into your marketing strategy is to limit the supply (e.g. limited edition products) or the time allowed to make a purchase (e.g. sales that happen for a limited time period).

Enhance your next marketing campaign with these principles of persuasion. Find creative ways to apply them and you’re on your way to building your influence!


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