How to Apply the 7 Principles of Influence to Your Marketing

To be truly persuasive, marketing copy needs to do much more than simply present logical reasons to buy. The most effective campaigns tap into our unconscious motivators, pushing the buttons that create automatic responses and triggering the hidden drivers that move us to action.

In “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” Robert Cialdini details the unconscious motivators (reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, liking, authority, scarcity, contrast) that drive human behavior. Understanding these triggers will help you write more persuasive and effective marketing copy.

The challenge is applying these principles to sales letters, emails, landing pages, and white papers in a way that doesn’t detract from your core message. Your primary duty is to the fundamentals: addressing a specific problem, focusing on benefits, creating a compelling offer, and making the copy as engaging and readable as possible. Psychological triggers are like the seasoning — get the mix wrong and you’ll ruin the meal. Rely too much on Authority, and you risk coming off as heavy-handed and losing some of the Like. Use too much Like, and you risk not providing enough Contrast or Scarcity.

The right balance will depend on your target market and offer. A marketing campaign targeting doctors for a life-saving medical device may rely more heavily on Authority and Commitment/Consistency. An ad for high-end custom pools may require more Like and Scarcity.

The following questions will help you integrate these principles of influence in a way that focuses on the most suitable triggers and supports the core message. You can then experiment with the mix to find the right balance based on your target market and offer.

1. Reciprocity: We tend to want to return favors and reciprocate when receiving gifts.

How can we offer valuable insights within the marketing message itself? What information can we share that helps our readers — regardless of whether or not they buy?

2. Commitment and Consistency: We tend to be more comfortable with people, products, and companies that are consistent and predictable.

Are we sticking with a core theme throughout our campaign, or are we trying to communicate too many ideas? Are we consistent with the problem we’re committed to solving?

3. Social Proof: We tend to follow the herd.

How can we get others to be our biggest advocates (using testimonials, ratings, likes, client lists, and third-party opinions)?

4. Liking: We tend to buy from those we like.

Does our marketing look like it was created by actual living, breathing human beings, or is it just a collection of inauthentic marketing-speak and generic stock images? Does our marketing really represent the tone of our one-on-one customer interactions? If not, why?

5. Authority: We tend to rely on the opinions of experts to help us solve problems and achieve our goals.

Are we positioning ourselves as the experts at a particular niche, or are we diluting our authority by trying to be too many things to too many people?

6. Scarcity: We tend to want that which we can’t easily have.

How can we highlight the unique or rare qualities of our product, service, offer, and expertise?

7. Contrast: We tend to perceive things in context to other things — good and bad, inexpensive and expensive, fast and slow.

How can we frame the costs of the problem (lost time, revenue, etc.) in a way that enhances the value of our solution?

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