How to use Robert Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion/Influence in your marketing strategies

Cialdini’s best-selling book, Influence -The Psychology of Persuasion is based on 35 years of evidence based research on how people make decisions, and why. In this book, he identifies six core principles that affect decision making, particularly in relation to purchasing and consumption decisions.

These six key principles are:

  • Reciprocity,
  • Scarcity,
  • Authority,
  • Commitment and consistency,
  • Liking, and
  • Consensus (or social proof).

If you understand these six principles, then you can use them to your advantage when planning your marketing strategies. They will help persuade prospects to buy your services or product. Each of these key principles are outlined below.

1 – Reciprocity (“Giver’s gain”)

The basis of this principle comes from our desire to want to keep things fair and balanced.  As humans, we generally do our best to reciprocate the actions of others. If your friend buys you a coffee, you’ll probably say “I’ll get you one next time.”  If you receive a gift for Christmas, you will want to give one to that person in return.

To use this desire for reciprocity to influence a potential customer’s decision to buy from you, the trick is to get in there first. You give them something for FREE, or at low cost. Your prospect will then subconsciously feel obliged to give you something in return, either that first meeting, or even a sale.  Think of the free sample of cheese in a supermarket that makes you think you should buy a chunk, or a complimentary drink at a restaurant that makes you want to give a good review.

2 – Scarcity (You want what you can’t have)

The more you can’t have something, the more you want it! This principle is all about supply and demand. To increase the interest in your offering, you want people to think availability is scarce, because that means everyone wants what you have. It’s like the must have Christmas gift for kids – parents go crazy trying to get their hands on it, even sometimes paying ridiculously over the odds just to get it. Likewise, if a brand offers an item as ‘limited edition’ people instantly know that there is limited availability and this creates a notion of rarity, and desire for the item.

You will see examples of this principle in action when you are looking to make an online purchase, and there are notifications that 10 people have purchased this item in the last 5 minutes, or there are only 3 left in stock. It creates a sense of urgency to speed up your buying decision. And we can’t forget the extreme frenzy, that was toilet paper shortages during the pandemic! I saw many businesses (tongue in cheek) use this idea to take advantage of panic buying.

The key with this is not to appear inefficient or incompetent, so be careful when using ‘scarcity’ to influence buyers.

3 – Authority (We trust in those that know)

For this one, think of trust and credibility. People in uniforms often come across as authoritative and trustworthy, because we know them to be trained experts in their particular field. For this reason alone, we tend to trust them more, and are willing to follow their guidance or advice. Some good examples of this are health professionals in white coats, advertising the benefits of toothpaste, vitamins, health food etc

So, when using this principle to up your marketing game, you need to show your customer that you are an authority in the subject you are talking about.  Use your accreditations, qualifications, letters and stamps of approval.  Even just being a member of the local Chamber of Commerce can help, because you are now associated to a reputable and trustworthy organisation.  Just don’t lie about it –  you will get found out and there is no coming back from that.

4 – Commitment and consistency (It’s hard to change once you’ve started)

Do you only buy Heinz ketchup or German cars? Many of us often stick to a particular brand of something because we are consistent and loyal to a quality product or service.  It becomes part of our self-image, and people like to be consistent with their identity or sense of self. In other words, if you’re a person who thinks of themselves as a ‘healthy’ person, then you’re more likely to undertake actions that you consider to be ‘healthy’.

In sales, it is imperative to show these qualities.  Don’t promise what you cannot deliver, and make sure you get your prospect to commit, preferably in writing to the next stage in your process.  It is easy to back out of a verbal agreement.  A hand shake makes it personal, a signature makes it legal.

However, don’t be scared of building up to it.  As it’s all about shifting their behaviour in a small way to start with, so that you can open a gateway, a foot in the door if you like, to encourage them to take the next step.  Once they have taken a few steps, then they will have to justify to themselves why they are backing out.

5 – Liking & unity (We like people who are like us)

‘Flattery will get you everywhere.’ Yes, it may seem like stating the obvious, but people are much more likely to be influenced and persuaded by those that they like, than those that they don’t. And as humans we like people who we have something in common with, who are positive and cooperative towards us, and who pay us compliments and make us feel good about ourselves.

We see this principle played out often in the world of marketing and advertising. Nearly every advertisement you see will feature individuals designed to appeal to the product’s target market. The more the consumer associates with and likes that person, the more likely they are to be influenced by them. This is why sports people are used to promote athletic wear or equipment, and supermodels are used to advertise cosmetics and perfumes. I mean, you wouldn’t buy a hair product from someone who is bald, right?

6 – Consensus (We look to others for social proof)

As naturally social beings we like to feel a sense of belonging. We will be influenced by and conform to ideas from the social groups we feel a part of. This means that when it comes to decision making, we often look around us to see what others are doing, before making our mind up.

A great example of this is used in many product advertisements. Examples are, 88% of people would recommend or buy our product again, or 8 out of 10 people say they would use our service again. Buying online relies heavily on social proof, because liking and trust are lower.  In the old days, you went to a shop you liked the look of or bought from the people you trusted.  Now you go online and buy from sites that other people buy from or into a restaurant that has high ratings. To this end, you have to collect reviews and show off how other people are benefiting from your product or service, with case studies and PR

By using these principles in your marketing strategies, you will have a greater impact on the buying decisions of your target audience. Try some of these out today, and get influencing and persuading your prospects to buy, and buy again!

If you need any further help putting together an effective marketing plan or finding the strategies that work best for your business, then why not come along to one of our quarterly Marketing Mastery workshops? See our events page for the next date  HERE