You’ve built your product and now you’re ready to sell (more of) it to the world. But how? How do you get people excited about buying what you’re selling? One of the most effective ways I found is by using Cialdini’s principles of influence. In this post I’ll cover the principles, one for one.
The relevance of the principles
Before diving right into the principles, let’s look at why they are invaluable.
You don’t have to be a genius to use these techniques, but you will need to be willing to put in some time. If you’re looking for something that can grow your business in the short term, this isn’t it. However, if you’re interested in building trust and establishing yourself as an authority on your topic of choice—and then building your business around that—then these principles are for you.
If you can apply these principles in your business, they can help your business grow, attract more customers and referrals, and improve your networking skills. By using the principles, you’re giving other people a reason to say yes instead of procrastinating their decision (to buy or work together).
There is one thing though that the principles won’t do. They won’t make other people do things they don’t want to do. If someone doesn’t like what you’re offering or doesn’t feel comfortable doing it with you, then trying these methods won’t work on them anyway. So use them purposefully and wisely. How exactly? Let’s cover that after discussing the principles.
1. The principle of liking
The principle of liking is perhaps the most important principle in this list, because it’s the first step to persuasion. If you can make someone like you, they are much more likely to trust what you say and agree with you. This liking part doesn’t have to be limited to you personally. It can also include an interest in your brand vision, mission, methodology, or product and service.
So when it comes to your (potential) customers, use this principle by making sure that they like you, your business, and your product/service. This can be realized by for example building a community. This will develop a stronger relationship between you and your customers. It will develop trust. And trust is the basis for liking. There are many other ways to faciliate likeability towards you and your business. The best way I found is through genuine curiosity. Once people get the feeling that you’re truly listening to them, they will be more likely to develop trust. So if you’re developing a new product, it’s highly recommended to integrate co-creation. Meaning that you’re not only creating a product for your customers, but also with them. Their opinions are being valued and taken into account. This is a beautiful way to stimulate likeability.
Another way is to discover a common interest, characteristic, or desire. People are more likely to bond with those who are a bit like themselves. This again develops trust because it’s known to them. If your business is dependent on having intakes with prospects, you could explore any similarities beforehand. Sharing those will contribute to developing a relationship.
By being liked by your customer base, they will recommend your business to others which will be a beautiful way of getting more business. And for those which are no customers yet, will be way more likely to buy your products.
It can sometimes be tricky to give expression to this principle. That’s because liking is quite subjective. For example by having a humble but professional appearance. And the subjective confirmation from your customers’s perception. Although the process of developing likeability is not scientific, the results can be measured. For this, we’ve got the famous Netto Promoter Score. This is about measuring your customers’s satisfaction and likelyhood to recommend you to other.
2. The principle of reciprocity
If someone does something for us, we feel obligated to do something in return. That’s what the principle of reciprocity is about.
This is arguably the most well-known principle. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most abused principles. It’s so common for entrepreneurs to give things away just for the sake to get something back ASAP. Nowadays, many customers can quickly spot this. For example, by being aware of the aggression in the marketing messages. Like a spammy email campaign purely aimed at converting.
For you to use this principle effectively in your business, it’s important to remember why we offer something up in the first place. Ideally, to just deliver value. If that’s your main goal, new customers will usually follow automatically. Especially when you’re applying the other principles in the right way as well!
This principle is the reason why businesses often offer free trials: giving away something for free gets people into your system and makes them more likely to stick around for the long term. It’s important to keep in mind that reciprocity doesn’t always need to be tangible. If you treat someone well and make them feel like they’re part of your community, they’ll often want to return the favour by advocating for and buying from you.
3. The principle of social proof
This is one of my favourite principles because it’s so simple and effective. People look to others as a guide for how they should behave. If you find ways to show that other people have bought or used your product, you’ll be more likely to attract new customers.
You’ve probably noticed that when you’re out shopping and see a line of people waiting to try out the newest gadget, you’re more likely to join in. Or, if it’s crowded at a bar or restaurant, you’ll be more likely to stay than if it were empty. This is called social proof—our tendency to look at what others are doing and base our actions on that. We do this because we want to fit in with our peers and be liked by them.
Examples for this would be x amount of people went before you. Or we’re helping y amount of customers already. Or 9 out of 10 customers would recommend us to their friends. You could also include a textual or video testimonial of a satisfied customer. Or sharing a use case from one of your successful customers. There are many ways to give expression to this principle. Their is no best way.
4. The principle of authority
This is based on the idea that people will follow the instructions of an authority figure. Even when it goes against their own judgment. The idea behind this principle is simple. We tend to feel obligated to follow a request made by someone we see as being in a position of power or status. But it’s not just about authority figures in positions of power. You can also use this principle to make people do things for you when you’re not in a position of power at all.
For example, if you want someone to think your product is good, tell them it was approved by another expert or by some organization (if that’s the case). This even works if they don’t know anything about that organization or expert. This approach makes your argument sound more credible and will increase their trust in your product. You could view this example as the implementation of both this authority principle as well as the previous one (social proof).
The authority may be formal (e.g., a police officer) or implied (e.g., a doctor). In either case, it’s important to remember that having this power is both a privilege and a responsibility—you’ll want to use it responsibly.
5. The principle of scarcity
In the words of Dr. Cialdini: “The more difficult it is for us to obtain something, the more we want it and will do whatever we can to get it.’
The principle of scarcity is the cornerstone of many marketing strategies. It’s the idea that, since we can only be in one place at a time, we tend to value things more if they’re scarce.
You can use this principle when you’re trying to market yourself or your business. For example, your product is only available for a limited time and in limited supply, so customers will be willing to pay more for it then they would have otherwise. You might also be able to sell items at a higher price point if they are going out of print soon (as long as this isn’t false advertising).
6. The principle of commitment and consistency
The principle of commitment and consistency describes why people want to be consistent with their actions and beliefs. This is the reason why you are more likely to buy something if you have already bought it before, even if the price has gone up since then. Or that leads are more likely to buy something from you for the first time after you’re getting them in a positive ‘yes’-flow by asking them questions.
People have a psychological need for consistency in their behaviour, so they will try to make sense of things around them by being consistent with what they have already done or what other people are doing. By being consistent as a business in some areas, you’ll build trust around your brand.
7. The principle of unity
You can use the principle of unity to get people to agree to a common goal. This is done by getting your audience members to first identify themselves as part of a group, and then having them recognize that they have something in common with each other (like a common goal).
How to use the principles in a responsible way
To use Cialdini’s principles in a responsible way, you need to be aware of the principles and their context.
The first step is being aware of what the principle is and how it works. For example, I would not recommend using the principle of reciprocity when selling something that doesn’t have value or isn’t worth what you’re asking for it (i.e., tickets to a concert).
The second step is putting yourself in the shoes of your customer before running with any suggestion from Cialdini’s book. Be sure that whatever principle you are considering using makes sense for your customers and their situation
The third step is making sure whatever action you take will be consistent with your company values or business ethics code if applicable (for example: no false advertising). If there’s something ethically questionable about what you’re doing, my advice would be to think twice before proceeding. Sometimes a customer saying “no” can actually mean “no.”
Now that you know more about the seven principles of Cialdini, you can apply them to your business. If you want to learn more about Cialdini’s work on influence and persuasion, check out his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
P.S. Do you want to know my secret for writing an article almost every day? It’s about making use of a smart tool. Go check out my favourite AI copy tool by clicking here. FYI: This is an affiliate link, meaning I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to also use it.