08 January 2020 - Dave Jackson

How to be Persuasive: The 6 Principles of Influence

The art of effective persuasion in humans is a fairly rare quality. Those who possess it often have a natural balance of charisma, charm and authority. This generation has been brought up to question everything so effective persuasion is getting more and more challenging with time.

Fortunately innate powers of persuasion are not required for effective marketing or UX design, just a little bit of psychology. Persuasive design uses communication and design methods to influence human behaviour and increase motivation. When combined with good usability this can maximise potential conversions in a very powerful way.

All the way back in 1984 when Tina Turner was asking us ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ and Freddy Kruger was freaking us all out in the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie, Dr Robert Cialdini wrote a booked called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This is widely hailed as seminal book on conversion optimisation in marketing. In the book, Cialdini outlined the 6 Principles of Influence that are more relevant today than they were 36 years ago. Let’s run through them briefly.

1. Liking

Most of the time we like people who like us — we react positively to genuine praise, rapport and common ground. A good brand that is honest, respectful, seeks empathy and is well presented will form relationships with its customers and have more perceived credibility.

2. Scarcity

We all understand FOMO or fear of missing out, this can be a powerful motivator. Research has found that loss language is far more effective than highlighting potential gains. This could be in the form of a time limited offer or limited product availability.

Limited time online offer creating scarcity

3. Reciprocity

This one is the simple principle of giving what you want to receive. There are many ways to have reciprocity work for you. Small acts of kindness will be remembered, be it treating others with respect, going the extra mile and doing a good deed can all win you points with other individuals.

As an organisation you could enhance the customer experience by giving customers a discount, gift, free shipping, being environmentally aware or not having limiting return policies.

Reciprocity is demonstrated for those who are environmentally aware.

4. Social Proof / Consensus

We are usually open to things that have been tried and tested by those we trust — friends, family, media or the influencers that we respect. One of the most powerful persuasive techniques online comes in the form of social influence…because it works.

Independent reviews provide social proof.

5. Consistency

Customer loyalty is hugely important, if a customer has made a commitment to consistently do something with you there is a good chance they will stick to it as they will need to make a counter decision to stop doing it. Look at a service like Spotify, users signup and in a lot of cases unless they have a very good reason and make the effort they are unlikely to cancel the contract.

6. Authority

When it comes to convincing someone about something it’s important to establish yourself as an expert or reference someone who is when making a statement. You can see this in a lot of online marketing with headlines that include phrases like “research shows”, “experts say”, or “scientifically proven”.

After all, these 6 principles have been developed by Dr Robert Cialdini, the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University!

Let’s not forget about ethics, Cialdini is clear that these principles should come from a place of good, with influence being authentic, genuine, and leading others to making positive decisions, not only for themselves, but for everyone else. Use these principles the right way and reap the rewards.