Getting your prospects to take action using Cialdini’s 7 principles of persuasion

As a digital marketer, a lot of my focus centres on persuading audiences to take specific actions when they arrive at an online platform. Many of our techniques focusing on being more persuasive come from past experiences and observations that we make in the world around us. The great news is that there is a more focused and structured approach to being persuasive on purpose which I’ve recently learned about in my digital psychology course through CXL Institute. It’s an area that all marketers can benefit from tremendously referred to as Cialdini’s seven principles of persuasion.


These include the following:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment/Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Authority
  5. Liking
  6. Scarcity
  7. Unity


Reciprocity is a bit like the quid pro quo principle and encourages us to provide people with free tools or services which they can benefit from in exchange for them returning the favour by engaging with your product or service and potentially purchasing from you. This principle focuses on adding value so that the next time a customer thinks about your brand, they are more inclined to purchase from you because you gave them something valuable and free of charge. This principle believes in giving something so that you can get something in return. In my experience, creating valuable e-book material, checklists, whitepapers, explainer videos or the very popular tool right now of running insightful industry webinars free of charge are ways to put this principle into practice.  


The second principle focuses on commitment, asking people to be aligned and consistent with their beliefs and values. An example of this can be a process which you started because you believed that getting to a specific result or answer would aid you in your quest and you’ve committed to completing it because you believe in the cause or the result that it will bring to you. An example that comes to mind is a form which is broken into different parts and promises an end-result after you complete it. I personally have not used this principle very often but have seen other brands use it, especially dating services or immigration services where long forms need to be completed. 


The third principle is one that I can personally relate to the most and that is social proof – feeling validated based on what others are doing. As a marketer, I try and ensure there is social proof by having testimonials on our client sites or positive reviews on their social media pages so that new potential prospects can feel validated. Social proof can also include certifications, awards and endorsements provided by experts. I have found this principle of persuasion to be the most effective for my own clients and my own marketing as a form of providing credibility and trust. 


The fourth principle of persuasion is authority. This can be found in thought leadership articles or endorsements by leading figures or celebrities. An authority can also be likened to an influencer on Instagram with a large following. This type of persuasion technique often requires a bit budget (think TV commercials with celebrities promoting hair products, perfume or make-up) but it does provide a ton of credibility to your product or service. In the world of advertising, I think this is also one of the most effective techniques as it addresses the basic human need to aspire and reach a certain status. 


The fifth principle is focused on liking – sharing something similar with another person and because of that, encouraging their liking of you. An opportunity to demonstrate information about your hobbies, family or lifestyle opens ways to connect with others and potentially find commonalities with them. This then attracts people to you because they find you to be more relatable which in turn makes them like you more. The more someone likes you, the more they will be persuaded by you. For me, an obvious example is a comedian like Trevor Noah who has an incredible sense of humour and a large following. I bet if Trevor Noah started endorsing and advertising products, he would make loads of sales just because he’s generally a very likeable public figure. 


The sixth principle focuses on scarcity which is really all about demand and supply – the basics of economics. In my experience, I have seen this principle used widely with ecommerce businesses. An offer is made with a given time limit for purchase. The One Day Only website is an immediate example that jumps to mind where huge discounts on product are available only for a single day. I have also seen the scarcity principle used very effectively with accommodation booking sites like booking.com where a particular guest house or hotel that you’ve come across only has one or two rooms left for the specific dates which you’ve selected creating a sense of urgency in booking it right in that moment or risking experiencing regret about not making the booking in the future or for fear of not finding something as nice. 


The seventh principle is remarkably similar to the fifth focusing on liking but is definitely more specific and carries more weight. Referred to as the principle of unity, it begs the question of: What do you have in common with your potential customer? You might be attending a networking event and upon meeting someone new and chatting to them, you realise you lived in the same suburb or perhaps attended the same school in the past. Immediately this creates an instant connection. This principle empowers one to move beyond surface level similarities and instead bond around something that played a huge role in building your identity. Another way to quickly create this is to connect around something that is very core to your identity, perhaps your religious beliefs or having a strong motivation towards the green economy and sustainability. These types of subjects can create an instant unity between people. 


I think all the seven principles discussed carry merit and have their place in marketing based on the type of product or service being advertised. As marketers, we also must work with what is at our disposal and what would make the most sense from assets the client has collected over time. 

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