You have an important message.
The person it’s for should really hear it.
No. It’s more than that. Your audience shouldn’t just listen to you – they need to listen to you. After all, your business can offer them something that will improve their lives.
You’re sure that they would be interested in what you have to say.
If only they would listen.
Getting people to pay attention to your marketing and messaging is one of the major challenges of running a small business. Getting people to turn into customers based on that messaging is even harder.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your messages more interesting.
Psychologists have spent a lot of time and research dollars studying why people do things. A lot of that research feels pretty academic – and you probably don’t care all that much about their statistical analysis or experimental design.
But their results? Their results can help.
Any one of these techniques, applied to your marketing, could explode your business.
When you read famous case studies – like the Wistia emails that got 350% more paid conversions or the Crazy Egg home page that boosted conversions by 360% – these are the techniques being used.
Where can you use them? In your emails. On social media. For your website. On your landing pages.
Any time you talk to your audience—especially any time you drive them to a call to action—you have an opportunity to be more persuasive.
Here are twenty-three persuasion techniques that come from social psychology, and suggestions on how to use them to increase conversions.
- “Even if” technique
- Reasoning by analogy
- The curiosity gap
- Foot-in-the-door technique
- Door-in-the-face technique
- Commitment & Consistency
- Social proof
- Loss aversion
- Future pacing
- The Zeigarnik effect
- High-activation emotions
- “Purple Cows”
- The word “you”
- Anchoring and adjustment
- Belief matching
1. “Even If” technique
Everyone believes that they are special. Everyone believes that they are above average.
This idea is so well supported in psychology that it has half a dozen names. Illusory superiority, the above-average effect, the superiority bias, the leniency error, and the primus interpares effect all describe the same thing – most people think they are better than most people.
The fictional town of “Lake Wobegon” was created to talk about this effect. It’s a magical place where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”
Most famously, people overestimate their driving ability. In one study, 93% of people in the United States rated themselves as above average drivers – a group that can only be 50% of drivers by definition.
What does that have to do with persuasion?
If people think they are special and above average, why should they think your products will work for them?
“It sounds good, but it wouldn’t work for me” is a super common reason that people don’t buy. The “even if” technique fixes that.
How do you use it? It’s incredibly simple. Here’s the formula:
The [Product category] that [Value proposition of your product]…even if [common reason that people object].
A simple formula to be more persuasive
The exercise program that helps you lose weight…even if you don’t have hours to spend at the gym.
The marketing automation platform that grows your business…even if you don’t know how to code.
The leadership coaching that skyrockets your career…even if you’re afraid of public speaking.
And so on.
The specific examples aren’t important – you can use this technique even if (see what I did there?) you’re in a boring industry or sell commodity products.
What’s important is that you start addressing a person’s objections before they even have a chance to think them. Your prospect feels like you can read their mind – and that your product can actually solve their problems.
Imagine you’re waiting in line at the Xerox machine, getting ready to make some copies. I walk up to you and ask: “Can I cut in front of you?”
What would you do?
Depending on your mood, you might have some choice words to send my way. You might politely decline. You might let me go ahead just because of how taken aback you are by the weird request.
Now imagine that I instead said this: “Can I cut in front of you because I’m in a rush?”
I’m moving too fast to make copies
Maybe your copies aren’t as urgent, or you just feel like being nice. You might not always let me cut in front, but this is better than my first (quite rude) question.
But hold on! We’re not done yet.
What if I said “can I cut in front of you because I need to make some copies?”
What would you do then?
I’ll let you think about it – but researchers have studied this question as well.
94% of those waiting in line let the person in a rush cut in front of them.
Shockingly, 93% let people cut them “because they needed to make some copies.”
“Because I need to make some copies” is a meaningless statement – that’s the only reason anyone ever needs to use a copy machine!
The reason for the huge jump in cutting (only 60% let themselves be cut in the first condition) is the word “because.”
The word “because” is powerful. It gives people a reason to believe what you say. Use it in your messaging to make your communication more persuasive.
Imagine you walk into a job interview and discover that you grew up in the same town as your interviewer.
Now imagine that it isn’t the same town, but still the same county.
Now it’s not the same county, but still the same state.
Now it’s a different state, but you went to the same college.
Now it isn’t the same college, but you had the same major.
Now you have different majors, but you see a hat for your favorite baseball team on their desk.
Clearly we’re getting to the point where you have less and less in common with your interviewer. But anything you can do that puts you and your interviewer in the same category – so that you are the “Us” instead of a “Them” – will help you get the job.
This persuasion technique, called “Unity” by legendary psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book Pre-Suasion, is conceptually simple – we trust people who have a shared identity.
Even if that identity is that we’re both Packers fans.
Pre-Suasion, via Amazon
Anything you can do to emphasize your connection to your audience – are you a local business? Do you support local teams? Does your founder come from a similar background? – will help your message resonate.
In three days, you’re going to make out with a celebrity of your choice.
Or you can do it right now. Which do you pick?
Believe it or not, there’s actually research about this.
In his landmark paper “Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption,” behavioral economist George Loewenstein asked people how much they would be willing to pay to kiss a celebrity of their choice.
Surprisingly, people were willing to pay the most money to kiss a celebrity in three days – even though “right now” was also an option.
The reason, since supported in a variety of other, less absurd studies, is anticipation. The excitement leading up to something is as important – and in some cases more important – than the thing itself.
How can you use this in your marketing?
Build excitement for your announcements. Say that something big is coming and what it will help people do – but don’t tell them what it is. Have a ramp-up time before big events.
Build excitement. Use anticipation.
5. Reasoning by analogy
“This nutrition plan changes the reuptake of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, ultimately impacting the regulation of appetite.”
“This diet flips a switch in your brain and makes it easier to eat healthy.”
Which is a better description?
Scientifically (if such a diet exists) it’s probably the first. But persuasively it’s the second.
“Flipping a switch” sounds easy, so it’s persuasive
When you describe your offer to your audience, it’s important to do it in terms they understand. But more than that – if you can connect your idea to a concrete metaphor or image, your idea becomes more persuasive.
Copywriter Robert Collier makes this point well in The Robert Collier Letter Book:
“The mind thinks in pictures, you know.
One good illustration is worth a thousand words. But one clear picture built up in the r