The Science of Persuasion for Marketers

­Having people return to your business will greatly increase the revenue for your business. Furthermore, to get someone to make a second purchase is far more easier than the first purchase. However, you do need to spark purchasing intent through the science of persuasion.

The science of persuasion is tapping into a persons psyche to increase their desire to make an action. It is a direct link to customer behaviour and in business we can use this to increase purchasing intent.

In this article, I focus on another element of psychology which is about encouraging impulsive behaviour.

1. What Is The Science Of Behaviour?

The science of persuasion is phenomena we experience in the world where influence comes from.

The science of persuasion has been boiled down to SIX techniques that businesses can use to leverage their business towards growth.

The 6 techniques are reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking  and consensus.

Just by knowing these is the beginning.

A marketing manager will encourage these 6 techniques into the marketing strategy.

Whereby, you will expose a customer to each one of these through funnelling the customer journey.

2. Why Is The Science Of Behaviour Important?

In general, people will like to think that before they make a decision they consider all the available information.

However, because we live such busy lives this is not always the case and more often than not there are 6 means of influence and guide human behaviour.

By understanding, these SIX means of influence will significantly increase your marketing success.

3. Reciprocity

People are obligated to give back to others the form of gift, behaviour, and service that they first received.

It can be as simple as if a stranger asks how you are, you feel obligated to return the question.

Alternatively, if a friend asks you to a party will be obligated to ask them to a future party as well.

If a colleague does you a favour at work, you will feel obliged to return a favour as you feel you owe that person.

In the whole context of things, people are more likely to say yes to those people they owe.

Supermarkets use this technique all the time with their free samples.

This is proven to increase sales by 45% once free samples are given.

But, one of the most significant demonstrations of reciprocation can be seen from a series of studies that were conducted in restaurants.

In the study, a show that tips was increased by 3% if the waiter left a gift with the bill (most likely mints).

Interestingly, if two mints were left then tips quadruple to 14% increase. Most interestingly, if the waiter leaves one mint, and returns to the table saying, “For you nice people, I’ll leave you an extra mint” and leaves them with two mints.

Then tips increase to 23%. Demonstrating that the influence was not by what was given, but how it was given.

3.1 How do we apply reciprocity to our strategy?

So, in your marketing strategy, it will always be effective to offer something free as a front end product. However, you need to deliver the front end product in such a way that makes people obligated to purchase your back end product.

The front product can be something small like a mint. On the other hand, even free information that is helpful to the customer.

We do not aim to make a profit of the front-end product.

But, we do aim for it to lead customers to our back-end product. The back-end product is our main product that makes the business sustainable.

Overall, the key to reciprocation is the first to give and have it personalised and unexpected. If this is done it the right way then by theory your customers will be obligated to purchase your back-end product.

4. Scarcity

We experience every day that people want more of those things can have less of.

A good example of this phenomenon can be seen from British Airways.

In 2003, they announced they would no longer be running London to New York flight that runs twice a day as it had become uneconomical running twice daily.

After these announcements of only running the twice-daily flight to once a day, the sales the next day sharply increased.

There were no changes to the airfare price, the service had not changed and nothing had changed about the Concord its self, it did not fly any faster or perform any differently.

It had just become a scarce resource.

As a result, people wanted it more.

The science is clear. It is not enough to tell people about the benefits they will gain from choosing your service (the unique value proposition) but also what they plan to lose.

4.1 How do we apply scarcity to our strategy?

This is a very easy thing to apply to any business.

It is as simple as making premium product and announcing that there is limited stock.

5. Authority

This is the idea that people follow credible and knowledgeable experts.

Studies show that physiotherapists are able to influence more of their patents to recommended fitness programs when they display their medical degree on the walls of their consulting rooms.

People are more compliant to give their spare change to a parking meter is they are wearing a uniform.

The science demonstrates that you need to demonstrate you are a credible source before you make your influence attempt.

However, it is not recommended you tell your prospects how brilliant you are because this type of authority is meaningless.

This is because it is not a credible source coming from you.

The science also shows that a credible source can include anyone else that introduces you, even if they are connected and could prosper from the introduction themselves.

5.1 How To Apply Authority To Your Business Strategy

A group of real estate agent was able to increase the number of contracts they wrote and property appraisals by having reception staff that took customer inquiries to first mention their colleague’s credentials and expertise before delegating the phone call.

A typical example would look like “Lettings? If you want to know about your letting I can put you through to Rachael, she has over 20 years’ experience letting properties in this area”.

The expert introduction technique led to a 20% increase in a number of appointments and a 15% increase in signed contracts.

Another method business use on a typical basis is getting testimonials or feedback if online and word-of-mouth, which is arguably the most powerful growth strategy any business can implement.

6. Consistency

People have a tendency to want to appear consistent in front of other people.

People are obliged to be consistent with things they have previously said or done.

By this I mean people like to keep their word.

6.1 How Do We Apply Consistency To Business?

Marketers can use this in an active way of persuading others if they get them to agree to something beforehand.

It is activated by small commitments that can be made prior to a much bigger commitment. For example;

A research study shows that people would be unwilling to put up an unsightly wooden board on their garden that supports a drive safe campaign. However, in a neighbourhood close by a 400% increase in houses were willing to put up this same sign.

Why was this?

Well, a few weeks before this neighbourhood agreed to post a small card on their living room window that signalled support for the same campaign. This card was the initial commitments to a much bigger objective.

Therefore, to assure your influence is effective. You need to get a small commitment either voluntary active and public commitments in writing.

Another study demonstrates that reduced missed appointments in health centres by 18% because patients that were asked to write down their appointment details on the future appointment card rather than the staff.

7. Liking

Persuasion science justifies three important factors too liking people.

We like people that are:

  1. Similar to us
  2. Give us compliments
  3. People who cooperate with us towards mutual goals

In a study conducted on MBA students, they were on a task to negotiate with clients.

On this task the MBA students were told – Time is money. Get straight down to business.

This group of people came to a 55% agreement within their negotiations.

7.1 How To Apply Liking To Your Business Strategy?

During the same study, a second group was told to share personal information before the negotiations took place. This group was able to come towards a 90% agreement.

To harness this powerful principle of liking make sure to look for areas of similarity and any forms of compliments you can give before you get down to business.

8. Consensus

When people are uncertain it is a common fact people look towards the actions and behaviours of others to determine their own actions and behaviours.

It is known for hotels to pin up notes in a bathroom that state for towels to be reused.

A recent study compared two approaches when it comes to influencing this type of behaviour.

The first study examined the environmental benefits for towel reuse.

This resulted in 35% compliance.

However, can you guess what happens when taking advantage of the consensus principle?

In the same study, when the message read, “75% of our guests reuse their towels – please do so as well.”

This had a 26% rise in the number of people that reuse their towels.

In addition, the same study also outlines re-framing the statement can also have a drastic effect. When the message was read, “75% of people that stayed in this room reuse their towel.”

Resulted in a 33% rise in towel reuse.

8.1 How To Apply Consensus To Your Marketing?

The learning here is that rather trying to single-highhandedly persuade others.

You can just point to what other people are already doing.

In terms of marketing, this justifies the reasoning behind having testimonials in your product pitch or even displaying your product and brand along groups of people.

This is actually a technique politicians use all the time to gain influence over their followers.


We have learned six proven methods to influence our audience. As marketers, we need to think creatively about how to use these techniques in our customer journey.

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