6 persuasion triggers – how to turbo charge your marketing

First published in 1984, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion belongs on the bookshelf for serious marketers.

Employ these principles wisely and turbo charge your marketing results.


  1. Reciprocity – the obligation one feels in returning a favour in the form of a gift, behaviour or service that the person receives first. People are more likely to say ‘yes’ to the people that they owe.
  2. Scarcity - when you believe something is in short supply, you want it more. A perception of scarcity creates demand. This desire increases as you anticipate the regret you might have if you miss out by not acting fast enough.
  3. Commitment and consistency – people like to be consistent with things they have said previously or done.
  4. Liking – people prefer to say yes to those that they like. The three drivers that cause people to like us include people who are similar to us, people who pay us compliments and people who co-operate with us towards meeting goals. 
  5. Authority – people will follow the lead from someone who is an authority figure or expert.
  6. Social proof – especially applicable to those who are uncertain, people will look to the actions of others to determine their own decision.



This principle explains why free sampling is commonly used in retail. In the restaurant industry, providing a free gift at bill time such as a complimentary drink or free mint has been linked to positively increasing a customer’s tip.

The ‘puppy dog close’ demonstrates reciprocity by letting customers take your product home on a trial basis to clinch the sale.

A customer is in the pet store with a child who is begging for a puppy. Not at all sure this is such a great idea, or perhaps not sure if this particular puppy is the right fit, the customer will not commit to the purchase. The savvy salesperson offers to let them take the puppy home for a few days, assuring the parent that the puppy can be returned, no questions asked, and a refund cheerfully given if they decide they don't wish to keep it.

How could you say no to such a reasonable offer, especially with your child right there with those expectant eyes?

Of course, the child falls in love with the new pet, and there's no way the parent can return the dog to the store. Sold: one puppy. It's that simple.

The puppy dog close is also popularly used by car dealers. Borrow the car for the weekend, no obligation and return it on Monday.


To effectively use scarcity in marketing, consider moving two variables. The first, make the offer of your product or service time bound, with a deadline. For example, a special ticket price to a conference expires in 24 hours. The second way to employ scarcity is through the quantity of the product or service being sold. Consider making the offer limited to the first number of 50 customers, or only selling 50 units of the product.

Scarcity creates tension and drives urgency. These two ingredients motivate action.

TV shopping channels are masterful in scarcity marketing. For example, their pitch to “buy now and receive this FREE gift” or “offer only available in the next 30 minutes” prompts customers to act quickly.


Before you get down to business, ensure you’ve established areas of similarity or shared experiences, and deliver genuine interest and compliments.

An example of buying from people you like is illustrated at Tupperware parties. Here an unsuspecting customer already has a shared interest and likeability because they’re connected to someone in the group. They see their friends buying Tupperware (social proof), are offered a free gift at the beginning of the party (reciprocity) and feel compelled to buy because they like to buy from people that they like.


If you can associate an expert or authoritative figure with your product or service, the credibility has increased in the eyes of your customer. Consider how toothpaste brands have used a man in a white coat to substantiate their claims.

Social proof

If you can point to what other customers are doing, this persuasion principle can trigger customers to do the same. Consider the perception that is created around a restaurant that has a queue out the door. This communicates that lots of people enjoy the restaurant, it’s always busy and therefore must be good. A salesperson in the perfume section at a department store will often say a particular brand is “our most popular and no.1 seller” – insinuating that popular equals a wise purchase.

Websites such as TripAdvisor, Airbnb and TrueLocal communicate social proof through the reviews of customers just like ourselves.


The six principles of persuasion outlined in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion are powerfully relevant in today’s marketplace, as evidenced by the selling techniques employed by online businesses like eBay, Scoopon and Expedia.

In this product example by eBay, check out the perfect storm of persuasion principles:Apply the science of persuasion and you're stacking the odds in your favour. 

If content is King, then conversion is Queen. And she rules the roost.

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