During a networking meeting the other day, I was chatting with a recent graduate about marketing influence weapons.
Before starting her first role as a social media marketing manager for a local business, she studied psychology at university.
There is considerable crossover between psychology and marketing.
One of my favourite business books is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Dr Robert B. Cialdini.
In this blog post, six ‘weapons’ of influence from this seminal book that you can use to boost your small business marketing success.
1 – Likeability
It’s easier to say yes to someone if you like them.
The science of influence and persuasion suggests there are three elements to liking someone.
We tend to like people who are similar to us.
We also like those who pay us compliments.
Finally, we like people who cooperate with us and help us make progress towards common goals.
To put this weapon of influence to work in your marketing, you could identify areas of shared interests with your customers.
Make sure you give them (genuine) compliments, and then get down to business, working together towards achieving a common goal.
2 – Reciprocity
Human nature is a funny thing. As a result of social obligation, we are more likely to do something for someone who has already done something for us.
The best example of this is when your waiter or waitress gives you a mint with your bill.
A study found that leaving a single mint with the bill increased the value of tips by an average of 3%. Not bad for a small investment.
However, leaving the customer with two mints resulted in a 14% tip uplift.
Better still, if the waiter left one mint, starts to walk away but then comes back and says, “For you nice people, here’s an extra mint,” his tips increased by 23%!
What can you give your prospective customers for free, in a way that makes them feel special, so they feel socially obligated to do something for you?
3 – Scarcity
Another driver of human nature is wanting something more if it is scarce or even completely unavailable.
By limiting the availability of your service or special offer, you make it more appealing to the prospective customer.
So rather than offering a first meeting (at your expense and without obligation), why not publicise that you provide five initial consultations each quarter?
And when they are gone, they are gone!
4 – Authority
Credible experts influence us more than less trustworthy advisers.
You can boost your authority by demonstrating your professional credentials.
If you’re a member of a professional body, trade association or guild, make sure that you mention it in your website profile and on social media. Use accreditation logos where appropriate.
This weapon of influence doesn’t stop at qualifications and memberships, though.
Another way to demonstrate authority is to show your prospective customer that you deeply understand the issues they face and know how to solve them.
Content marketing plays a significant role here. By writing about pain points in blogs (or talking about them on podcasts or videos), you demonstrate your authority to deal effectively with the subject matter.
We like PR to demonstrate authority, too; getting your name in the national or trade press as a subject matter expert is a very effective way to boost your perceived authority.
5 – Consistency
This weapon of influence takes time to build, but it’s well worth the effort.
It’s also linked to commitment, gaining a series of small but increasingly growing commitments before building up to the big one.
The lesson here for small business owners is to stick to consistent messages delivered regularly over a long period.
Don’t expect to get significant results on day one or even month one of your content marketing campaign. Great things take time.
When seeking commitment from a prospective customer, start small and build it up.
In building sales funnels for small businesses, a small commitment might be to sign up for a free email newsletter. This newsletter, delivered weekly, demonstrates consistency over time.
A slightly more significant commitment is to attend a free 45-minute webinar, addressing a particular concern of the prospective customer (remember the ‘authority’ weapon of influence above?).
At the end of that webinar, offer a limited number (remember scarcity!) of initial appointments.
6 – Social proof
If a prospective customer isn’t sure about a particular course of action, they will likely look to the experiences of others before making a decision.
This social proof is a potent weapon of influence for small businesses.
In practical terms, it means gathering and sharing testimonials.
If people similar to the prospective customer (remember likeability!) have already experienced your service and liked it, it increases your chances of engagement with the potential customer.
Put a name and photo to every testimonial; we’re naturally suspicious of testimonials from Mr R in Surrey, who could be a fictional character instead of a genuine customer.
You can take social proof to the next level by producing short video testimonials with real-life customers, talking about their experience working with you and how your service made a positive difference in their lives.
Other forms of social proof for small businesses include press mentions, winning industry or local awards, and client satisfaction survey results. It’s not all about testimonials.
These are six potent weapons of influence and persuasion to consider in your marketing.
How many of these are you using in each of your marketing strategies? How could you boost your marketing success by adding some or all of them to your next campaign?