17 Principles of Persuasion, Direct Marketing Style

So you’ve created your campaign and attended to all the details of identifying your audience, created your offer, and toiled for hours and hours, honing copywriting and design. But in the end, the tipping point for your success likely stems from the degree to which you emotionally persuade an individual to take action.

So you’ve created your campaign and attended to all the details of identifying your audience, created your offer, and toiled for hours and hours, honing copywriting and design. But in the end, the tipping point for your success likely stems from the degree to which you emotionally persuade an individual to take action.

Persuasion builds. It doesn’t just pop up and present itself. By the time you’ve engaged your audience and you’re moving toward the close, you should already have stimulated and calmed emotions, presented your USP, told a story, and walked your prospective customer or donor through logical reasons to purchase.

But to seal the deal, you need to return to emotion, and you need to persuade. So today I offer 17 principles of persuasion, direct marketing style.

Persuasion is an art, really, that builds over time. It’s earning trust and leading your prospect to a place where they give themselves permission to act. That permission comes from the individual recognizing that acting is in their interest and that they will feel good about their decision. You want them to say “this is good, this is smart, I’m going to do this!”

A place to start this list of persuasion points is with the six principles from the landmark book, Influence: How and Why People Agree to Things, by Robert Cialdini:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Expanding on Cialdini’s concepts with additional principles for direct marketers, I offer this checklist for direct marketing persuasion:

  1. Trust and Credibility: Persuasion isn’t coercion or manipulation. Trust is earned. Credibility is built. Without these two foundational elements, most else won’t matter. Begin persuading by building trust and credibility first.
  2. Authority: People respect authority figures. The power of authority commands respect and burrows deep into the mind. Establish your organization, a spokesperson, or an everyday person, relatable to your customer, as having authority.
  3. Express Interest: Your prospects are attracted to organizations that have an interest in them. Use this starter list of the six F’s as central topics to build around so you can persuade by expressing interest: Family, Fun, Food, Fitness, Fashion, or Fido/Felines.
  4. Build Desire for Gain: A major motivation that persuades your prospects and customers is the desire for gain. Give your prospect more of the things they value in life, such as more money, success, health, respect, influence, love and happiness.
  5. Simplify and Clarify: Communicate clearly. Obsess over simplifying the complex. Write to the appropriate grade level of your reader. Your prospects are more easily persuaded when you simplify and clarify.
  6. Expose Deep Truths: Go deeper with your persuasive message by telling your prospects things about themselves that others aren’t saying. Don’t be judgmental. Be respectful.
  7. Commitment and Consistency: When your prospect commits to your idea, they will honor that commitment because the idea was compatible with their self-image. Compatibility opens the door to persuasion.
  8. Social Proof: Even though the first edition of Cialdini’s book was written in 1984, a generation before the explosion of social media, he recognized the power of people behaving with a “safety in numbers” attitude from seeing what other people were doing. Testimonials and an active and positive presence on social media are often a must that leads in trust and persuasion.
  9. Liking: The term “liking” in 1984 was developed in the context of people being persuaded by those they like. People are persuaded and more apt to buy if they like the individual or organization. Still, it’s affirming to be “liked” on social media!
  10. Confidence is Contagious: When you convey your unwavering belief in what your product or organization can do for your prospect, that attitude persuades and will come through loud and clear.
  11. Reciprocity: It is human nature for us to return a favor and treat others as they treat us. Gestures of giving something away as part of your offer can set you up so that your prospects are persuaded and happy to give you something in return: their business.
  12. Infuse Energy: People are drawn toward and persuaded by being invigorated and motivated. Infuse energy in your message.
  13. Remind About Fear of Loss: No matter how much a person already possesses, most want more. People naturally possess the fear of missing out (FOMO). When you include them, they are more easily persuaded.
  14. Guarantee: Your guarantee should transcend more than the usual “satisfaction or your money back.” Your guarantee can persuade through breaking down sales resistance and solidify a relationship.
  15. Scarcity: Human nature desires to possess things that are scarce when we fear losing out on an offer presented with favorable terms. But make sure you honor the any positioning of scarcity in your message. If it’s an offer not to be repeated, don’t repeat it.
  16. Convey Urgency: With scarcity comes urgency. Offering your product or making a special bonus available for a “limited time” with a specific deadline can be a final tipping point to persuade.
  17. Tenacity and Timing: Just because a prospect said “no” the first, second or more times, it doesn’t mean you should give up on someone who is in your audience. It can take multiple points of contact, from multiple channels, before you persuade your prospect to give themselves permission to act.

What would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below.

I Am the Judge of You

Pointing the finger has never been so easy … and so anonymous. I suppose it’s human nature to feel (and act on) the need to take pot shots at others—whether it’s their point of view, their creations or their behavior. But to be able to do so without the fear of repercussion seems to be a growing trend. And as the owner of a product or service, it’s never been more infuriating

Pointing the finger has never been so easy … and so anonymous.

I suppose it’s human nature to feel (and act on) the need to take pot shots at others—whether it’s their point of view, their creations or their behavior. But to be able to do so without the fear of repercussion seems to be a growing trend. And as the owner of a product or service, it’s never been more infuriating.

Many small business owners complain about the power of Yelp, and understandably so. But the concept is actually brilliant. Interact with a business and, whether your experience was good or bad, you have a very large forum where you can share the love (or not). The fatal flaw is that you can do so without the business owner having the ability to correct the situation because, inevitably, pot shots are done from behind the shield of anonymity.

My Dad always used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I believe in the concept of healthy debate, so I don’t necessarily agree with my Dad, but to have a healthy debate, you need to know the enemy.

Many sites (like this one) require you to log in before you can post a comment. However you can log in with your gmail or yahoo account … and if your user name is not your actual name, it’s easy to start the attack without your boss, co-workers, spouse or clients judging you for your aggressive behavior and unsportsmanlike conduct.

The behavior is not limited to consumer sites like Yelp. On business-to-business sites like this one, there are lots of negative posts from unknown readers, and I wonder, what do they hope to accomplish??

I was recently planning a trip to Mexico and visited several travel sites trying to get the inside scoop on hotels and restaurants. While I was delighted with the many insights like “try to stay on the 4th floor or higher because the thumping beat from the dance floor will keep you awake until midnight,” I was also stunned by the spewing rants from individuals who have logged in with names like “CrabbyinNJ.”

How do we, as brand ambassadors, overcome these customer feedback challenges?

First, and foremost, train AND empower those who are on the front lines of customer engagement to act like the customer—is—always—right. Granted, you can never please all the people all of the time, but sometimes a lot of customer sympathy and a few “my apologies!” can go a long way to diffuse a situation. There is nothing more infuriating than having an issue and the person serving you is either indifferent or plainly unequipped to help solve your problem.

Second, don’t just send blanket “How did we do?” emails to every customer after an interaction. If the customer has had an issue, there should be a place to flag that issue in your customer database, so it can be quickly followed up on by someone who is in authority. Many situations can be rectified before the individual decides to go into a public forum to publicly skewer you and your business.

Third, listen to complaints and actually try to think about ways you may be able to change your policies or procedures in order to ensure the issue doesn’t repeat itself.

Finally, circle back to those customers who had an issue, got it resolved satisfactorily, and ask them if they’d be willing to write about the incident. I hear many business owners say they’re worried that if the customer “advertises” they got something for free or at a deeper discount as a way to try and resolve the issue, it will set the stage for a future customers demanding the same thing. My response is that if, as a rule of business, you treat people the way they want to be treated in the first place—with respect, concern and understanding—you shouldn’t have a problem.

As for those who slap others from behind the shield of anonymity (and you know who you are), man up.