Influence is the ability to affect or persuade someone. Or as I like to think, influence can more effectively drive people to take action. That’s what most marketing campaigns want to do – drive action, right? Here are 9 powerful ways you can influence your audience to take action.
Note that what makes these tips so effective is that they are designed to elicit behavior that we are already predisposed to doing. You are just influencing your customer to act faster or to choose you instead of the competition. You want them to just do it. That’s where you’ll be most successful.
It is much harder, if not ineffective, if you are trying get someone to change or act different than they normally do. That’s why there is a difference between influence and persuasion.
The Science of Influence
You have to find and understand general patterns of human behavior and thought to start. Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, provides some scientific explanations to the tactics that advertisers and marketing professionals have been using for many, many years. Specifically, the human brain has three different parts and our behaviors are driven differently by each part:
- The old brain (aka the reptilian brain): The old brain is primarily concerned with survival. It controls our instinctual behavior. It is also in charge of necessary functions that we do think about to do like keeping our heart beating, movement and breathing.
- The mid brain (or the limbic system): The mid brain is responsible for emotions, memories and attention. It is where positive or negative feelings arise.
- The new brain (the neocortex): The neocortex is the logical part of the brain. It is home to our rational thoughts, analytical skills and language processing.
We are only fully conscious of our logical new brain. However, our mid brain and old brain drive our unconscious thoughts and behaviors. That unconscious thought is incredibly efficient, smart and useful. That’s why you instinctually flinch or jump when something is thrown at you or why you can fall in love at first sight.
In fact, your unconscious brain greatly influences decision-making. That explains why you often act or do something because “I just felt like it” and not because it makes sense logically. The decision to just act, click or buy can happen so fast. And visa versa, you slow down and often don’t do anything if you rationalize or analyze.
9 Ways to Influence People to Act
Now let’s take that scientific background and apply it to your desire to drive action with your marketing campaigns. Here are 9 helpful tips you can implement immediately to improve results for your website, email campaigns, advertisements, lead generation… any marketing activity.
1. Speak to your visitor by using the word ‘You’
You should never refer to your audience as a “user” or their persona title “work at home moms” or “tweens” in your copy. Your audience are people, not labels.
Use the word ‘you’ and ‘your’ often in your copy. Your readers prefer (unconsciously) what better emphasizes how “you” can benefit. Our brains are self-centered and focused on what is good for “you”.
Plus your writing tone shifts away from what’s important to you to their perspective. As a result, you are more likely to make a connection and induce action.
2. Give away something for free
When someone gives you something, it triggers a feeling of indebtedness. This feeling can unconsciously drive action because the receiver instinctively wants to give back. The emotional terminology is called reciprocity.
In your case, you can give away things like free product add-ons, free guidebooks, free content, free downloads, free shipping etc. and your readers are likely to respond by giving you something like their email address, a vote in a poll, a tweet, a Facebook Like… or a purchase.
3. Limit the choices
People think they prefer many choices. That’s the new brain thinking. However, too much choice may cause your visitor to not take any action at all. That’s your deep-seated emotion-driven old brain talking. Guess which one wins.
If you want to drive action, limited the choices available. For example, email marketing and website landing page best practices state that you should have one clear call to action to increase conversion rates. Minimize links out to information or other actions which are not central to moving your reader through your desired sales funnel.
If you want to present multiple options, then you should either highlight the best option. Then show extra proof like a rating, testimonial, or “recommended” tag for that top pick. You just need to highlight the desired action you want taken.
4. Present the most important action first
Related to limiting choice, you should also display your most desired action as the first item available. The idea behind this is simple: what comes first is unconsciously regarded as the best. It’s that easy.
5. Use scarcity
The value of something increases as availability decreases. So the less there is, the more we want it. We feel good when we gain something of perceived value.
More importantly, we act to avoid losing out on the opportunity to get that valuable thing. If you present your product or solution as limited or exclusive, then you’ll drive more desire to get purchase or act to get it. This tactic is a long-standing best practice in direct marketing and retail in both the online and offline world.
6. Fear sells
Marketing professionals always like to highlight benefits. Often benefit messages come in the form of positive statements like “increase ROI” or “drive more leads”. The problem with positive benefit statements is that they don’t often drive a strong emotional response. Or worst case, they are easily passed over as yet another blah, blah, blah marketing benefit message.
A core psychological driver is fear. Our old brain is wired for fight or flight. We act when a negative emotion is triggered.
Loss avoidance of something desired is a perfect way to flip your positive benefit message to a negative one. Try “don’t lose your hard earned profits” or “your prospects are becoming your competitor’s leads”.
7. Attractiveness – Sex sells too
Use images of attractive people who are similar to your audience. People are most influenced by people they feel to be both attractive and similar to them. You can imply the presence of sex without being explicit. For example, images of faces and bodies are all it takes to bring out an emotion.
When you are in a heightened state of awareness, the association is more deeply engrained in your memory. Your old brain is unconsciously making the connection between the positive attraction to the image and your business, campaign or offer.
Of course, be careful with this. Everything is not a beer commercial.
8. Give it to them now
Instant gratification is a powerful influence on whether we act or not. People often choose a lesser value item if they get it now over a much higher value item that is delivered in the future.
Why? Again, the emotional part of our brain wins out over the logical and analytical part or our brain.
In an experiment, participants were asked to choose between getting $5 now or $40 at a later date. Brain activity measured by an MRI showed that the new brain was triggered when they thought about waiting for the bigger sum of money. They started thinking logically and weighed all the different situations. They stalled.
On the other hand, the emotional mid-brain was activated when they thought about getting the money right away.
You are going to see higher conversion rates, if you offer something for immediate download or next day shipping. Your customers will act. If that’s not possible, use words like “instant”, “fast” or “now” to your campaign. You can still set off the same emotional response.
9. Show testimonials, ratings and reviews
We all have an unconscious desire to fit in and belong with others. People look to others when deciding what to do, especially when they are not sure of what action to take. That’s why social validation helps drive action.
One of the easiest ways to implement social validation to your marketing campaigns is to show customer ratings, testimonial statements, reviews and “most popular” indicators. Reviews in particular are powerful because they engage both the unconscious social validation part of our brains and the rational, analytical conscious part.
These 9 methods of leveraging unconscious behaviors are incredibly powerful. Remember, you’re most effective when you are able to tap into the core of how most people operate. You are able to increase your influence and drive action faster or more frequently. The result is your audience will just do it and your marketing campaigns will be wildly profitable.
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