Principles of Ethical Influence – Pubcon 2012

Published October 16, 2012 9:06 pm by LoSasso
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One thing is certain after the first keynote at Pubcon from Dr. Robert Cialdini: there is going to be an incredible amount of information to soak in this week from expert speakers from all over the world.

Dr. Robert Cialdini hit his keynote out of the park when discussing the Principles of Ethical Influence. His simple 6 principles to follow are: reciprocation, liking, commitment, scarcity, authority and consensus.

Dr. Cialdini gave a great example to show how reciprocation can really influence someone. A candy mint left with a check shows an incredible increase in the tip someone leaves when dining at a restaurant. Two or more mints left increases the tip even more. This is the basic definition of reciprocation. The server gave a mint and, in return, the guest left a great tip.

Dr. Cialdini put this very simple. People like those who are like them. A website with an “About Us” page that lists what a company values, even the music they listen to, outperforms the very bland “We were founded in this year and we do this and that…” It’s okay to list those things, but spice it up with interests. People are influenced by their friends, so there is nothing wrong with talking to your customers like they are your friends.

Everyone likes those who are committed. Sometimes it can be a challenge to get customers to commit to a brand–but it shouldn’t be. In some instances, it can be as simple as changing the conversation. An example Dr. Cialdini gave focused on a restaurant in Chicago that tested changing their response when someone called in a reservation. At first, the restaurant employee would say, “Please call us if you cannot make your reservation.” With that, about 30% of their reservations were no-shows. Next, they tested saying, “Will you please call us if you cannot make your reservation,” then they would wait for the person making the reservation to say, “Yes,” to confirm and commit. After that small (free) change in their wording, only about 10% of their reservations were no-shows.

Dr. Cialdini pointed out that everyone wants what they can’t have. Making a product, service or even information scarce makes it more desirable. This is Groupon’s business model for the fact that most of their deals have limits to how many can be purchased. Companies like Apple only make a certain number of their products on a release date, and people are willing to wait in line to make sure they are able to get it. Genuine scarcity and exclusivity are huge influences in these aspects to create desire from customers–you must show your customers you have what they don’t have (yet.)

It is very important to gain certainty and legit trustworthiness from customers. This not only helps to influence, but to retain that influence. Dr. Cialdini used an ad for Bose as an example. Bose went back and forth with an ad for one of their new sound systems deciding between some wording, design, etc. and ended up with the final ad showing testimonials and text that said “Hear what you are missing” which replaced an older ad they considered that simply said “New” at the top. The newer text states the authority they have in their industry, and the testimonials show the customers what others think about the product. Giving customers a 3rd person point of view is a great way to show authority.

Most of us have seen the online stores which show “People who have bought this” with an image of the product you are looking at or have purchased “Have also bought this” with images of similar products. Online stores show this, simply because it works. People like to see and know what others are doing and act upon that. It’s proven. Another great example Dr. Cialdini focused on the “Save the earth” towel signs hotels hang in bathrooms. Signs that say “Partner with your fellow patrons in saving the earth” perform much better than signs that say “Partner with us in saving the earth.”

All of these principles of ethical influence can be applied to any company, no matter the product or service. It is a matter of understanding the way to communicate and influence customers on each of these levels effectively.

– Michelle Murphy