Using “Weapons of Influence” to Communicate and Persuade

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It’s no secret that Google has come late to the social media party, so when they launched Buzz last year, I wasn’t the least bit interested.

I felt the same when Google+ was recently announced. But then a strange thing happened. First, I read that many people like me (i.e., marketers, developers) were experimenting with it and liking it.

Then I heard that getting an account was “by invitation only.” Shortly thereafter, one of my cousins on Facebook asked if anyone could invite her.

Suddenly, I wanted in, too.

Four days later, I scored an invitation.

So what happened here? How did I go from zero interest to feeling like the proud owner of Rolling Stones backstage passes? The answer lies in what Dr. Robert Cialdini describes as six Weapons of Influence. The two in particular are social proof and scarcity.

Social Proof

Social proof is our tendency to view a particular behavior as correct to the degree that we see others performing it. Social proof becomes even more powerful the more these “others” are like us. The fact that I saw other marketers and web geeks like me jumping on Google+ made it all the more appealing.


Is seems to be human nature. The less available something is, the more we tend to value it. Michael Jackson said it best:

When I had you to myself
I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd
But someone picked you from the bunch
One glance was all it took
Now it’s much too late for me to take a second look

Oh baby I was blind to let you go
But now since I see you in his arms
I want you back

The scarcity principle kicks in when we see a resource that is finite. The most attractive man on the planet might walk into a bar and get perhaps half a dozen women, at best, vying for his attention. But put an average good-looking guy on a reality show, and 25 women will nearly kill one another to have him. Scarcity principle at its best … or worst.

It becomes even more powerful when a time limit is placed on the finite resource. There was a brief window when several blogs announced that Google+ was accepting signups without an invitation. By the time I found out, a mere two hours later, alas, the window had already closed. It would be interesting to see the analytics on how many people like me hit the site, looking to sign up. Auction sites like eBay combine the powers of these persuasion tactics with remarkable results.

If you’re tempted to write me off as a mindless lemming because of my behavior, think again. Study after study has proven that all of us are vulnerable to these powerful persuasion techniques. So let’s take a look at how you can utilize them when selling your services.

Using Scarcity when Selling Your Services

Suppose you’ve met someone interested in your services. When you take out your schedule to set an appointment, do you say some like, “Any day is good for me. I’m wide open,”? Well, guess what? You’ve made a commodity of yourself. I’m not suggesting you deliberately lie, but why give the impression that you are not in demand? A better approach would be, “I’m open on Tuesday and Thursday. Which works better for you?”

Using Social Proof when Selling Your Services

The social proof principle is intensified when the element of uncertainty is added. Whenever we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation, we tend to take our cues on how to behave from the others around us. The clients and prospects we speak with are not marketing experts. Most have little or no experience with online marketing and know nothing about web design and programming. You can reassure them if you demonstrate how others “like them” have used your services. This is especially advantageous if you sell to a particular segment or niche. An attorney, for example, may feel more comfortable hiring you if he knows you have several other attorneys as clients.

Remember, people don’t necessarily buy for logical reasons. Emotions play a much bigger part in the purchase decisions we all make on a daily basis. Tapping into these will go a long way towards landing that next successful engagement.

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

Businesssalesselling your servicessmall business
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