Psychological Warfare II – The 6 Pillars of Influence

I hope you enjoyed the first part of this series. In this post, I will be looking at the work of Robert Cialdini. He is the Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University so it’s fair to say that he knows a thing or two about using psychology to make sales! He has spoken at great length about the ‘6 pillars of influence’ that are keys to successful marketing. Continue reading to learn how the learning and implementation of each pillar can help increase sales.


In other words, people feel an urge to return a favour. Cialdini’s favourite example is Ethiopia sending aid to Mexico after the latter suffered terribly from a fierce earthquake in 1985. Ethiopia was in the midst of a civil war and stricken with famine yet still helped out because Mexico aided the African nation when it was invaded by Italy in 1935.

When it comes to making sales, you can exceed customer’s expectations; for instance, you could deliver a couple of days earlier than anticipated or give them an unexpected discount. This pleasant surprise instantly makes customers advocates of your brand. Alternatively, you can offer the classic free eBook or download to readers and if this provides genuine value, you’ll find that recipients are more likely to enquire about your services.

Commitment & Consistency

Psychologists will tell you that human beings have an earnest, almost obsessive, desire to be seen as consistent. If we vote, purchase or stand for something, we place pressure on ourselves to justify our actions and this can be seized upon by skilled copywriters. Corporate Executive Board (CEB) is a leading advisory company and it carried out a survey which showed that 60% of consumers remain loyal to a brand once they believe it shares the same values. Therefore, customers are not loyal to your company; they are loyal to what it stands for.

Starbucks is a prime example as it cleverly claims to source its coffee beans ethically from farms all over the globe. You can use this technique by first helping readers to express a firm opinion about something and then presenting the product in a way that appears to be in touch with the stand made by the readers. A good way to begin is with a question that no one in their right mind would say ‘no’ to:

If I could show you how to increase your sales rate by 70% and conversion rate to 50%, do you have 30 minutes to spare to learn the fascinating secrets?

This ensures an unspoken commitment from readers because they are not being asked to spend any money, only need to have 30 minutes to spare and can increase their sales rate exponentially. After the sales pitch, you conclude that you have undoubtedly shown that your techniques can deliver and it is legitimate so the next step is to act now before your rivals get the upper hand. Now, you have reminded readers that they must remain consistent with the previous commitment they made. They have made a stand and going back on it now would be a sign of weakness.

Social Proof

Like it or not, people tend to follow more than they lead and will often do things that they see other people doing. Few people enjoy being shunned or made to feel like an outsider in a group and you can take advantage of this desire to fit in. For example, you can show that others are using and appreciating your product and if prospects feel that others approve of you, they will too.

All you need to do is look at the incredible power of customer reviews to know this. Over 80% of consumers believe that customer reviews are valuable while almost 87% of customers admitted that they would trust a friend’s recommendation over that of a critic. The number of social shares on a piece of content is one of the most important types of social proof in the marketing world. Always have sharing options and a counter showing total shares on your content.


Aside from the relatively few anarchists among us, the majority of people have a high level of trust for figures of authority. It is in our psyche to be drawn to leaders and show deference to them. This explains why celebrities are paid fortunes to advertise products; in most cases, the addition of a celebrity to a marketing campaign leads to a boost in sales. Assuming you are not Pepsi and can’t afford Beyoncé, you can still harness the concept of authority without having to break the bank.

You can go down the Google route and wheel out a trusted member of your team as a spokesperson. The search engine giant has successfully utilised Matt Cutts as the face of the company and virtually all Google videos feature him discussing the company. Google have worked hard to establish Cutts as a leader in the industry and it is a successful strategy given their consistently handsome profits.

You could also engage in a strategic collaboration with another company in your niche. This will create mutually beneficial opportunities with your partner receiving useful content and your company receiving increased authority.


It is easy to persuade people to do what you want if they like you. Cialdini often speaks of how physically attractive salespeople make more sales than those considered unattractive. Your goal is to get people to identify with your brand and grow to like it over time. Numerous companies have conducted clever advertising campaigns to this effect.

For example, Compare the Market and Churchill have snared thousands of customers in the UK by creating loveable fictional characters. While you may not have the budget it takes to market a mascot globally, you can improve likeability via great customer service and clever social media campaigns.


The classic ‘limited time only’ sales spiel works wonders because perceived scarcity increases demand. We have previously touched on the point that people don’t like to be made feel as if they are missing out and this is how the concept of scarcity works. A prospect might like your product but decide to ‘come back later’ because there is no danger of missing out.

Yet when customers leave your site without making a purchase, it’s rare for them to return and do so later on. Therefore, you need to convince them that they must buy now or else everything will be sold out! I have witnessed this with airlines where they suggest that only 4 seats are available at a certain fare. The following day, I find that there are multiple seats available for an even lower fare! This is actually a marketing mistake and when you go down this route, don’t pull the rug from under the customer’s feet. We don’t like being made fools of and this could come back to haunt you.

In part III, we will show that offering fewer choices to customers is the way forward, the fear of loss is greater than the benefit of gain and also explain how you can manoeuvre past the customer ‘pain threshold’ and get them to make purchases.

Have you attempted to market using the 6 pillars of influence? Did it work out well for you?