Cialdini’s Weapons of Influence

In his national best seller book Influence The Psychology of Persuasion (originally published in 1984), Robert Cialdini explores his six industry-defining principles of influence. If you have not read it, read it.

Cialdini starts out describing a single repeatable interaction between a turkey chick and its mother. When a chick chirps (making a “cheep, cheep” sound), its mother will come and take care of it. Turkeys are deathly afraid of polecats and they are also afraid of inanimate stuffed polecats. Yes, you are correct; turkeys are not the brightest creatures in the world. Interestingly, the “cheep, cheep” sound of a chick emitted from a speaker concealed within a stuffed polecat totally trumps the turkey’s instinctual fear of the polecat as the mother turkey will run to and coddle the chirping stuffed polecat. OK, the words turkey and bright should never find themselves in the same sentence.

Ever heard of Click, Whirr? It’s a thing; Google it. Remember that this book was published in 1984? Imagine a cassette tape loaded in a cassette player.


You press play (Click) and immediately you hear the mechanical sound of the tape rolling (Whirr). A chick’s cheep cheep chirp (try saying that 10 times fast!) invokes a repeatable automatic behavior (Whirr) from its mother. Cialdini continually uses the Click, Whirr metaphor when describing these “fixed-action patterns” invoked by a “trigger feature.”

Cialdini’s mission is to outline what he calls the weapons of influence as they are used mercilessly on us everyday. He is most interested in illuminating the most common and most potent strategies that are employed by anyone that wants you to comply with whatever their agenda is.

Reciprocity

Suppose a co-worker gives you a small insignificant Christmas gift. Suddenly, you feel an intense amount of pressure to return the favor. Click, Whirr – That is reciprocity. It is wielded by the gift-giver and it immediately provokes you to comply.

Commitment and Consistency

Suppose you agreed to meet a friend for drinks after work but you simply do not feel like it. However, you go anyway because you said you would. Click, Whirr – That is commitment. In this instance, it was wielded by the inviter which compelled you to do something (it does not matter how insignificant or carefree). Once someone has succeeded in gaining a commitment from you, this principle does the rest of the work. Be careful as this can grow into the sunk cost fallacy.

Also beware of the flip side of this coin: consistency. Suppose someone asks if you think some generic and generally widely accepted statement is true followed by a call-to-action question afterward:

Do you think murder is bad?
Would you support our effort to stop murder?

Do believe that children deserve to grow up in a healthy environment?
Would your support our effort to help the children?

If you answer YES to the first question, you will feel compelled to answer YES to the second question.Click, Whirr – That is consistency. Everyone perceives themselves to be consistent (none of us are hypocrites).

Social Proof

 

If you are like me, you have a healthy disdain for canned laughter (the on-cue loud and obnoxious laughter that is emitted from so many television programs every 15 seconds).  Click, Whirr – That is social proof. Social proof states that one strategy “we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.” Canned laughter is a modern day example of the baby turkey “cheep, cheep.”

Liking or Likability

Have you ever contributed to any charity a door-to-door volunteer attempted to sell you? Me either. Have you ever contributed to a charity your neighbor, friend, or relative shared with you? Have you ever bought girl scout cookies? Boy scout popcorn? Me too.  Click, Whirr – That is likability. So the next time that you are talking someone that is pitching anything to you and you discover that their mother is from the same town you were born in but knows nothing about this small town, think again… people will say anything to get you to like them.

Authority

Well, if the masses of social proof did not convince you, maybe the recommendation of one celebrity would? Because we all know that corn flakes are delicious because Michael Phelps (most decorated Olympian of all time) apparently enjoys. Click, Whirr  That is authority.

Scarcity

Once you perceive any resource is not infinite, you will be more biased to say YESClick, Whirr  That is scarcity.

There only 2 in stock – better order now! (scarce stock)

If I want it by Thursday, I must order within 15 hours and 46 minutes. I better hurry and make a decision! (scarce time)

Sure, you can wait to put an offer in on the house, but I do know there are several others looking at the house this weekend. (scarce time)

Final Thought

Don’t be a turkey. When that stuffed polecat chirps, beat it with a sledge-hammer or at least pay no mind and simply walk away.

There is a war out there, old friend. A World War. And its not about who’s got the most bullets, its about who controls the information. What we see and hear, how we work, what we think. Its all about the Information.

Cosmo (from Sneakers)

Now, armed with the awareness of the most popular and effective techniques that others are using to get you to comply to their wishes, you can better navigate life’s interactions. Maybe you can leverage these techniques yourself in your business?

Share the best or most surprising use of these principles you’ve seen recently!

GoDaddy knows how to make bank by asking you if your email address is correct

I have a secret shame and it is buying domains I won’t or don’t use. I am reforming, but it will take time. While I’m working that out let’s take a look at a hardworking tactic from late in GoDaddy’s funnel.

 

 

GoDaddy sent me an email about updating my personal details that is a brilliant funnel piece for established customers. I will probably look at an official account info email where I might not look at renewing domain notices for domains I turned off autorenew.

This one insight — administrative subject lines create action — powers an email that has more than one goal and really succeeds with it.

Much like your “confirm your email” emails can do other tasks as well this is a great example of a routine account info email improving the funnel they’re optimizing. This email makes sure they have my contact info, offers me product I might want, and offers me more product and service marketing. On top of that, the official nature of the subject means I’m really likely to click on it.

I don’t know the conversion rate for this email but I can’t object to receiving something similar once in a while. It’s even good for account security. Improving your standard transactional emails to do extra work for the funnel is an awesome way to get incremental improvement from your funnel.

This is nice work from GoDaddy.

4 ways to avoid leaving money on the table with funnel design

envelope from georgia tech

I recently received a letter from my alma mater asking for money. They made 3 key mistakes in constructing this donation funnel. I’m going to explain how you can avoid these issues to reduce funnel friction and improve conversion.

I think fondly of my alma mater and I’m predisposed to donate. This is somewhat common for Georgia Tech grads who (last I looked) were the highest per capita donors. The school must do a good job of one of at least one of the following:

  1. Collecting money from alums
  2. Producing alums likely to donate money (i.e. fond memories, positive feelings, and have money)

We’re here to analyze this fundraising letter as a funnel and see how they are faring at the first task, but identifying alternative explanations for why a funnel might work for customers can be an important insight!

To the letter. Feel free to read through it (page 1, page 2), but I’ll also highlight the key portions.

There are a lot of facts here, but there isn’t much context in which to place them. I don’t know if all of the facts, awards, and numbers they present are good or bad in relative terms.

The ranking is nice though I’m not familiar with the source. The facts without a story or context are our first key mistake.

 

Key Mistake 1: Facts without a narrative

It gets said straight out only that “we’re going to carry this forward to the next…”

This really isn’t much of a vision and I have no idea from this letter what the goal of the fundraising is, that they are definitely seeking funds, nor what an appropriate donation would be for me.

The $2 billion dollar campaign that I heard about from the Institute was much more explicit about the vision for the money, the amount they needed, and had some context around what each alum would need to give to make the program work. This met with success and they were able to follow up with a glossy magazine/brochure that detailed all that they could do with the $2.6 billion they received.

I don’t know the Dean and I don’t have any clue what his vision of ‘the next level’ happens to be. I wish I did.

This is the second key mistake. Any campaign, email, page, donation request, or product should be clear about the purpose and benefit for the customer/prospect. I don’t know what I get out of this campaign nor for what purpose the money will be used?

Key Mistake 2: What do I get?

So, what are we doing with the money? What’s the story and emotion behind why I’m giving?

How much is appropriate for me to donate? I don’t know what an appropriate donation is. While you may receive less when you suggest less, you will often receive nothing if you make people stop and think.

Key Mistake 3: Don’t make me think.

 

I understand that the stamp costs money, but I think it would have been worth spending. Especially so if you included an easy way to donate specific amounts.

Key Mistake 4: Don’t add friction.

Physical friction sometimes costs you twice as much in a digital world.

There was a good opportunity for the College to use a marketing tactic where you have already recruited key donors and peers to show progress (usually 50% is the initial goal), add peer pressure, and add social proof to the campaign. Then you can use a powerful bit of psychology where you tell me what my average peer has donated and invite me to join my peers in powering this campaign to the next level.

I think this funnel probably serves them well enough. I know they have a lot of happy and willing donors that owe a lot to the education they received, but I also know that we have highlighted some missed opportunities that might have raised the bar for this campaign. I bet they left 25% on the table.

How to use anticipation and social psychology to get more sales

How can Ramit Sethi (I Will Teach You To Be Rich) make millions with a single email?

Let’s start by checking out the funnel at a high level.

This is a simplified view of the funnel, but it’s meant to convey the entry points and strategy used to move leads to paid conversion. The primary site currently has a quiz interface that asks a range of questions, requests an email address, and places you on the list in a campaign for an introductory (free) course that delivers some value and tees the prospect up for interest in more (paid course).

There’s a lot going on here and we’re going to focus on a single email in the introductory course campaigns. The level of attention to detail in this email is a testament to how well tested, considered, and constructed this whole funnel is (I don’t have any commercial relationship with Ramit or IWT).

screenshot of email

Here’s an email reminder from Ramit Sethi. This is a warm-up in a sequence that goes out before you are let into the (free) course that you signed up to take. You sign up either post-quiz from the IWT home page or directly on the intro course site.

The warm-up is smart because it allows for some of the other tactics to take place and primes you with anticipation. Often anticipation is a greater force than the object or experience we anticipate, but we know that anticipation can still greatly improve the experience and make it seem more exclusive, interesting, and of higher quality.

In addition to that, we know that delivering some value and building trust with these initial emails and an introductory course will greatly improve the quality of the email list beyond a certain stage. Most importantly, this improves conversion and the number of chances you get to convert the prospect.

On to the meat. Let’s take a look at the email itself.

Time for a blow by blow on the tactics in this super targeted, tight piece of work.

 

1. Vision casting

 

He asks the reader to imagine what they will do with the object (a business) that they desire (pays for the life you want). He’s asking you to imagine the future you could have at the end of the course once you achieve the thing the course is promising. This builds anticipation and excitement. It also improves the psychology of getting the people to take action. Imagining your future place can create some of the effects of loss aversion to motivate you. Loss aversion is the psychological effect where humans feel losing something at twice the magnitude of gaining the same thing. Here, you don’t want to lose your vision.

 

2. Social proof

“Thousands of other people” will be joining you. Humans crave shared experience and here he’s offering you that, but he’s also using it to give you a reason to invite your friends. Friends that he can add to this funnel and he knows you likely have such interested friends because you’re here and interested. He has tied together a play for referrals with a reference that is an element of social proof.

 

3. Scarcity

“Class starts TOMORROW” is a classic scarcity play. You often need the reader to take action NOW or they probably won’t do so at all. This call out functions well to create some feelings of urgency (scarcity of time) in the reader and get a much better conversion rate on sharing actions.

 

4. Make it easy to share

If you want your reader or lead to take action, make it as easy and frictionless as possible for them to take that action. We can share three different ways here with a click and Ramit can track which ones people are using most.

 

5. Call to action for more, now!


Sometimes people get so fired up they want to engage with your product or service right away. You don’t always want to offer a quicker way to purchase, but you can often offer another way to engage like more content, sharing, a community, etc.

These are great touches in a warm-up sequence. They are on top of their game over at IWTYTBR. Except maybe that acronym?