Ever heard the old English saying: ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’ – ? It’s one that can be applied to so many different situations; and business is no exception!

See, as an entrepreneur, you can do all the right things – everything they taught you in business school. You can start your company, create and build a game-changing product, hire the best talent you can afford, set up your finances and taxes in the right way – all of that good stuff.

But the hardest thing to do – what you can’t control – is getting your customers to buy.

Well, you can’t make them do it. Sure, you can lead them to your website, but getting them to drink (by which we mean ‘buy’) takes a different skill set entirely: the art of persuasion.

Science of Persuasion – Trust Him: He’s A Doctor!

Here at BYB, we’re big fans of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s (author of ‘Influence’ and professor of marketing and psychology at Arizona State University in the US) thoughts on the ‘Science of Persuasion’ – as professionals and in general.

It’s clever stuff. Basically he posits that there are six different mental ‘shortcuts’ we all, as humans, take when processing a wealth of new information. If we harness the power of each of these – in an ethical way – we stand a much better chance of persuading others

The six shortcuts are:

  • Reciprocity – Responding to people in the same way as they treat us (e.g. someone’s nice to you, so you’re nice to them back).
  • Scarcity – The rarer something is, the more valuable it becomes. We all want more that there’s less of, basically.
  • Authority – Establishing knowledgeability leads to greater credibility – which people take more notice of.
  • Consistency – A willingness to do one thing usually leads people to do something more when asked. Many of us take a small step first, followed by a bigger one after – as when we’ve committed once,we feel more obligated a second time around.
  • Liking – Sounds simple, and it is. We essentially like those who are a) similar to us, b) who compliment us, c) and who cooperate with us.
  • Consensus – When something’s uncertain, we look to others’ behaviours to guide our own actions.

All of these points are discussed in more detail in a YouTube video he put together – be sure to take a look!).

Applying This To The Digital Experience

All of these shortcuts may sound very well and good – at least for businesses operating offline. But can they be applied to the online experience too? Can they be used, not only entice prospective customers to delve deeper into our website, to drive online, B2B sales too?

Absolutely – but not necessarily in the same direct fashion as ‘real world’ consumer product and services.

We all know that B2B sales are a much slower burn than B2C. They’re a more considered sale – and typically much more expensive; meaning it’s not just down to one person to make the purchasing decision. But that said, all of these shortcuts still apply.

How? We see them in all kinds of marketing assets – from the case studies companies put on their websites (Consensus), to the one-time-only discounts they serve us (Scarcity).

Then there are also the information-rich blog posts we read on a company’s website (Authority), the images we see of people like us dealing with similar challenges (Liking), or the out-of-the-blue incentives we get offered (Reciprocity).

And of course, if we’ve signed up to receive email updates from a company, we’re much inclined to read what they have to say (Consistency).

Make more sense now? It seems Cialdini has a strong case when it comes to persuasion. It’s not just a case of creating something; it’s about creating a space for customer interaction – for trust to be built, and a relationship to flourish.

Persuasion, ultimately, is a long game for many companies. But it’s definitely one worth playing. Even if it does take some time to saddle up those ‘horses’, eventually they’ll want to take a nice long drink.