Inbound marketing is becoming more and more popular as an effective and analytical way to reach your desired audience. With that being said, it is still difficult for many executives of companies to see the benefits clearly enough to take action.
The methodology behind inbound marketing has been presented in many different ways, and in an attempt to illustrate the wide variety of benefits I’m taking a new angle on the matter.
I would like to introduce you to Influence: Science and Practice – Fifth Edition by Robert B. Cialdini (2009). To provide a brief summary, Cialdini (Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University) takes the reader on a journey through the six principles of influence:
- Commitment & Consistency
- Social Proof
These principles are examined from both a psychology perspective as well as a consumer behavior perspective. More or less, the principles are six impactful areas to leverage during a brand’s marketing and sales processes.
In this blog, I’d like to share how inbound marketing methodology can allow you to use these six principles to increase sales and assist towards developing the growth of your company.
Keep in mind, none of the principles of influence guarantee increased sales, although they can be very effective due to their reliance on the psychological perspective of basic human nature.
One of the most widespread basic norms of human culture is embodied in the rule for reciprocation. The rule requires that one person try to repay what another person has provided. Cialdini explained that the rule of reciprocation is particularly effective due to three characteristics:
- First, the rule is extremely powerful, often overwhelming the influence of other factors that normally determine compliance with a request.
- Second, the rule applies even to uninvited first favors, thereby reducing our ability to decide whom we wish to owe.
- Third, the rule can spur unequal exchanges; to be rid of the uncomfortable feeling of indebtedness, an individual will often agree to a request for a substantially larger favor than the one he or she received (Cialdini, 49).
A great way to implement the rule of reciprocation into your online marketing strategy is through the use of downloadable content and other offers. With that being said, offer your website visitors free resources such as eBooks, whitepapers, consultations, etc.
Providing prospects with free resources will establish a sense of indebtedness and increase the likelihood that they will reciprocate the gesture with a gesture of their own; generally leading to the purchase of a product or service.
Commitment & Consistency
The second principle is made up of commitment and consistency; the reason for influence can be traced to our basic human nature. “After making a commitment (that is, taking a stand or position), people are more willing to agree to requests that are in keeping with the prior commitment” (Cialdini, 95). Therefore, if someone makes a commitment, it will contradict their human nature to change their stance or be inconsistent with their words, beliefs, attitudes, and deeds.
Simply asking, “Are you interested in product/service XYZ?” as one of the required fields to download a particular resource, can secure an initial commitment. Commitments are especially powerful because people often add new reasons and justifications to support the commitments make. This plays hand in hand with the desire in most people to be and look consistent as mentioned above.
Keep in mind however, not all commitments are equally effective in producing consistent future action. Either way, it is a strong influential tactic.
“The principle of social proof states that one important means that people use to decide what to believe or how to act in a situation is to look at what other people are believing or doing there” (Cialdini, 138). Essentially, people often rely on the actions of others to make decisions. For example, consistently keeping money in a tip jar actually increases customers’ likelihood to leave a tip.
Social proof can be very effective throughout online marketing through the use of testimonials, case studies, past work, etc. Illustrate to your web visitors that numerous people have purchased your products/services and were very happy with their purchase.
Often times, the monitoring of review sites are necessary to maintain effective social proof as a principle of influence. If you have poor reviews about your company living on the internet, especially high traffic, high credibility websites, it is wise to respond to the negative reviews to maintain the integrity of your brand.
It is no surprise that people prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like. There are many ways to increase overall attractiveness and likeability through digital marketing.
Increase your online attractiveness through your company’s website and social channels. Ensure that your website has an inspiring design, is easily navigable, and provides your visitors with all of the resources they need to help them with your purchasing decision. Transform your website from an outdated brochure site into a confident, charismatic, intelligent sales repthat answers your questions before you have the chance to ask them.
Remember to overlap that same mentality into your social channels as well; maintaining transparency on all digital platforms will be help to further build your online likability.
In addition to the attractiveness of your online presence, work to build a relationship with your leads. Cialdini states, “Increased familiarity through repeated contact with a person or thing is yet another factor that normally facilitates liking” (172).
This aspect of the principle can be achieved through lead nurturing. After a lead converts, they should be provided with more resources that will assist them in their decision making process. Keep in mind, It is important to focus on increasing your likability and providing them with helpful tools and resources, as opposed to shoving a sale down their throat.
People respect authority! Establish your brand as a credible company built on expertise in the respective industry. You are an expert in your field of work – so tell people! There are great ways to establish your company as a credible source of expert information and thought leadership online.
One of the best ways to do this is to create relevant content and deliver it to your target audience. Write blogs that will help your target audience solve their problems and learn from you. As I mentioned above, create downloadable pieces of premium content that your visitors can absorb. Allow for confidence to bleed into your content and project the voice of a thought leader within your industry.
“According to the scarcity principle, people assign more value to opportunities when they are less available. The use of this principle for profit can be seen in such compliance techniques as the ‘limited number’ and ‘deadline’ tactics, wherein practitioners try to convince us that access to what they are offering is restricted by amount or time” (Cialdini, 225).
It isn’t difficult to understand the influential aspects the scarcity principle brings to fruition. There are a lot of companies that could find success by promoting limited time or number offers online. Such as:
- 10% off for the month of August!
- Weekend Sale!
- First 10 purchases of the month will receive 10% off!
I urge you to look more into these principles and determine the best ones to implement throughout your company’s digital presence. You may find that embracing inbound marketing as a methodology could take your brand to the next level entirely.
Again, none of the principles of influence guarantee increased sales, although they do rely on basic human nature – something I’m willing to adhere to. Are you?