Riddle me this: A customer attends all your webinars, opens all your email newsletters, regularly browses your site, and may have even made a few purchases, but for some reason you cannot get this customer to cross the engagement threshold and actually become an evangelist.

You want them to leave reviews and share purchases on social media, but they aren’t. What do you do?

Activating the passive customer can be a perplexing and frustrating effort. The good news is, the customer appears on your radar; the bad news is, you don’t know what buttons to push to make this customer take action. However, transforming these passive customers into brand evangelists is one of the smartest marketing investments any company can make, because these customers can amplify and spread your marketing messages in a way no paid marketing campaign could.

We can take some techniques from persuasive psychology to activate these passive, yet valuable customers. We need to Really, Come See About the Lost Shopper (RCSALS), which is also a list of the most powerful psychological reactions we can use in this situation: Reciprocation, Commitment, Social Proof, Authority, Liking, and Scarcity.


The feeling of reciprocation proves to be one of the most powerful human impulses. Its a psychological instinct that says we should attempt to repay what another person has provided us. You know that feeling when someone buys you a really extravagant gift? Yeah, me neither! But I have heard it’s a very uncomfortable feeling stemming from the sense of “I will never be able to repay this person, or give them a gift of equivalent value.” Even when the person clearly gives something as a gift, and does not expect to be paid back in kind, we still get this feeling.

How you can use reciprocation to activate a passive customer: When you send a coupon or discount code to a customer, and they use it, make sure you follow up with a message prompting them to review the product/service on Yelp, tweet it out, or give it a Facebook “like.” This allows the customer to reciprocate and helps them “close the loop” psychologically.

Commitment and Consistency

Interestingly enough, consumers tend to be more confident of their choices after they buy something. The act of making a final decision activates a psychological trigger that makes people believe they made the right choice. Look at how Amazon gets so many customers to review products. They ship quickly, the customer gets the merchandise and soon after, Amazon sends an email asking for a review. The customer is already committed to the purchase, so asking them to leave a review becomes just the last step in a really smooth process.

How you can use commitment to activate a passive customer: Make it dead simple for the customer to share the purchase on social media as part of the checkout process.

Social Proof

Humans are social animals. One way we figure out what the socially acceptable thing to do is to find out what other people are doing. When I was a teenager, they called this “peer pressure.”

Have you ever gone into a bar that had just opened for the day? You notice the bartender’s tip jar already has a few dollars in it. How could this be? You are the first customer of the day. Bartenders are geniuses at social engineering, and in this case, the bartender uses the concept of social proof to prompt you to leave a tip. He does this by giving the appearance multiple patrons have already left tips as well.

How you can use social proof to activate a passive customer: Show how many shares, likes, and tweets certain items already have. Based on the existing social proof, this will motivate the customer to share, like, and tweet as well.


Even the most powerful people in the world drop their pants when the doctor tells them to do so. The most stubborn and headstrong person will quit a habit cold turkey if it’s “doctor’s orders.” Why is this? We are wired to defer to authority, and in this case, it’s a doctor who has authority in our lives when it comes to anything related to health and medicine.

How you can use authority to activate a passive customer: Simply tell them to engage. In many cases you don’t have to cajole or incentivize. Just say, “Here is what you need to do next: leave a review.” Make engagement part of the process.


Have you ever heard of Tupperware? Avon? Amway? These companies made millions trading on the human trait of liking. In other words, you are much more likely to buy something from someone you know and like, even if you don’t need it. A certain female in my life gets very anxious when she gets invited to an Avon party, because she knows she doesn’t need any makeup, but will buy some anyway to support the party host.

How you can use liking to activate a passive customer: If a customer makes repeat purchases, then it is safe to assume they like you—or at least your products. Many of the CRM solutions on the market have modules that will, when triggered by a customer’s second purchase within 30 days, automatically send the customer a note telling them, “Share Us on Twitter or Facebook to Get 20% Off Your Next Purchase.”


“Limited time offer!” “Supplies Limited!” “Last Chance!” “One of a Kind!” I’m sure you’ve seen slogans like this associated with all kind of products and services. These examples illustrate the concept of “scarcity.” When we have limited access to something, our desire for that thing increases, which is why you always seem to want what you can’t have.

How you can use scarcity to activate a passive customer: Make an offer for a customer to share with 10 friends in the next 10 minutes to get a 10% off coupon, and enforce the deadline.

When we take a look at marketing and customer engagement, sometimes we end up running in the same old marketing circles. Taking a look outside of marketing and engaging in other disciplines (such as persuasive psychology) can open up a whole new toolset for creative marketing strategies. Use these tips to turn your passive customers into active customers.