Persuasion stories

Persuasion stories Saturday December 19, 2009

A couple of months ago I read this book by Cialdini called ‘Influence’, he describes 6 powerful weapons of influence. I decided to read the follow-up which describes 50 stories about the 6 persuasive weapons in action. For some of the weapons I tried to find examples on the web which (consciously or unconsciously) use them succesfully.

Yes! 50 scientifically proven ways to be persuasive

When you’re looking for a book that’s comprehensive on why some things are more persuasive than others and takes you to the core of that theory, this may not be your book.

About the book

I had a great time reading this book, not because it unveiled a lot of persuasion secrets, but I did like it because it contained a lot of real-life examples

These examples inspire me to tell stories about persuasion to others and help me generate ideas for improving websites.

But when you’re looking for a book which is easy to understand, is full of great real-life stories and inspires you to come up with ideas to improve your product or service, this may be the right choice.

Weapons of influence

You’ll finish this book in no-time. Because of the easy-to-read short 3-4 page stories it’s easy to recall the stories and tell others about them. Most of these stories are based on Cialdini’s six weapons of influence.

Reciprocity

The book describes the story of Bobby Fischer (former world chess champion). In 2005 he was a US-fugitive because he played a $5 million chess game in the former Yugoslavia. Iceland granted him citizenship and risked their relationship with the United States.

Many people wondered why Iceland accepted him in their country. The reason was simple, they had to return him a favor. The book explains what Bobby had done for Iceland 30 years before, but the main point is that people tend to return a favor for something they got from someone else.

Reciprocity example

I think one of my former clients succesfully benefits from this principle without knowing it. It’s an online upholstery store. You can order three free samples before buying something for real. I believe that by doing this favor, people are more likely to buy the product in the end.

Commitment and consistency

When people commit to something, they tend to honour that agreement even when the rules and conditions have changed in the meanwhile. Car sellers sometimes raise the price when someone returns after a while to buy a car after-all. Since the customer has decided to buy the car he’s more likely to do concessions on the terms and conditions.

Cialdini tells a story about the difference between people were willing to volunteer in a project. There was a huge difference between people who actively volunteered (filled the fields in a paper form) and people who passively volunteered (had to leave the fields blank). There was no difference between the groups at first, but the groups that acually turned up differed a lot!

Commitment and consistency example

At the moment we’re performing a test on one of our websites. We want to raise the number of comments that are submitted at an online magazine. We believe that adding a rating functionality which is followed up by a comment form will result in a higher number of comments compared to the current version which only has a comment form. We’ll keep you posted on this one.

The people at The Black Snapper claim to have increased the feedback on their website in a sort-a-like way.

Authority

People rely on those with superior knowledge. People seek for guidance on how to respond in certain (often unfamiliar) situations.

Authority example

Get the book

At McKinsey Quarterly they have a ‘voices’ section in which they invite thought leaders outside of McKinsey to contribute to their knowledge base. As a website user you have the opportunity to have a conversation with these thought leaders.

The ‘Editor’s choice’ section at CNet shows products which are supported by CNet’s experts. They are open about the way they rate these products and explain clearly who these experts are.

Social proof

People tend to do things that they see other people do. This effect is bigger when the people who show a certain behavious are similar to you. The book contains great story about a hotel-chain which wants its hotel guests to reuse their towels and persuades them by claiming other hotel guests reused their towel as well.

Social proof example

I noticed Buzzillions is using this principle as well, their slogan states ‘Product reviews from people like you’. They can’t be too specific since they have a really broad audience, but their smart tagline helps people imagine someone writing the review.

Liking

People are more easily persuaded by people they like. Cialdini states that the more we like someone, the more we are likely to say ‘Yes’ to them.

Liking example

Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has used a simple supermarket owner in their commercials and on their website for a few years now. By choosing this funny, cute and normal (he could very well be your neighbour or dad) guy in their commercials and on their website they made really successful use of the persuasive principle of liking. It’s really hard not to like this guy (and therefore the Albert Heijn brand).

Scarcity

Perceived scarcity generates demand. Some e-commerce shops display stock information, by showing how many products are left in stock they can benefit from the scarcity principle. Another way of doing this is setting a time limit on a discount for a certain product.

Scarcity example

A while back I noticed my colleagues at a Dutch online liquorice store make really smart use of this principle by showing the exact amount of liquorice they still have in stock. In many occasions users will feel urged to order now instead of later because of the scarcity of the product.

Sources

Wikipedia about Cialdini
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini

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