Corporate coaches and business consultants face some major hurdles when using online resources to attract clients. The major challenges revolve around how to attract visitors to your website and how to convert those visitors into paying clients.
Crafting online marketing content that persuade readers to agree with you can take a lot of practice. Without knowing how to create persuasive content, your online marketing can stagnate in terms of attracting traffic, building brand authority, and driving conversions.
In my ten-plus years as a marketer for coaches and consultants, I often turn to Cialdini’s principles of persuasion to compel my clients’ readers to take action. I also recently enrolled for the CXL Institute Scholarship program and found new insights on how to use persuasion in my content marketing service. From Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (1984), I have gleaned these 7 principles of persuasion to create high-converting marketing copy.
Most people hate feeling indebted to others. We are wired to repay debts and return favors. The idea of reciprocity suggests that your website visitors may feel an obligation to do you a favor if your content improves their lives.
For instance, say you’ve published a blog post that offers practical and actionable advice that your readers can implement immediately. You have offered all this valuable information for free. Based on reciprocity, if you ask your readers to share the content they would likely feel an obligation to do you that one small favor.
For reciprocity to work, the reader has to feel your content has in some way improved their life. So they feel indebted and want to return the favor. Also, by asking for the favor, you’re making it easy for the reader to know just how they can repay their debt. The reader has the feeling that if I do this one thing, we’re even.
The repayment has to be easy to fulfil and be proportional to the favor received. Let your reader feel that by completing the small favor, their debt is fully repaid and they can enjoy the benefits without guilt.
2. Commitment and Consistency
In digital marketing for coaches and consultants, I have found that it is easier to ask readers for a big favor only after I have taken them through initial small favors. People are more likely to book a consultation when you have built a relationship over time.
So in my lead nurturing process I wouldn’t start by pressuring prospects to buy a course. I would probably start by asking for their contact information. I would follow up by asking about their career or business challenges before I can offer customized solutions.
Most people strive to ensure their beliefs remain consistent with their values. Once we publicly commit to doing something, we are more likely to follow with action and deliver on our commitment. In digital marketing, coaches can use Cialdini’s principle of commitment and consistency to build relationships with prospects and nurture leads.
Consistently deliver valuable content and build the relationship before you start selling to your readers. Blogging can significantly improve your lead nurturing as readers get to align their values with yours and learn to trust you more.
3. Social Proof
There’s a local farmers market that I frequent lots of times. There are two merchants both selling peanut butter. I have bought from both and there’s not much difference in the quality or price of their products. However, one usually has a queue at his stall while the other serves only a few customers at a time.
There might be other factors at play that I may not be aware of. Though one thing I have noticed is that even new customers will flock to the popular seller first before thinking of trying out the other.
In the same way, people will share and engage with your content if they see others doing the same. People will flock to your events and enroll for your courses when they know that others are also buying from you.
Social proof is rooted in the idea that there’s safety in numbers. Simply put, if other people want this thing, then it must be a good thing. If no one else wants it, then it must not be worth my time or money.
To present social proof, display your positive client testimonials. Show off your social media followers if you have high numbers. Encourage people to comment on your online content.
Why do elite athletes earn so much from endorsement contracts? It’s really simple – customers trust popular figures who are ahead of their game. So brands, especially fitness brands, benefit lucratively if an elite athlete endorses their product.
In the same way, business consultants can use authority figures to market their professional services. When your customers need assistance, they want to talk to someone who is competent to solve their problems. Establish your credentials by attracting the endorsement of people in authority.
For example, you could attract more clients if CEO’s of industry-leading companies endorse your training solutions. If you are yet to build a client base, start by interviewing professionals and business leaders. It could be as simple as interviewing a store manager about the training needs for their store’s cashiers.
If we like someone, we are more likely to do as they ask. That’s why many of us will buy from a friend rather than from a stranger. Interpersonal relationships can make the difference between friction and camaraderie in the sales process. When we like a seller, we are likely to bargain less, waste less of their time, and trust their promises more.
The principle of liking is the reason why brands such as Mary Kay and Tupperware are so successful. Someone hosts a party and invites their friends. The friends spend more money buying the products and even make future orders than they would buy at a store.
As you use your blog to establish authority, strive to increase your likeability too. The more your readers like you the more connected they feel to you. Readers who like you are bound to trust you more, have faith in your products, and promote you with word of mouth marketing. Cialdini lists 5 elements which contribute to the principle of liking:
Physical attractiveness: Good looks suggest other positive traits such as charm, popularity, and integrity.
Similarity: We like people who share the same values, characteristics, and backgrounds as us.
Compliments: We like people who pay us compliments and recognize our achievements.
Contact and cooperation: We like people who support our work and understand our struggles.
Conditioning and association: We like people and things that are associated with the things we like. For example, we like looking at attractive women so we feel more positive about a car with a beautiful woman standing next to it.
From my more than a decade of creating marketing content, I am confident that scarcity is the most powerful of all persuasion principles.
Scarcity is the most powerful of all persuasion principles.
Scarcity works on the timeless law of demand and supply. The lower the supply of something, the higher its demand will be. People are more driven into action when they think inaction will result in an unrecoverable loss.
When something appears scarce, limited, exclusive, or hard to obtain then everyone wants it. For business coaches, there are two main ways you can use scarcity to drive action:
When you’re selling your coaching services, you can position your highest-value offer to be available to only a few people. “Only 5 spots remaining” can be a powerful message to drive fast action on a first-come first-served basis. You can further increase scarcity by setting tight prequalification standards. For example, this training is only available to people with at least 5 years management experience at Fortune 500 companies.
You can structure your offer to be available for a limited time only. For example, say you’re offering team-building services. You may create an end-of-year offer where companies receive a discount if they book before the holiday season. Something like, “12% discount for all bookings made before November.”
Before 2006 when I was still a marketing undergraduate, Cialdini hadn’t introduced his newest principle. It was only in 2020 after I enrolled for training with the CXL Institute that I delved deep into the principle of unity in persuasion. Cialdini added the principle of unity when he launched his book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (2016).
According to Cialdini, unity is a shared identity that an influencer shares with the influencee. The more we perceive someone else to be “part of us” the more we are likely to be persuaded by them.
When creating a content marketing strategy, I often start by asking coaches what they have in common with their target readers. What is it that deeply connects you to your ideal client?
There are several ways business consultants and corporate training experts can induce feelings of unity in their readers:
Invoke Family Ties
Cialdini tells the story of how Warren Buffet inspired the confidence of shareholders of his firm, Berkshire Hathaway. The shareholders had concerns over succession in case Warren Buffet could no longer run the firm. In a letter to the shareholders, Buffett wrote, “I will tell you what I would say to my family today if they asked me about Berkshire’s future.”
By invoking family, Buffet was highly persuasive because he was advising his shareholders the same way he would advise the people closest to him.
As a corporate coach, you can use the same language. You might say, “Here’s what my father advised me when I was facing the same challenge…” or “these are the steps I would recommend if you were my daughter…” depending on the circumstance and the age and gender of your influence target.
Use Specific and Unique Jargon
If you’re a sales coach, you could relate more with your target audience by using sales-related jargon. Let your audience feel you’re an insider. Let your target audience identify with your values through your choice of language. You could niche down even further depending on the industry. For example, pharmaceutical sales people would probably have different insider jargon compared to automotive sales reps.
People feel invested when they are involved in the creation of something. Cialdini describes the market research for a new restaurant concept. Consumers were shown a description of the concept, and asked for feedback. But, the exact language varied – some were asked for “advice,” others for “opinions,” and others for “expectations.” The last question asked how likely the consumer would be to visit the restaurant.
Those who provided “advice” were most likely to visit the restaurant. Cialdini explains that the advisors felt they were helping create a new restaurant concept, not just commenting on it. They were in a unity frame of mind with the restaurant.
Coaches can use the sales discovery process to promote co-creation. Ask HR managers about the kind of training their staff require. Seek the advice of staff in crafting a custom training solution. Make your service a shared solution created through staff-management collaboration.
Exclusivity triggers an emotional response because people want to feel a sense of belonging. Most people want acceptance and connectedness, and the more exclusive the group the more connected we feel. Exclusivity inspires a feeling to work towards community goals, even if it means sacrificing your personal ambitions.
In digital marketing, exclusivity breeds brand loyalty. You can make your readers feel like VIPs and give them a group identity and group purpose to work towards. Focus on making your most loyal subscribers and followers feel special. Understand your audience’s motivations and offer the right rewards.
For example, you can offer experiential benefits for long-term customers. One of my favorite coaches offers an invite-only mastermind group for some of her most committed online followers. The limited spots only open up once a year. Existing members suggest names from the open community and sometimes take a vote on who gets admitted to the exclusive mastermind. The highly-sought mastermind membership encourages members of the open forum to engage more and provide more value to others.
Define the Out-Group
In most groups, there might be a sub-group of people who others feel some disdain for. For example, I’m a member of a Facebook marketing community and we have these types of members who are always self-promoting their stuff. These individuals rarely contribute in meaningful discussions but will often spam the comment sections with links to their websites and sales pages.
Create unity in your readers by identifying an out-group. Encourage members to abandon behaviors that may mark them as the out-group. Reward members who show loyalty to the in-group. Rewards for the in-group can be as simple as replying to comments or highlighting their response.
Last Word on Learning with the CXL Institute Scholarship Program
The CXL Institute’s Digital Psychology and Persuasion Minidegree has acted as a powerful refresher course for using persuasive tactics in content marketing.
In today’s digital environment, web users find they are constantly bombarded with marketing content. For users, it’s increasingly difficult to know which service providers to trust. For professionals, it can become challenging to know how to craft your message.
Most times, you want to avoid a hard-sell approach and focus on building long-term relationships. Knowing how to incorporate the 7 principles of persuasion can greatly enhance your message and boost your conversions.