The Psychology of Influence and Your Marketing

By Travis Lee

When you present an offer to clients, you must have a reason for the offer. Notice I didn’t say a great reason, or even a good reason, certainly nothing earth shattering, but a reason nonetheless. Here’s why: People are naturally skeptical and suspicious. They’ve been told their entire life that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. I think we’ll all agree that there is some truth to that.

In this letter, we did an OK job with it. First, we tell them that if we’re going to advertise we may as well make it BIG. And second, we acknowledge that once they experience our service for a year they’ll bring their cars in each time, and refer their friends and family.

Here are a couple other specific examples. First, our vendors in both 3D Mail and American Retail Supply (our other business) will often extend special pricing to us, that we can pass on to our clients. We’ll then say our vendors are helping us make this happen. Remember, good is certainly good enough!

Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle runs a yearly “Scratch and Dent” sale. They discount the items that have been slightly damaged during production or shipping. Recently, at 3D Mail, we ran a sale on the trash can, bank bag or our pill bottle mailer because we found a new supplier. You can have an ‘Anniversary Sale,’ or a ‘New to the Neighborhood Sale.’ Truly, any logical reason will give you a bump in response.

If you don’t believe the power of ‘why,’ here’s a short story from The Psychology of Influence, by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini:

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer demonstrated this unsurprising fact by asking a small favor of people waiting in line to use a library copying machine. ‘Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?’

“The effectiveness of this request-plus-reason was nearly total: 94 percent of those asked let her skip ahead of them in line. Compare this success rate to the results when she made the request only (without giving a ‘reason why’): ‘Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?’

“Under those circumstances, only 60 percent of those asked complied. At first glance, it appears that the crucial difference between the two requests was the additional information provided by the words, ‘because I’m in a rush.’

“But a third type of request tried by Langer showed that this was not the case. It seems that it was not the whole series of words, but the first one, ‘because,’ that made the difference. Instead of including a real reason for compliance, Langer’s third type of request used the word ‘because’ and then, adding nothing new, merely restated the obvious: ‘Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?’

“The result was that once again nearly all – 93 percent – agreed, even though no real reason, no new information, was added to justify their compliance other than adding the word ‘because’ trigged an automatic compliance response from Langer’s subjects, even when they were given no subsequent reason to comply.”

In addition to reason why for a specific promotion or campaign, you can use reason why copy to increase your believability with a ‘reason for existence’ story for your business. At 3D Mail we have a story like this that we use often and I’ve shared that here in the past, so I won’t take up space this month. Suffice to say it’s very similar to the old Remington Steele commercials, “I liked the shave so much, I bought the company,” except we didn’t buy the company, we started it from scratch.   Most successful information marketers are very good at this. They have a great “reason for being,” usually revolving around “this is just too big NOT to let others know.” In any case, it’s got to be more than just about you making money and it can be used in just about any business.

You should also include a logical reason for your deadlines. Again, nothing earth shattering is needed, but some reason why they can’t get ‘X’ after a certain time, date, limited supply, etc. Over the years I’ve used reasons such as, “My accountant’s away so I can get away with this until next week.” Which obviously is completely made up, and I’m sure very few actually believe it, yet still reason enough that folks can wrap their head around the idea. There are also very real reasons, which, for my money, work even better than the made up examples, as illustrated above.

When we first found a manufacturer in China for our bank bag we had a very real reason for a discounted price. First, our cost went down, so we could bring our sell prices down. But the biggest reason was even simpler, and was explained many times on our promotions: We could afford to bring in more stock if we pre-sold more and created cash flow before the first order was shipped. It was a win/win for us and our clients.

So if you want to boost your response and ROI, start using ‘because’ a whole lot more, and follow your because with compelling reasons. Remember, in Dr. Cialdini’s example, where someone asked to jump to the front of the line, people were persuaded solely by the word “because,” even when the “reason” that followed wasn’t particularly rational or logical. In copy, it’s my belief that it takes a little more than that, but not much. People have become skeptical, especially of advertising, so give them a ‘because’ followed by ‘reason why,’ and you’re well on your way to higher returns.

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