Persuasive Web: Where Psychology Meets Conversion

DAY 28: 30 Ways To Persuade (Part 1 of 2)

Posted in 30 Days of Persuasion by persuasiveweb on June 28, 2009

It’s been an incredibly intense and rewarding 30-day journey into exploring and applying the power of persuasion on the Web. Of course, we’re not quite done yet (2 more sleeps!), so on Days 28 & 29, Joanna and I will summarize 30 of the 55 ‘persuasion opportunities’ we’ve discussed during the month. Why 30 of 55? It seems only fitting since this is the 30 Days of Persuasion! And following our final post on June 30th, we’ll be happy to give you the remaining 25 opportunities as part of our free e-book (100% free, no registration required, no sales calls or annoying follow-up, and in limited quantities!). 🙂

And with that tongue-in-cheek sales plug, here are 5 principles of persuasion and 15 ways for you to apply them to your own site:

I. Authority: We look to experts to show us the way.

time magazine1. Endorsements – Publications: Showcase endorsements from trusted publications to build credibility.
Example: Product review quote and logo from significant published authority (e.g., Time Magazine).

2. Endorsements – Experts: Showcase endorsements from trusted experts in a field to build credibility.
Example: Video testimonial from a well-known user (e.g., Seth Godin).

3. Endorsements – Influencers: Showcase endorsements from trusted influencers to build credibility.
Example: Preferred product selection or recommendation from authority figure (e.g., Rachel Zoe for PiperLime).

II. Commitment & Consistency: We want to act consistently with our commitments and values.

tell-a-friend4. Say-Do: You say you’re going to do something, and you do it.
Example: Specific call-to-action buttons that match exactly what you want the user to do (e.g., “Order the Swiffer Sweeper Now”).

5. Make “Free” Great: Give away items that are as high-quality as your paid items.
Example: Free webinars packed with useful content – not fluff.

6. Share with Friends: Visitors who would recommend a product to a friend are more likely to purchase that product.
Example: “Tell a friend” calls to action.

III. Contrast: We notice and decide by the differences between two things, not absolute measures.

comparisonchart7. Bang > Buck: Simplify product selection by telling users which product/service will give them the most for the least.
Example: A “best value” icon positioned on/near the product.

8. Line ‘Em Up: Position similar information across various products in a standard layout to help users easily scan and contrast features, pricing, etc. and, in turn, narrow their options.
Example: Price for products positioned in same proximity to each product and formatted identically.

9. Proximity in Lists: The items you place at the top of the list are the items that will create context for shopping (on your catalog page in particular).
Example: List the items your want users to choose from at the top of a list, with lesser items lower in the list.

IV. Engagement & Emotion: We want to interact with things that make us feel.

FamCarnival1510. Play: Make your site or the tasks on it feel more like a game to activate an emotional response in users and limit the amount of executive thinking (the bane of persuasion efforts) required.
Example: Car-builder tools on auto sites.

11. Interaction: Use interactive tools to help people find the information they’re looking for (rather than sorting through lines of text).
Example: Product recommendation quizzes.

12. Affect Recruitment Heuristic: Use images & messages that help your users picture themselves doing something with a purchased item, feeling a certain way (i.e., experiencing affect) about that image, and using that feeling to make a purchasing decision.
Example: Imagery of a melting slushy drink on a cabana (on a travel site).

V. Likeability: The more we like people (and companies), the more we want to say yes to them.

shaving-man13. Be Transparent. No, Really.: Be completely honest about your company’s motivations.
Example: Tell users that you’re giving them your product for free in the hopes that they’ll love it, share it and be willing to pay for it later.

14. Cause Marketing: Support a relevant-to-your-brand cause to help users relate better to your brand.
Example: Tide’s Loads of Hope campaign.

15. Win Healthy Debates: Encourage users to find flaws in your product – flaws you know you do not have. In seeking out a flaw but not finding it, users will be more likely to believe in you than had they been indifferent to flaws.
Example: Money-back guarantee if your product doesn’t save users at least 5 hours each month.


Part 2 to follow…

We look to experts to show us the way.


DAY 27: Commitment, Consistency and Really Crappy Free Stuff

Posted in 30 Days of Persuasion by persuasiveweb on June 27, 2009


You and I’ve both noticed how much free stuff there is floating around the Internet. Free software. Free email accounts. Free [legal] music downloads. Free information — in the form of blogs, ebooks, podcasts and webinars. Free, free, free.

But have you noticed how crummy a lot of that free stuff is? There’s the really bad free: Free software downloads that come with free viruses. Free email that comes with free spam. Even free music lyrics that leave you with a screen full of free! annoying “smiley face” pop-ups. And there’s the less-bad free: Free ebooks that are pure fluff. Free music that’s interrupted with “Music now!” mid-way through the song. And free webinars that promise one thing and end up being about something quite different.


Webinars are great ways to share useful info worldwide... for free. But when they're empty, webinars can backfire.

I recently attended an hour-long webinar by David Meerman Scott (the uber-bright “New Rules of PR and Marketing” guy). It was called something like “Creating an Effective Social Media Strategy” — a timely, relevant topic pour moi, given that I was working on creating exactly that for the global division of Intuit. My colleague and I signed on to the webinar… and, after 10 minutes, we thought, K, this’ll get on topic soon. And then another 10 minutes passed. By the time 35 minutes had passed and we’d sat through a very general introduction to the power of social and how social can support PR and marketing initiatives, we decided to cut our losses.

We’d heard nothing of developing a social media strategy — not what to do, not why or how. We’d been taken in. Promised one thing, and delivered something else. We’d given up over an hour’s worth of combined time on, basically, nothing. Not cool.

When Free Goes Bad: Beggars CAN Be Choosers Today

I guess the idea with giving something away free is that people who take your free offering should just be happy with anything you give them. “Beggars can’t be choosers.” Kinduv an old idea, though, no? ‘Cos the thing is that ‘beggars’ using your freebies are, of course, potential customers. (You knew that! That’s why you were giving your stuff away to begin with, right?) The beggars on the phone for Meerman Scott’s webinar are people who might’ve purchased his books at minimum… or even advocated to invite the man to consult with their Fortune 500 companies. So why the lack of quality, on-topic content? Can’t ‘free’ be ‘great’???

So here’s the deal: If your webinar or ebook’s title promises something, the content had better deliver on it. When it doesn’t, we as consumers — even ‘free’ consumers — get offended. We shake our heads and say, “Why’d you waste my time like that?” — and what we really mean is, “Why did you make a commitment to deliver something, and then act inconsistently with that commitment?”


If (When!) Obama lives up to "Yes we can", there'll be relatively little persuasion work to be done for re-election. 🙂

It speaks to Cialdini’s “commitment and consistency” persuasion principle. If you want to persuade people, you should:

  1. Make a commitment to do something, and then
  2. Act consistently with that commitment

Acting consistently with what you promise — also called a high say:do ratio — builds trust in you. It emulates an ideal that society has reinforced since we were knee high to a grasshopper. If you say you’re going to do it, do it. People like it. And likeability is persuasive.

The Reverse: Persuade Users to Do What You Want by Asking Them to Make a Commitment

Just as people expect companies to act consistently with their commitments, so will people act consistently with the commitments they make. I mean, no, this isn’t always the case — if it was, no one would ever default on a loan, and no contractor would ever skip town before finishing the drywall in your basement. But, by and large, when you give people the opportunity to act consistently with what they’ve said/thought/felt, you will find them persuaded to do so.

What does that mean, practically speaking?

It means that when you want someone to give you a $25 donation, you say, “Will you please commit to a $25 donation to the SPCA?” rather than asking them simply to donate (e.g., “Please give to the SPCA”). It means that you ask the people who download your free plugin to rate your plugin 5 stars. Not just to rate it. But to rate it at 5 stars.

So here’s the trick: Write calls-to-action that closely mirror exactly what you want users to commit to doing, and see your conversion rates skyrocket. Avoid ambiguity. Instead, get right to the commitment you want them to make, and in doing so set expectations as to what they will be doing  to follow through on that commitment. Check out these examples.


Nature Canada


Long story short: Get your users to make a commitment, and they will be more likely to act consistently with that commitment. It’s all about commitment and consistency — for your users and for your company.


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