So you’ve got a great website, your SEO is up to speed, and your products are selling slowly but steadily. It’d be nice to see an increase in profits, but there’s not much you can do about that, right?


You can actively encourage your customers to spend more, and it’s all thanks to Dr Robert Cialdini, a leading light in the world of ‘persuasion science’.  Over the years, he’s developed seven principles of neuromarketing which have a profound effect upon consumer behaviour.

If you’re serious about selling, you really need to know about these techniques, so here’s our introduction to the seven principles:

1. Reciprocity

None of us like to feel indebted to someone else, so when your friends ask you to dinner, you make a point of inviting them to dinner at yours in return.  Or a colleague buys you a birthday present, so you make sure that you buy them a gift when it’s their birthday.

But this also translates into consumer habits – did you ever stop to think, for example, about your reaction to the free chocolate or mints that you receive with your bill at the end of a meal in a restaurant?  Studies have shown that customers who receive a free sweet or complimentary drink leave a bigger tip at the end of the evening, and this is something that just about any business can tap into.

Cosmetic companies know all about this psychological trick, providing free samples with purchases, which has a two-fold effect – the customer now has a psychological obligation to make a further purchase, as well as having the opportunity to try out a product that they may wish to purchase in the future.

2. Scarcity

Canny business owners understand that consumers are tempted by products that are scarce.  Knowing that there is only a very limited supply of a product ensures its desirability, as was proven when Viagogo recently hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  Their website offered tickets to upcoming concerts and events at hugely inflated prices, but by including popups that maintained only a few tickets were remaining, their site visitors were encouraged to go ahead and finalise their purchases quickly, before someone else snapped up the last remaining ticket.

Obviously, we’re not encouraging anyone to mislead the public, but it’s worth knowing that a scarcity of a product instantly makes it much more valuable in the eyes of your customers.

3. Authority

We seem to be hard-wired to respect authority, so pointing out your expertise in your industry can go a long way towards increasing sales.  But it doesn’t end there.  Authority figures aren’t just people in uniforms or experts in their field – nowadays we’re also swayed by our favourite celebrities too, hence the plethora of celebrity endorsements for a vast array of products and services.

But you don’t have to be well-known to command respect.  You could produce regular blog posts, for example, positioning yourself as knowledgeable in your field, and then curate a selection of products that you feel will offer real benefit to your customers – try it for yourself, and see how those products fly off the shelves!

4. Consistency

People like familiarity and consistency in their lives, which is something that you can use to your advantage as a business owner.  The trick is to encourage a website visitor to engage with your brand in some small way, as over time this will most likely lead to a purchase.

As an example, researchers asked people in a US neighbourhood to allow large ‘Drive Safely’ boards to be displayed on their front lawns, with very few people agreeing to the proposal. Yet in another nearby neighbourhood, around four times as many people were prepared to allow the boards to be erected in their gardens.  The reason for this dramatic uptake?  This neighbourhood had previously been targeted for a similar campaign in which they only had to display a very small version of the poster in their window.  That act alone was sufficient to encourage them to accede to the next request.

Encourage your website visitors to sign up to a newsletter or download a free e-book, for example, and they’re much more likely to go ahead and engage further with your brand in the future.

5. Liking

We’re all much more likely to engage with brands that we like, so encouraging a positive image should be a key factor in your marketing campaign.  This is another reason why celebrity endorsements are so valuable, as their fanbase want to buy into their idol’s lifestyle.

Research studies prove that establishing areas of similarity with someone before settling down to business negotiations leads to a more favourable outcome, so use this knowledge to your advantage.  Identify your core customer base and go out of your way to show how much you have in common with them.  It’s a tried and tested strategy that’s bound to have a positive impact on your sales figures.

6. Consensus

The majority of us want to fit in with our peers, and this is something that the savvy marketer can use to their advantage.

Amazon, for example, show a range of items that other customers have bought after looking at a product, and we’re much more influenced than we realise by these suggestions.  Other online stores offer a selection of their ‘Most Popular’ products, which we’re likely to click on, and ultimately purchase, because popularity is its own endorsement.  After all, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us!

7. Unity

Dr Cialdini added this seventh principle some time after he had identified the other six, claiming that it had been ‘hiding in plain sight’.  The Unity principle is based on the understanding that we like to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, whether that’s family, culture, religion or sexual preferences – we all want to ‘belong’.

Ikea is credited with taking this idea and building its entire ethos around it, thanks to its self-assembly philosophy.  By making us put our purchase together in our own homes, the company encourages us to create a long-lasting bond with the store that we may not even be aware of.

You can use this principle to build your brand and encourage visitors to become part of ‘your’ story, fostering a sense of belonging, which encourages repeat engagements.  It’s a win-win situation, leading to happy customers and healthier profit margins.