Marketing Psychology and How To Use It

Every time you try to convince someone to hire you, buy your product/service, or to take any action, you are tapping into some form of psychology. The effectiveness of your tactics will depend on how much you understand the principles of persuasions.

Researchers have been studying how people get to a ‘yes’ for decades. We might think that we say ‘yes’ just because we want to. But in fact, our mind goes through an entire process before we get to a ‘yes’. There is a science behind it and it revolves around 7 principles.

Successful marketers have mastered this art so much so that we don’t even know its being done onto us.

These principles are:

  1. Reciprocity marketing
  2. Information-Gap theory
  3. Scarcity theory
  4. Social proof theory
  5. Consistency principle
  6. Principle of liking
  7. Loss aversion marketing

1. Reciprocity Marketing

This one is simply based on the principle that if you want to get sales, you must first give. It could be anything but you have to give your prospective customers something of value.

Psychologists say that we as humans like this whole equality of a thing. Give me, I give you. We like to return favors. We like to seem fair. We like to be liked. When someone buys you a gift on your birthday, you want to return the favor on their birthday.

How you can use the reciprocity principle

As with many small businesses, chances are you are already using social media as a marketing platform. You are probably using the reciprocity principle by sharing information about your product/service/industry. Make your content more valuable. Give quality information that is relevant to your audience. Educating people is a form of giving.

And whenever possible, try to give away something that is personalized and unexpected. Go the extra mile.

2. Information-Gap Theory

Curiosity is such a powerful tool when used right. There is a reason why it killed the cat and will do so nine times over. People want to know. We love to know things whether it is relevant to us or not. That is why amebo is sweet. People will take certain actions they wouldn’t otherwise do just to satisfy their curiosity.

How you can use the Information-Gap Theory

A lot of marketers use this theory. Whenever you see: “How To…”, “The X Secrets of…”, “Did you know…”, it is a classic information-gap theory. Your interest is piqued and suddenly you want to know more. (See the title of this post?)

But don’t over use this. Due to its popularity and abuse by bloggers for traffic, people are aware of this click-bait tactic and avoid clicking all together. Instead of getting people curious, you will turn them off. There goes your potential customer. So be sure to provide quality content if you have to use this theory.

3. Scarcity Marketing

Simply put, people place more value on the things that are harder to get.

Whenever there is fuel scarcity in Nigeria, people rush to filling stations, queue up for hours, and get more fuel that they would need. And they are willing to pay more if they have to. This is what black market enjoys – demand with limited supply.

That is the principle behind Black Friday. For a limited time period, the marketers make their products scarce and suddenly in one weekend it becomes available at an enticing price. Sales shoot way up.

It is the same reason why e-commerce platforms show you “2 stocks remaining”. Or airline website shows you “3 seats remaining”. Suddenly you feel the sense of urgency.

Simply telling the benefits of your products/services is no longer enough. You have to show them what they stand to lose if they don’t act fast.

How you can use the Scarcity Principle

Exclusive Access: Create an exclusive offer like access to special discounts or new products to premium members. The membership could be scarce by either limited time or a premium price, which will discourage most people.

Limited Offers: Create scarcity by limiting how much products are available.

4. Social Proof Theory

The idea here is that when people are unsure of what to do, they follow the lead of popular people, experts, or those around them.

The science behind this is that we acknowledge that we don’t know it all. As such, we look for approval around us. We trust people in uniforms. Sometimes, those uniforms are virtual. If a popular Instagramer/celebrity endorses a product, we take their word for it. This is what happened about 10 years ago when BlackBerry first came to Nigeria. Everyone was using it (even though it was just a few people). The everyone here is everyone around you.

Simply saying comments like, “it’s like everyone one is using a BB” can influence your decision to getting one yourself.

Another example is one newly hired doctor who was struggling to get clients. She was able to increase her client list by 35% by simply arranging with the hospital’s receptionist who responds to customer inquiries to first inform them of the doctor’s qualifications and experience.

So, when someone walked into the hospital, called the office, or emailed, the receptionist would respond with something like, “You should see Dr. Haifa. our in-house specialist on X. She has over 20 years experience in this field. She has performed over 300 surgeries on patients with X. She’s the best.”

That little stunt made the doctor become the most soft-after specialist in the hospital.

How you can use the Social Proof Theory

  • Have a celebrity or social media influencer endorse your product/service
  • Encourage user review, publicize them, and let word-of-word do its thing
  • Get people around you to talk about your product/service so that it appears as though ‘everyone’ is talking about it. Tip of mouth, tip of mind.
  • Solicit an industry professional/expert to endorse your product/service

5. Consistency Principle

This principle suggests that people like to be consistent with something they said or have done in the past. Nobody likes to be seen as being inconsistent. Politicians, for example, find it hard to change their public opinion on some subjects they spoke out about in the past even if their views have now changed. It makes them come off as hypocrites. Remember when PDP members were jumping to APC and back? How did you feel about that?

How you can use the Consistency Principle

To activate this in your customers, simply ask for little, voluntary commitments. For example, asking a friend for a retweet on Twitter or a repost on Instagram for one of your campaigns. That is a small commitment that can be done voluntarily.

If you go back later and ask for a bigger commitment, like donating time or money for a cause, they will most likely oblige you because they want to be consistent with being helpful.

Start small. Then ask big.

6. The Principle of Liking

As I mentioned earlier, people liked to be liked. As a result, we find ourselves attracted to people who like the same things we do. We get along with people easier if they are similar to us, are generous with compliments, and if we have a common goal.

People who go straight into negotiations have a much lower sale closing rate than those who take a few moments to share personal information and get to know their customers. Understand that it is not about you, but about your customer.

How you can use the Principle of Liking

  • Take the time to get to know your customers
  • Find areas of similarities
  • Shower them with genuine compliments, sparingly. Don’t over do it though.
  • Personalize your product/services to them if you can. If you can’t, personalize the experience instead.
  • Remember it is not about you.

7. Loss Aversion Marketing

This is similar to the scarcity principle. Psychologist say that people are more afraid of losing than wanting to gain. People will go to extreme lengths in order to prevent a loss, no matter how small, than they would in order to gain, no matter how much.

If you have ever tried buying something online, you might have come across headlines like, “last chance to buy…”, “your cart will be cleared in…”, “buy one, get one free…offer lasts until…”, etc.

This is why many brands (especially software companies) offer trial versions. Netflix, for example, offers first month free subscription. Once you have gotten a taste, you are afraid of losing your progress and access to their service. They key here is quality. If Netflix sucked, people will not pay after the free trial.

Many vendors abuse this though. It loses its effect if not done sparingly. Why should I bother buying today when I know that next week you will offer the same opportunity?

How you can use the Loss Aversion Principle

  • Give them a taste by offering trial products
  • Just as the scarcity principle works, create a limited offer
  • Offer a gift along with a sale

That’s it. Before you go about implementing everything you have learned here, take some time and think about what strategy to implement and at what time.

Most importantly though, I recommend taking the time to genuinely get to know your customer on a personal level and try to help them as much as you can. That is the best kind of marketing – caring.

Awesome customer service coupled with quality product/service will take you places.

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