Putting up your own business is no walk in the park. Just because you have the money to start up a business doesn’t mean it will come easy. You have to do market research, create a business structure, acquire necessary licenses and permits, look for people to work with you, and of course, to sell your product. But all of this hard work and effort will surely be worth it when you are already reaping what you sow.

Nowadays, some small businesses come and go, while others seem to have been lucky enough to stay and be loved by people. Well, the truth is, those successful businesses did not only rely on pure luck. They surely hit the right formula of persuading target markets that lead their product or services to prosper.

It is not enough that you have an excellent product with competitive price. You need to exert effort to convince consumers why they have to invest in your product rather than looking at other brands.

The secret to this success of converting marketing efforts into sales is to use Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Six Weapons of Influence. In 1984, Dr. Cialdini – a professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, wrote a book entitled “Influence: Science and Practice.” It talks about various persuading techniques that people can apply in sales, marketing, and even in normal conversation.

With the numerous data available on the internet, we can easily be overwhelmed with information making it harder to make a decision. That is why whenever we want to do something, our brain looks for signals to help us in the decision making. Dr. Cialdini called these signals as “shortcuts.”

According to Dr. Cialdini, the science of persuading people can be categorised into six principles or shortcuts, such as:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

In this article, we will have an in-depth discussion of such methods so you too can use these techniques in marketing.


When someone gives you something, be it in the form of small token or gift, you have this feeling of being obliged to return the favour. The word reciprocates itself means doing something for someone because he/she has done something similar for you. In short, it is the idea of “give and take.”

For some reasons, people do not like the idea or feeling of being indebted to others, so they tend to reciprocate every action or favour that others do for them. People are naturally reciprocal, so using this technique in marketing can be an excellent way to persuade customers to buy your product or services.

The principle of reciprocity is already effective, but it can be improved by applying these three key factors:

Offer something first

Make them feel indebted to you in the right way so they will feel obliged to return the favour.

Offer something exclusive

Everybody likes the feeling of exclusivity; it makes them feel special.

Personalise the offer

Anything customised or personalised makes it more appealing to the receiver.

One of the best practices of reciprocity in marketing is the way Spotify offers a free 30-day Spotify Premium trial to users. It comes with no-strings-attached as the subscription can be canceled anytime with no cost.

But when music enthusiasts enjoyed the benefits of premium subscription, they tend to continue and pay whatever amount to reciprocate the free-trial.

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Commitment and Consistency

Cialdini explained that this principle comes from the idea that once we made a choice, we have this subconscious urge to behave consistently according to that commitment. This method is also often called a foot-in-the-door.

Foot-in-the-door is simply a compliance tactic making people agree to a modest request first and eventually aiming them to agree on more significant demand in the future. More often than not, this persuasion method is effective because people like the idea of being consistent with their choices.

Commitment and consistency principle also reminds consumers with their previous decision through the use of perks, public display, or increasing level of commitment. Cialdini cited a classic example of how residents from a community agreed to display an unattractive “Drive Safely” signage in support of a campaign on safe driving. Residents from the smaller community quickly agreed to the request as compared to a bigger village that did not support the campaign.

The only difference was ten days ago, residents from the smaller village already agreed to place a tiny postcard in their window showing support for the said campaign. Because of this initial commitment, 400% didn’t mind erecting more prominent signage. It’s because they want to be consistent with the same commitment that they agreed beforehand.

Social Proof

The principle of social proof only explains that people tend to do things when it has the seal of approval from society. Individuals tend to follow the lead because they feel at ease that they are not the only ones doing of buying such things. It also gives them a sense of belongingness.

This method of persuasion is useful to those who are always doubtful with their decision. Individuals tend to look for validation from other people, be it their family members, friends, colleagues, or a good number of reviews from strangers.

Notice how online shopping websites includes the number of likes and the number of sales in each item? It’s a low key way of convincing you that the product is excellent since it has been liked and bought by this huge number of people.


Wouldn’t it be easier to trust someone you like or someone you can easily relate to? The principle of liking uses every consumer’s similarity to influence others.

It is also the reason why “social media influencers” are thriving nowadays. Brands and companies use both small-time and big-time influencers because they can easily persuade their followers to use the same products and services that they use. The more people like them, the more they can convince people to take action. It makes them a reliable ambassador for the brand.

If you want to increase your product’s persuasion power, you may tap on celebrities, influencers, or even reviews from previous buyers. These will help validate the decision of indecisive consumers.


Notice how brands use the phrases “experts say,” “doctors recommend,” or “scientists proved” on their marketing collaterals? It is to convince that these experts are deemed as an authority and knows what they are doing exactly, persuading you to trust their brand.

According to Cialdini, the principle of authority is not only limited to professionals like doctors, scientists, teachers, CEO, or founders. A specific type of clothing also gives a person a sense of authority as they look presentable and credible with their uniform on.

When using authority as a method of persuasion, the authority must also be relevant to the industry or product. A good example would be how Hollywood superstar Kim Kardashian co-founded women’s shoes and accessories’ brand ShoeDazzle.

Although authorities like entrepreneur Brian Lee and lawyer Robert Shapiro are heading the company, they are not relevant authority figures for a brand whose target market are women obsessed with shoes. Making Kim Kardashian, the co-founder and chief fashion stylist, made the brand more credible in terms of persuasion.


This principle of persuasion is 100% effective to those people who have a fear of missing out. For some reasons, products become more attractive when they have a less or limited supply. 

Just the thought that there are only 300 pieces of a new smartphone model available all over the world makes consumers crave for it more because of the sense of exclusivity.

When using the scarcity method, you can play with words “limited edition,” “special deal,” or “while supply lasts.” It triggers the impulsive side of buyers, leading them to make a decision right away.

Scarcity persuasion method is often used in travel booking sites and using the following phrases to encourage instant action from consumers:

  • “Limited seats available.”
  • “10 people are looking at this route now.”
  • “Book today and get 50% off.”
  • “Only three rooms left for this date.”

The scarcity method is probably the most overused persuasion technique. But businesses should be careful when using this tactic as consumers can easily take a hint if you are faking it to increase sales conversion.


These six persuasion techniques are made available for your business’ benefits. It has been used and proven effective for decades. Dr. Ciadlini may have written it more than 35 years ago, but all six principles of influence still applied up to this modern time. Using these techniques made e-commerce and social media marketing take the lead in today’s business arena.

Cialdini’s methods of persuasion are a potent tool as it explains our subconscious instinct as a consumer. Explore how these methods of persuasion can improve your business’ marketing strategy. Study and analyse which technique will suit your target market’s buying habit. And most importantly, determine how these strategies will drive overall customer satisfaction and loyalty to your business.


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