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SXSW Recap: How do we convince people to make what’s next?

Laura Weedon, Mirum VP of Strategy & Planning, on “The Art of Pre-suasion” session with bestselling author and social psychologist Robert Cialdini.

Many of you may recognize Robert Cialdini as the author of the bestselling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, and his new book “Pre-Suasion:  A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade” has also become a bestseller. At SXSW this year, I was fortunate to attend a fascinating Q&A session called The Art of Pre-Suasion, where Cialdini was interviewed by Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva and author of Enchantment, a book with similar themes about “bringing about a voluntary, enduring and delightful change in other people.”

In my position on the Strategy and Planning team at Mirum, I often find myself needing to convince clients or team members to say yes. And no matter how big the payoff from that decision might be, it’s often a risk nonetheless. So, what could be more helpful than a proven approach from a best-selling author?

At SXSW, Cialdini discussed his six universal principles, which I’ve shared below with my own interpretation:

Reciprocation: It’s simple human nature that if you give someone something that they find even a small amount of value in, they feel obligated to give something in return. A sneak peek into a future product release? Sure, I’ll give you my email address and zip code. 

Liking: We like people who are like us, even if those likenesses are unrelated to the topic at hand. So, yes, I’m more likely to help out that fellow dog owner at work for a last minute pitch because we have something tangible in common. 

Consistency: Saying yes to something you've already done before is much easier than the first time you committed to do it. As marketers, we need to remember this by building upon a foundation and reminding our audiences that we just want them to do more of what they’ve already done.

Authority: We tend to say yes to experts and to people who know what they're talking about. There’s a time for broad summaries, but sharing specifics and details with a team, a client, or a potential customer will show that you are the expert and should be trusted.

Social Proof: The idea that those around us are doing something is sometimes enough to convince us to join in. Apparently, restaurants that choose to highlight popular items on their menu see sales of those items continually outperforming the non-highlighted ones. As humans we inherently trust the decisions made by others.  

Scarcity: People want more of the things they have less access to. Whether it’s the last four tickets available at the lower price, or a limited time offer, it’s our nature to want it even more.   

So, if we can convince someone to do something using these principles, why do we need to “pre-suade” them? Pre-suasion is the idea that there are subtle and sometimes not so subtle things that we as marketers can do to prime an audience for our persuasive magic. This may mean focusing on a long game, or maybe a higher value basket on our e-commerce website; a shopper referred from our email campaign could be pre-suaded to spend more with an email subject line so thoughtfully crafted, it not only improved the open rate but drives purchase as well. We see this all the time with things like free shipping offers, but that’s not very subtle. Could we pre-suade someone to load up their shopping cart with summer gear by adding sunshine emojis to our email subject line?

Robert Cialdini says we can.

Laura Weedon is VP, Strategy & Planning, Mirum.