Copywriting and the Six Factors of Influence

Copywriting on blackboard picture

When you own a business, be it a restaurant, a hair salon, or a deli, one of the most important factors to success is communication with your customers. The same is true of online websites. While brick-and-mortar business owners can simply speak to their customers in order to communicate, online businesses do not have the same luxury. Instead, online businesses have to use copywriting to communicate and influence their customers to do things. While copywriting might take on other purposes in other markets (for example, it can be used in magazines as a means of entertainment), its main purpose in online marketing is to guide customers to perform certain actions. When they want customers to make a purchase, leave comments, or anything else, they have to have effective copy to push them in that direction.

Copywriting can be overlooked in favor of SEO and other marketing practices, but it really is the guiding force behind all online marketing. Customers will not take action if you do not lead them to the right path. Marketing does not have to be the fluffy or manipulative content that many think of it as. It is simply about learning how to speak in a language that will reach your customers both logically and emotionally. Modern scientists have been performing studies that show the link between human brain chemistry and the effectiveness of marketing and copywriting tactics; effective copywriting is proven to work, and it can be an incredibly useful tool for any online business.

 

The Six Factors of Influence

When you are trying to reach your customers, it is important to know what kind of factors go into making that connection. In his book, Psychology of Persuasion, scientist Robert Cialdini outlines the six factors of influence that he believes can lead customers to making the decisions that you are hoping to have them make. These factors (authority, reciprocity, social proof, liking, commitment and consistency, and scarcity), when applied correctly, can help your business to maximize the effectiveness of its copy.

 

1. Authority

The first factor of influence is known as authority. This factor is all about how you frame yourself and your business.
Imagine that you have been having unbearable stomach pain for a few days, and you have no idea what is wrong. Desperate for answers, you go to the emergency room and sit in the waiting room. Sitting next to you is a man who asks you about your symptoms. You tell him what is going on, and he suggests that it might be appendicitis.
A little while later, you are called to see the doctor. The doctor that you are seeing has diplomas and awards on his wall, and he tells you that he is one of the greatest stomach doctors in the country. He says that he believes that you are suffering from pancreatitis. Now, which of these two men are you more inclined to believe? You would probably believe the man who presents himself as a world-class doctor, right? But what if the man in the waiting room was actually the world’s number-one specialist on gastro-intestinal disorders? Well, you wouldn’t know, because he didn’t tell you, so his advice would not mean that much to you.
This same concept can be applied to businesses. If you do not communicate to your customers the reasons that they should trust you, they will not feel that they have any reason to. They will not take your word as any more valuable than some random person they pass on the street. You need to use copywriting to communicate to your customers what your qualifications are and why they should listen to you. You need to demonstrate your authority.

 

2. Reciprocity

The next factor of influence, known as reciprocity, refers to the basic sense of obligation that humans feel to repay their debts. Imagine that you have a friend who takes you out to dinner often when you are down on your luck and cannot afford to eat out. Now, imagine that you win the lottery after your friend provides you with several of your dinners. Would you want to repay your friend for what he did for you? Most people would, even if the dinners had stopped years ago. This is the human desire for reciprocity.
As a business, you need to provide good customer service for your customers so that they feel a degree of loyalty to you. If you go above and beyond in taking care of them, they will feel the need to repay you by continuing to shop at your business.

 

3. Social Proof

Humans are very social creatures, and the next factor of influence, social proof, takes advantage of that. Imagine that you are in a park, and there are two ice cream stands. One ice cream stand has a line of people gathered behind it, while the other is completely deserted. Which one would you trust more? Most people would believe that the one with more people lined up is better. This is social proof in action.
For businesses, customer testimonials are extremely important. Sites like Yelp and Google Reviews get tons of views because they allow customers to see who is the most trusted by other customers. People want to go with something that is tried and tested, not something experimental.

 

4. Liking

The fourth factor of influence, liking, refers to the fact that humans are more likely to do something for someone that they like. Imagine that you work in an office, and you have two coworkers. One is always very polite to you. He asks you questions about your day, compliments you on your achievements, and always has a smile on his face. The other coworker is an absolute jerk to you. Every time you see him, he makes fun of you, scowls, or spits in your face.
Now, imagine that both of your coworkers are late for an assignment and desperately need your help to finish. Which one are you more likely to help? As humans, we tend to feel a much greater loyalty to people that are nice to us than we do to people that are mean. We like them better. As a business, you have to be nice enough that your customers will actually like you and feel good about buying things from you or doing the things that you request.

 

5. Commitment and Consistency

Commitment and Consistency is the fifth factor of influence. It refers to a human’s nature to be consistent in his views. People do not want to be thought of as liars, so they do not want to change their views. For example, think of a person that really likes a certain politician. He goes on and on to his friends about how good this politician is, and how he supports pretty much all of his views. If the politician, later down the line, was to do something that really angered the person, that person might feel differently about the politician, but he might not want to show this to his friends for fear of showing a lack of consistency. This factor plays a complicated role in business, but it can be extremely powerful when taken advantage of correctly.

 

6. Scarcity

The last factor of influence is scarcity. It is similar to the classic concept of supply and demand; when there are few of something available or when something is only available for a short amount of time, it becomes more valuable. Sales are a great example of scarcity. When a store has a big sale, you feel the need to get there immediately because you know that the discounts will only be available for a short amount of time. Creating these feelings of consequence for not acting can help your business inspire customers to act immediately.

These six factors of influence are simple, but they are extremely powerful when used correctly. Take a look around at advertising and websites that you visit and witness how these factors of influence are put into motion all around you. Think about the things that specifically influence you to act, and you can learn a lot about the human psyche and the reasons that customers act like they do.