Implementing ethical marketing

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I wrote in a previous newsletter about the importance of ethical marketing. If you didn’t see that newsletter you can get it from the WTT Results website I won’t repeat the argument for ethical marketing, but will focus on how you can effectively implement a winning marketing strategy within your business. This strategy, available to you as the Congruent Client Attraction System™, used with the Congruent Business Development System™, will enable you to attract the right prospective clients for you and enable them enthusiastically to say ‘yes’ to doing business with you.

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An effective marketing strategy must be aligned to how we behave as human beings, to what drives our decision-making and to our natural tendency to take the path of least resistance where possible. To achieve these aims, it is necessary to understand  the psychology of persuasion, as outlined by Professor Robert Cialdini in his seminal book, first published in 1984, entitled ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. Cialdini set out to understand the factors that cause one person to say ‘yes’ to another person, and to identify the techniques that most effectively use those factors to bring about compliance. Cialdini describes his work as research into the psychology of compliance. He wanted to find out which psychological principles influence the tendency to comply with a request. Cialdini’s work identified six principles, six ‘Weapons of Influence’:

  • Reciprocation
  • Commitment and consistency
  • Social proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Underlying Cialdini’s work are basic principles of human behaviour. So much of what we do is done on autopilot, where our actions are determined by habit, custom and practice, with automatic responses we are not even conscious of. Understanding these human behaviours opens up many possibilities to attract potential customers to your business, which are alternatives to the ‘hard sell’ approach. I will explain each of the six principles, and how you can implement them in your business, over two consecutive newsletters, covering three principles in each.

Reciprocation. The rule of reciprocation says that we try to repay, in kind, when someone else has given us a gift or kindness. If somebody does us a favour, we try to do something for them in return. If a friend buys us a birthday present, we remember their birthday and reciprocate with a gift of our own. If we are invited to dinner, we will invite our hosts for dinner at a later point. This is a very powerful principle, one that is very apparent at the time of exchanging Christmas cards. Many of you will know how the game goes – you get a card from someone you did not expect to send you a card, and you then scramble to reciprocate.

The principle of reciprocation leads to the giving of ‘free samples’. The beauty of the free sample is that it is also a gift and, as such, can entice the receiver to reciprocate. Perhaps the most prevalent free sample now is ‘Give us your email address and we will send you this wonderful free report’. One interesting aspect of the principle of reciprocity is the tendency towards spiralling escalation. A small initial kindness can produce a sense of obligation to offer a much larger return favour or gift. Thus, giving your prospective clients a free gift, particularly one that has genuine worth, can induce within them a sense of obligation to return your kindness. While genuine worth is advantageous, it is not always necessary. How many times have you been given a free pen, for which you have very little use or need, and then found yourself giving a charitable donation in return?

There are many ways to enhance the power of the principle of reciprocation. Combining this principle with other techniques can be particularly effective. For instance, once your prospective client has accepted your first small gift, in return for their email address, it may be that you offer them a more valuable gift in exchange for more information about them – information that is more valuable to you than their email address. Once you have established this dialogue in the form of ‘offer, accept, provide’ you are starting to build a relationship with your prospective clients. This relationship gradually builds in value and, over time, increases their sense of indebtedness and therefore their propensity to buy from you.

Commitment and consistency. The next principle is that of commitment and consistency. We humans like to see ourselves as predictable, that our actions are consistent with our principles, with who we are in ourselves and with others in society. In most circumstances, consistency and predictability are valued whereas inconsistency is generally thought to be an undesirable personality trait. Individuals whose beliefs, words and deeds don’t match are seen as unreliable, two-faced or devious.

Applying this principle to attracting prospective clients to your business requires you to help them connect what you are asking them to do with what they are committed to and believe in. For instance, if you know that your prospective client has previously bought organic foods, choosing to pay a premium to do so, you can deduce that they are committed in some way to organic foods. Your task then is to present your request in such a way that identifies for them that agreeing to your request is entirely consistent with their commitment to organic foods.

Social proof. The third principle, social proof, relates to our tendency to behave as pack animals. We do what others do, we want to fit in and we don’t want to be seen as radically different in many circumstances. Cialdini offers a very apt quotation. ‘Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.’ This is another manifestation of people acting on autopilot much of the time. Often we mimic the actions of those around us unconsciously. One of the most ridiculous examples of the use of social proof is the deployment of canned laughter. Logically we know it is canned, it is not genuine and it is a device. But so often we play along laughing in unison, particularly when in group situations. We know full well that the hilarity we hear has been created artificially by a technician at a control board and not generated spontaneously by a genuine audience. We know full well that this is a transparent forgery. Yet we laugh along – it works on us!

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Applying this principle to your business involves reassuring prospective clients that doing business with you makes them part of the crowd, that they belong, that such behaviour is completely normal. One small example of deploying this principle is illustrated in the following scenario. Suppose you are a service business and you are promoting a series of workshops to attract new customers to your business. Showing the number of people who have already booked to attend your workshops on your website or, even more powerfully, identifying them by name, provides reassurance for prospective attendees that they will be joining like-minded people at your event. ‘It’s okay; lots of people just like you will be attending!’ How about a scenario for a product business? You are about to launch a new product, having previously done some pilot testing. Again you have a website. Putting several testimonials from those who were involved in the pilot on that website will provide social proof for prospective buyers.

Liking. The fourth principle is that of liking. As a rule, we agree to the request of someone we know and like. Most people will be familiar with the Tupperware® party. The use of the ‘Weapons of Influence’ at the Tupperware party is fairly easy to identify. Reciprocity is applied by playing games before the buying begins – games that result in everybody receiving a gift. Commitment and consistency comes from each attendee being urged to describe how great the Tupperware is that they already own. Once buying begins, social proof is used to underline that each purchase is very similar to purchases made by other attendees. The genius of the Tupperware party is in the application of the principle of liking. The request made to buy the product is not made by a stranger; it comes from a dear friend of everyone in the room. She is the party hostess, who has called her friends into her home for the demonstration, providing hospitality and refreshments. Everyone knows the hostess will profit from each item sold at her party. She is their friend. She is their hostess. She is liked by them. Who could say no?








Applying liking to your business development activities involves creating the sense within your customers and your prospective clients that you and your company are genuinely likeable. You will have your own unique ways of creating this sense of liking. Every interaction with a customer, a prospective client or anyone at all who experiences your business must enhance the sense of liking. For me and my service business it is key that everything is congruent. All the activities of your business should enhance the sense of liking.

Authority. The penultimate weapon of influence is authority. We are minded to do as those in authority tell us to do. If you are in the middle of a party, having a good time, and a shabbily dressed, unkempt and hesitant person tells you that everyone must leave the room, you are likely to think twice. If the person telling you to leave is a large, confident and commanding police officer, you are likely to be far more compliant, eager to depart immediately. We listen to those whom we perceive to have authority.

How do we apply this principle to our businesses? I’m not suggesting everyone should dress up in uniform to ask, or tell, people to buy from us. There are many other ways to demonstrate authority. Being recognised as an expert and an authority in your field will influence others who recognise that expertise. Expertise and niche marketing go hand in hand. It is an oxymoron to be an expert in everything, and stretches credibility to try to obtain expert status in a wide range of unrelated matters. Investing time in attaining expert status in your chosen field will yield benefits when done skilfully. Remember that expertise is claimed rather than awarded. You have to make the decision to be an expert, you have to establish the knowledge and credibility in your target area, and you have to claim expert status because no one will give it to you spontaneously.

Scarcity. The final principle is scarcity. Many businesses get this wrong. They market themselves as having infinite capability and capacity, they pursue as many leads as possible and their attitude is that they can never have too much work. The problem with this is how it is perceived by prospective clients. As a buyer, if I know that there is infinite supply, why do I need to make the decision to buy now? Unless I have to make a purchase, I can put it off because I know there will always be supply when I do actually need to buy. Any discretionary purchase can be delayed. There are so many suppliers of mobile phone contracts that I don’t need to make any decisions until the point at which my commitment to my current supplier needs my attention at the end of the contract.

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Cialdini tells the tale that people genuinely believe that the biscuits in a jar where just a few are available taste better than those from a full jar. Scarcity not only encourages people to decide to buy now, it convinces them that the item in scarce supply is more desirable, of better quality and brings with it a cachet of ownership that will reflect favourably on them. Find ways to emphasise the scarce nature of your goods and services. If you also manage to restrict your product or service offerings to a well-selected but limited range, this makes scarce the range of choices open to customers. I recall an example of a restaurant with two different menu offerings. Menu A had an enormous range of dishes to choose from, covering the cuisines of several countries over several pages. Menu B was a short, well-selected list of six dishes on one page. The vast majority of customers chose to order from Menu B, identifying it as less confusing and easier to choose from.

Implementation of all of the Cialdini principles is done efficiently, effectively and economically by deploying the Congruent Client Attraction System™ which can be tailored to your precise requirements and those of your prospective clients. The Congruent Business Development System™ enables those attracted to your business to enthusiastically say ‘yes!’ to doing business with you.

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