Note: this is part two of an ongoing series of psychological marketing techniques based on renowned psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini’s work. So start with part one if you haven’t already read it yet.
This next “weapon of influence” is a big one.
2. Commitment and Consistency
Money-back guarantees are nearly ubiquitous. But most people won’t ask for a refund, even if they didn’t get as much value out of what they bought as they expected.
And even if they looked at the refund policy before buying.
So... why not get a refund?
Because the moment they buy, they convince themselves that it was well worth it.
As a psychological principle, commitment and consistency refers to the tendency to believe more strongly in choices after making them.
We do this automatically, to avoid cognitive dissonance -- the uncomfortable feeling of believing two contradictory things at the same time.
The way this works is, you start off skeptical about whether to buy something, and you’re still a little uncertain when you pull out your wallet…
But 5 seconds later, as soon as you’ve bought the product, you’re suddenly VERY sure of your choice, and happy you bought it.
The concept of commitment and consistency also explains why it’s so hard to change someone’s mind by arguing with them. The moment you make them say what they believe, you have solidified that belief in their mind. You’ve made them commit to it, and now they’re going to do everything they can do be consistent with that commitment.
We talked about free trials in part #1 of this series, but it's also becoming popular to offer a paid trial.
For example, the SEO tool Ahrefs' main offer is $7 for a 7-day trial, and (according to the site) it attracts over a thousand signups per week:
Some founders think paid trials work because once you have someone’s credit card on file, it’s easier for them to just keep getting charged than to cancel.
That’s true, but the main reason it’s true is that paying for the product convinced your customer that it was worth it.
Similarly, we can assume that customers who leave testimonials or positive reviews will have an even more positive association with the brand after doing so. Making those positive comments actually causes them believe what they're saying in a deeper way.
Another techniques is something called the “yes ladder”.
Salespeople use this all the time.
It basically involves getting people to agree to something small at first...
Followed by increasingly large things...
Ending with the final sale.
This works because, as Dr. Cialdini says, "it’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end."
So the yes ladder is actually less like a ladder, and more like a slide.
Once you’re on it, it’s hard to stop.
Often this means getting you to agree that certain things are important to you, leading you step by step up the yes ladder until you feel like the only rational thing to do is buy.
It goes like this:
How important is your family to you?
Do you want your kids to have a good education? Would you like to be able to take nice vacations with your wife?
Would earning more money make that possible?
If there was a guaranteed way to double your income, would you be interested in it?
Then I have a great product for you.
Another way you can use the commitment & consistency principle is to set people up to view themselves in a certain way, so that they will act in a way that’s consistent with that later.
For example, one study showed that charities can actually get more donations simply by telling people that they are the charitable type beforehand. Once people start to believe they are charitable, they begin to act that way.
In a similar study, people who answered a short survey asking whether they were the adventurous type (which almost everyone wants to believe they are) were more likely to enjoy a new product sample right afterward.
The mind does everything it can to remain consistent with what it has committed to.
All right, last example.
If I wanted to use the principle of Commitment and Consistency to encourage you to subscribe our email newsletter, I might say this: