I have recently been reading the enlightening book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini. Its a fascinating read and I recommend it to anyone but there is little within it on how to apply the theory that he presents in a practical way.

So, the following article(s) are my clumsy attempt to do that in a business setting and specifically aimed at your website. Hopefully the discoveries that Cialdini makes in his book will translate to practical tips and ideas for a typical business website.

Reciprocity

Dr Robert Cialdini

Rather than try to paraphrase sections of the book to explain what Cialdini means by Reciprocity lets allow the man himself to explain it…

Ok, so if by giving help to others we can expect something in return (the good old principle of BNI – Givers Gain) then how can we use this to our advantage on our website?

The simplest method is to give free advice and support but there are other ways and what follows is our list of ways you can “give” via your website…

Blogs 

These are a ever more popular tool for marketing executives and used well they can enhance your reputation as an expert in your field, they can entertain and enlighten your readers but they can also generate the feeling of reciprocity. By giving your time, advice and support via a blog you develop a relationship with the reader and generate a feeling of reciprocation.

Free reports

You may have seen this done on websites but it still seems a technique that hasn’t quite reached its peak in terms of popularity – possibly because of the time it takes to research and write a report or because business owners are reluctant to give away their intellectual property but when done well, giving away a free report is a good way to build trust in your company and generate the feeling of debt in the reader.

A company that does this really well is Implentra Limited on their Conversion Rate Optimization website. They provide a host of well written and informative reports on how to improve website conversion which are free to download.

They do this because they know that each visitor to their website will be at a different point in the buying process. Some will be ready to contact them about using their services but most will be still researching. So by giving them some free help and advice they build trust and that feeling of reciprocity that is so important.

Chatbox

 Chatbox

If you had asked me 12 months ago if adding a chat box to your website is a good idea I would have said a firm “NO”. However, since we added one to our website about 6 months ago my view has completely changed.

It turns out that rather than putting visitors off and annoying them it actually does appeal to some users and having the ability to chat instantly with someone without the need to email or pick up the phone is a useful thing.

The chat box that we use is powered by Olark which gives us useful stats on usage and options to alter the chat box easily without the need for recoding the app. We can also get it to pop up thus prompting the user to engage with it/us/me.

It also links nicely with Google Chat which we use within the company to chat so integrates nicely with our existing working practices.

Forum 

Allow users to post questions to a forum where they can get help from you or an army of happy customers.

Seminars

You could consider are running free seminars promoted via your website or perhaps webinars (seminars delivered over the net). When prospective customers get to meet you they make an immediate connection with you as a person. That can be a good or a bad thing (usually good) of course but people buy from people so its works well even if it takes a little organising.

Web casts and online webinars are great at fostering relationships with clients and prospects but encouraging commitment is something that is often overlooked as we try and deliver the content without paying enough attention to the goal of signing up new users.

A technique that is often used at seminars is to get attendees to complete a form and indicate if they would be interested in a meeting to discuss their needs.

At our seminars we ask attendees to complete a form and provide a testimonial that we can use to promote other seminars. With each form there is a tick box for users to indicate if they want to sign up to our newsletter. We have never had someone not sign up!

Social Networking

Existing customers should be committed to you already. Customer service becomes paramount after the sale and a good way towards strong customer retention is by reaching out to them on social networks.

Twitter and Facebook are great for this because you can easily find and connect with your customers. By engaging with them you should see a strong commitment develop especially if you can encourage them to make a public declaration of their support for your business.

Commitment and Consistency

Robert Cialdini describes commitment using the example of someone betting on a horse at a race meeting and how they are MORE convinced that the horse will win AFTER they have placed the bet than before.

He explains that this is due to the commitment that person has placed on the horse and how we are all programmed to be more committed to a cause or situation once we have made some form of public declaration to it. We are then consistent in that we continue to believe in our cause even if evidence against it is given to us.

Once we understand this, an opportunity for us as sales people to use this to our advantage (honourably of course) opens up and if we can gain an early commitment from a prospect they will be more inclined to remain clients or purchase more from us.

So, how can we influence website visitors to make a commitment? Its not easy because gaining commitment relies heavily on social interaction but here’s a few ideas that might help…

Step by step process to commit

One of the things we have learnt about ecommerce experience for users is that if you make the process of checking out too long people will abandon their carts. However, once a person has begun to enter their contact details they generally follow through with a purchase.

So, by getting a person to start entering information early you will promote a feeling of commitment to your products and services.

This can be useful in other situations also. For example, ask people to take part in a simple poll or quiz on your website with a final sign up to your newsletter could help build a strong mailing list of committed potential customers.

Users can be put off by a long page of fields to complete so break up your checkout, poll or quiz into separate pages. This will not only foster a commitment but having just a few fields on the first page will avoid putting users off so conversion will be higher.

So there are just a few ideas on how to gain commitment and consistency from prospects. Hope its of use but if you have any ideas of your own I would love to hear them.

Hopefully the above list will give you some good ideas that you can try on your own website. If you want to discuss any of these options for your own website please feel free to give us a call…

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