As a business owner, you are always selling. Maybe not in the way you imagine sales to be. You aren’t a used car salesman nor are you likely to be seen on television at 3:00 am extolling the virtues of your massage therapy practice.
But on a daily basis, through everything you do and communicate, you are selling your services to the people in your community. If you think of selling as the act of persuading someone to do what you want, everybody is selling something. You might say that the art of persuasion is part of our very nature.
The Science of Persuasion Applied to Marketing and Sales
Researchers of human behavior and psychology have studied how individuals convince and persuade others for decades. In 1983, Dr. Robert Cialdini first released his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. In this book and its subsequent releases, Cialdini details six research-based techniques for influencing others to act: commitment and consistency, scarcity, authority, liking, reciprocity, and social proof.
Collectively referred to as “Cialdini’s Six Principles of Influence,” his ideas have since found their way into marketing campaigns all over the world. Can understanding these principles help you improve your marketing efforts? Let’s take a look at each one and find out.
Cialdini’s Six Powers of Persuasion
Commitment and Consistency (We Fear Change)
People have a tendency to take actions that conform to their inner beliefs and previous choices. This is one of the reasons many of us fear change. When we choose an action that isn’t consistent with our normal routine, we become uncomfortable and wonder if we are making a mistake. This resistance to change could prevent someone from trying a massage for the first time.
To counteract this effect, encourage prospective clients to first make a small commitment. For example, you might offer chair massages at a health fair – a 10-minute commitment for them. You can then offer a discount for a 60-minute treatment in your office to escalate their commitment to you.
This technique can be particularly effective if you combine your marketing incentive with a message that conforms to the customer’s existing value system. For instance, you can explain the health benefits of massage to health conscious consumers or tout it as an indulgence to individuals who are seeking options for wellbeing and self-care.
Scarcity (Fear Of Missing Out)
You’ve probably seen plenty of scarcity-based marketing in your life. “Order now before supplies run out!” “Seating is limited, buy your ticket today!” Despite seeming obvious, the concept still works. People don’t like to miss out on an opportunity. But you must be cautious not to overdo this marketing approach.
If you want to use scarcity in your marketing efforts, just tell the truth. When you invite clients to rebook, point out that each therapist in your office has limited time available. Encourage your clients to schedule their preferred time with their preferred therapist before that block is unavailable.
If you are offering a limited number of coupon books, packaged deals, or products, include this information in your advertisement--no exclamation points required.
Authority (Experts Agree)
Remember the “nine out of ten dentists approve” ads? This is a classic application of the authority principle. We tend to respect the opinions of authority figures. When you incorporate peer-reviewed research about the benefits of massage in an article for your blog or in a social media post, you are using this method of persuasion.
Additionally, stating your professional credentials in marketing and website content bolsters your personal authority and gives more weight to your advice to prospective clients.
Liking (Good Vibes Mean Good Business)
People feel better making purchases from companies they like. They even feel better making purchases from companies associated with something they like. An entire body of marketing--affinity marketing--relies on this concept.
You don’t have to put cute animal pictures on your website or market only to people just like you. But if you want to grow your business it helps to be likeable. Remember that you and your staff represent the personality of your business. Make that personality a friendly and inviting one.
Reciprocity (Thanks, I Owe You One)
Another human characteristic that Cialdini noted was that people feel a need to give something in return when receiving a gift. The pull to not be indebted or to return the favor is a powerful one.
Consider the famous mint study. In this study, researchers examined how personalization and reciprocity impacted the tips given to waitstaff at a restaurant. The research found that when staff provided restaurant customers with a small gift (the mints) their tips increased. The effect was more pronounced if the customers thought the staffer personally thought of them when deciding to offer the mints.
Small gifts and tokens of appreciation make your massage therapy business more likeable and triggers the desire for reciprocity.
Social Proof (I’ll Have What She’s Having)
Social proof is a powerful force in marketing and in life. Peer pressure and a desire to fit in with the crowd shape our decisions in ways that most of us don’t even notice. Social proof can take the form of reviews, testimonials, celebrity endorsements, and more.
Incorporate social proof into your marketing efforts by asking your clients to submit reviews to popular review sites or on your Facebook page. Or you could offer a rewards program for clients who make referrals. You might even recruit some of your best customers to become micro-influencers or brand ambassadors for your business.
Use a Little Persuasion for a Marketing Boost - The next time you are looking for a new or innovative way to market your massage therapy business, give one of Cialdini’s principles a try. Just remember to stay true to your brand and your business when you do!