Last Updated: November 25, 2020

Imitation is the most sincere forms of flattery, at least, according to advocates of the “mirror technique.”

By mirroring a target’s physical posture and gestures (while maintaining casual conversation), you can develop an unspoken bond with that target, making them feel that you two are “in sync.” Then, introduce a gesture of your own—if the target copies your gesture, you know you’ve gone from following to leading. Only now can you interject your own ideas in conversation, hopefully extracting a response of “That’s just what I was thinking.”

So much of communication and decision-making occurs at the subconscious level, requiring marketers to consider the psychological underpinnings of purchasing behavior. By understanding the factors that apply at this level, they can be far more effective at persuading people to choose what they want them to choose (and buy).

What is persuasion marketing?

Persuasion marketing applies what we know about human psychology to develop techniques to market products or services. In this case, it specifically applies to the promotions aspect of the marketing mix, and builds on a customer’s impulsive behavior to lead them to purchase.

In terms of Internet commerce, persuasion marketing includes how a web page is designed. Again, applying human psychology to web design—focusing on the part of the decision-making process that’s not consciously controlled—elements such as layout, copy, and typography, combined with the right promotional messages, encourage website visitors to follow pre-planned pathways on the website, and take specific actions, rather than giving them free reign of choice in how they interact with the website. (See also Consumer Psychology)

Who implements persuasion marketing?

Salespeople have been using persuasive techniques for as long as they have been around, and now work to translate these techniques on the web. Persuasion marketing, in fact, was a top subject discussed by keynote speaker Susan Bratton at the 2011 SES (Search Engine Strategies) San Francisco convention, attended by more than 1,000 marketing and advertising professionals. It’s a topic, and a strategic approach, that appeals to marketers in a variety of industries. If you have an e-commerce website, then you want to convert visits to sales—and persuasion marketing techniques ease that process. (See also E-Commerce Marketing)

Elements of Persuasion Marketing

  • Structured communication — control the order of a conversation, or how information appears to the consumer
  • Storytelling and copywriting
  • Neuromarketing — market to the 90 percent of the decision-making process not consciously controlled

For what kinds of customers is persuasion marketing effective?

One of the insights of persuasion marketing is that customers’ sensitivity to persuasive arguments varies according to a number of factors, including their immediate emotional state. Therefore, in order to increase the chances of converting a customer, a salesperson or marketer needs to look for a “persuasion window,” open one if they can, and make the deal before it closes again.

Examples of Persuasive Windows

  • when in a good mood
  • when the world doesn’t make sense
  • when indebted to a favor
  • can (or must) take immediate action
  • right after a mistake
  • right after being denied a request

Consider a visitor who has just registered for a newsletter or promotion on a website and lands on a “thank you” page. Since that visitor has already engaged with the website and is in an “interactive state”, additional offers on “thank you” pages typically earn a 39% conversion rate.

Another way to generate persuasive windows is to “alarm clock” a website. Many marketers design pages in a way that people have reasons to regularly check it to avoid “missing out” on opportunities or offers. When people visit a website on their own time, they arrive already open to persuasion.

How is a persuasion marketing campaign developed?

There are four primary elements of persuasion marketing: structured communication, storytelling, copywriting, and neuromarketing.

Elements of Storytelling

  • passion
  • hero (the customer)
  • antagonist (or bogey, like the fear of loss)
  • moment of awareness
  • transformation
  • Structured communication, like the “planned conversation” of interpersonal sales, is about controlling the order of the dialogue, or how information is presented to the consumer. The goal is to move a customer along his or her “impulse curve,” initially encouraging a customer’s impulse, and making a call to action after that impulse level has been raised to its highest point. In website design, it means that the first page the customer sees does not immediately seek a sale, but instead presents the initial message and encourages further exploration of the website.
  • Storytelling uses a narrative framework to invoke a customer’s emotional and subconscious responses, so that they join—or dominate—their more analytical responses. Use of particular words and images evoke habitual emotional responses, such as affection, familiarity, empathy, and desire for triumph/resolution.

    Weapons of Persuasion

    • Reciprocation — obligate people emotionally by giving them something
    • Commitment — secure a small commitment, then build on it; people don’t want to back out on the initial commitment, so they are more likely to comply with new terms
    • Social Proof — testimony of peers
    • Authority — perceived expertise
    • Liking — people are more likely to buy if they like you, so be friendly (and be physically attractive—never show ugly people in your pictures)
    • Scarcity — of either the product, the offer, or the time; this does not need to be real, only perceived
  • Copywriting is using the right words and phrases for headings, captions, product descriptions, and other text. For example, when people scan material (and most Internet pages are scanned before they’re read), questions stand out more than statements, so “What is the best way to capture attention?” catches more attention than “How to capture attention.” The persuasion marketer field-tests different kinds of copy, in order to determine which is most likely to produce the emotion or answer he or she’s looking for.
    Different words describing the same thing can have very different connotation. “Choices,” for example, produces a positive emotional response, but “trade-offs” produces a negative one. Additionally, the copywriter and marketer must remember that the fear of loss is more motivating for most people than the promise of gain. Thus “don’t miss out” has more impact than “this can be yours.”
  • Neuromarketing (See also Neuromarketing) is perhaps the most important component of persuasion marketing, applying psychology to the marketing message. Psychological research reveals information about the diverse factors that contribute to a decision—and as much as 90 percent of that all takes place beyond our conscious reasoning. For example, research demonstrates that visual and olfactory cues are important for “priming” a particular mood; therefore, grocery stores display flowers in the front in order to “prime” customers with the image of freshness. In terms of website design, it means using color scheme and particular visual imagery to improve visitors’ response to the website.

Another major feature is testimony from other people. Businesses typically display customer testimony on therir websites, developing a “wall of social proof” approach. Businesses post photos of happy—and attractive—customers, so new customers are comfortable being associated with them.

What career titles work with persuasion marketing strategies?

Marketing Manager

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top 10%: $187,199+
  • Advertising Manager
    Median annual pay: $87,650
    Top 10%: $186,630
  • Web Developer
    Median annual pay: $77,990
    Top 10%: $124,860

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • apply persuasion marketing techniques to various campaigns, including direct marketing and Internet marketing
  • comission and evaluate market research on different consumer segments, and how they respond to various persuasion techniques
  • keep current on neuromarketing research
  • coordinate the efforts and messaging of various marketing teams, including those in advertising and web development
Education and Skills

Marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or business management, accompanied by several years’ experience using persuasive techniques in sales, advertising, or related fields. Education preparing them for this career includes classes in marketing, market research, consumer psychology, and business management.

Advertising Account Manager

What do they do?
  • pitch creative ideas for advertisements including persuasive techniques, such as social proof, likeability, and scarcity/fear of loss
  • craft compelling narratives for consumer messaging and specific advertisements
  • write—and test—copy for websites
  • collect testimonials from satisfied customers to use for promotions
Education and Skills

Advertising account managers typically require a bachelor’s degree in advertising or marketing, or occasionally journalism, and require some years experience in the field, with copywriting, graphic design, storyboarding, or similar projects. Educational background encompasses communications, video production, market research, and consumer psychology; and often involves an internship between school semesters.

Web Developer

What do they do?
  • create landing pages for Internet ads
  • design the page layouts for the many pages on a company website, and plan the customer’s path through those pages (structured communication)
  • apply neuromarketing research to the selection of colors, layout, and typography of a website
  • analyze traffic on a web page, identifying significant issues and opportunities
Education and Skills

Education for web developers varies from high school to bachelor’s degree, but in all cases require a thorough understanding of HTML and other web programming languages and publishing tools (including JavaScript, SQL, and Flash). Classes in psychology and graphic design are also important for learning what elements will help in developing high-impact web pages and content.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Persuasive messaging is an important component of all product promotions. A marketing program will specifically equip to create more effective marketing messages, by providing you with in-depth analysis of consumer behavior.

In a marketing program, you’ll learn about the components of the marketing mix—product, price, placement, and promotion. To understand products, you’ll learn about research and development in a business setting. Classes in economics will prepare you for advising on price. For placement, you will learn about product distribution methods and logistics, and how to develop business relationships with resellers. Finally, promotion will focus largely on communication skills.

In addition to taking specific classes on various communication environments, you’ll be required to practice and develop your communications and presentation skills in all of your classes. You’ll learn how to apply persuasive techniques to both verbal and graphic messages. Classes in market research and consumer psychology will further increase your ability to understand consumer behavior in the economic environment, and develop appropriate messaging for them.

To learn more about what a marketing program can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and don’t miss out on an this exciting and lucrative career.