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  • Writer's pictureJürgen Teichert

7 Marketing Psychology Tactics to Influence Your Customers (With Examples)

The brain. It is the control center for every process in your body, and with so much to do every day (like keeping you alive), it has to rely on shortcuts—for remembering, problem-solving, and—what we’re talking about today—decision making.

So in terms of consumers making purchasing decisions, being aware of these shortcuts can help you to understand, predict, and leverage their behaviors in your favor. No, you’re not looking to maliciously manipulate your prospects and customers. But yes, there are ways to influence their actions—actions they will be glad they took.

In this article, you’ll learn seven psychological principles you can leverage in your marketing and influence the buying decisions of your prospects.

Table of contents

  • What is marketing psychology?

  • How to use marketing psychology responsibly

  • The commitment and consistency bias

  • The anchoring bias

  • The paradox of choice

  • The mere exposure effect

  • The reciprocity effect

  • Social proof

  • The Pygmalion effect

What is marketing psychology?

Marketing psychology is the practice of aligning your content, communication, and strategies with the many predictable, often subconscious, human behavioral patterns that have been identified through experimentation and research. These common behaviors originate from heuristics—a fancy word for shortcuts the brain takes for tasks it carries out thousands of times a day, like comprehending information, making decisions, and solving problems.

There are several ways to use marketing psychology, including:

  • Resonating with your audience by using emotional trigger words.

  • Applying psychology principles to copywriting.

  • Choosing website colors based on how they are perceived.

Regardless, the idea is not to change the way your audience thinks. These patterns are hard-wired in our brains! It’s to change your content and approaches to align with the way they think.

How to use marketing psychology responsibly

I’m not trying to sugarcoat things. These “shortcuts” are also referred to as cognitive biases, thinking traps, or cognitive distortions. Which leads me to a crucial point: the idea behind marketing psychology is not to exploit, manipulate, or deceive. So if you want to use consumer psychology to win over more customers, remember these points:

  • DO make sure that their decision to choose you is truly the best one for them. Winning over customers that aren’t a good fit for your business is a lose-lose.

  • DON’T use these tactics to make promises you can’t keep or to represent more capabilities than you have.

  • DO align your business goals with the goals of your prospective buyers to make it a win-win. And use data to measure the effectiveness of your marketing psychology strategies.

  • DON’T forget that you’re a human and consumer too. Beware of other businesses practicing manipulative marketing psychology.

7 marketing psychology strategies & examples to influence purchasing decisions

For each of these seven tactics, I’ll explain what each one is, offer some simple examples, and then provide specific ways you can apply them in your marketing strategies—whether for your website, product pages, landing pages, and more.

1. The commitment & consistency bias

The commitment and consistency bias says that we have the tendency to act in line with our previous behaviors and expressions.

This phenomenon has a few manifestations that can work to your advantage in marketing.

Create a lead nurture funnel

Once we heed a small request, we are more likely to comply with similar ones that follow. This is the concept behind the marketing funnel! At the top of the funnel are small requests for your audience, which gradually get bigger as the prospect moves downward to the bottom.

For example, you ask readers to read your content, then you ask them to give their email in exchange for a free guide, then you ask them to attend an event or webinar, and then you invite them to a free trial or consult.

Since your audience is subconsciously inclined to keep their behaviors consistent, they are more likely to continue pursuing and engaging with the content and offers from the business they first started with. Plus, compared to their first action (reading a blog post), a free trial is a big jump, but compared to the previous action (attending a webinar), it’s not as drastic.

Have progress markers for tasks

Another form of the commitment bias is the sunk cost fallacy—the need to follow through with something once we’ve invested time and/or money into it. For example, Yelp lets you draft reviews without creating an account. When you begin writing, Yelp uses fun cues like “Don’t leave us hanging – what else you got?” to encourage you to complete the review.

Then, once you finish the review, they ask you to create an account—without which you can’t post your review.

Now you don’t have to create an account and post the review, but more likely than not, you’ve put in the effort to write it, so you want to make the time you spent worth it. You’re not going to abandon the process now, are you?

Break your content up into digestible tidbits

You can also leverage the commitment and consistency bias to increase engagement with your content—particularly long-form content over 5,000 words. Instead of just asking your audience to commit to reading an article that they don’t yet know is worth their time, present it in bite-snack-meal form.

  • Bite: Small piece of information without details.

  • Snack: Combination of bites. Audience wants more information but not detail.

  • Meal: Large piece of information, filled with details and thorough explanations.

Take, for instance, Elite Content Marketer’s extensive review of Grammarly. Instead of asking readers to commit to reading the whole piece, it start with the bite and the snack upfront. The bite is the overall verdict. The snack is a visual of the pros and cons of the product. And then the meal is the detailed review.

If the reader has engaged with the smaller, more digestible pieces of information at the beginning, they will be more likely to perform the larger request: to read the full piece. Should they choose not to read it, they can at least get the key takeaways at the top and obtain value from the content.

Speak to your audience’s self-perception

I highly doubt this was done intentionally, but the call to action button below is a great example of the C&C bias in copywriting. If someone is on this website, it’s because they care about their pet. According to this pop-up, not signing up is inconsistent with this self-perception.