6 Powerful Principles of Persuasion for Influential Internet Marketing

May 17, 2009 - Written by Gyutae Park  

pushglobeFrank Kern, Jeff Walker, Eben Pagan, Mike Filsaime… These are all big name Internet marketers with huge audiences and million-dollar information product businesses. In fact, if you’ve been involved in the industry for even a short amount of time, you’ve likely heard of a few of those names. You might be a part of their email lists or buy some of their products. Whatever the case may be, you’ll find that these guys have one thing in common – they all make money by selling information products that promise the secrets to online riches. But is it really that easy? Where do these gurus get their “secret” tactics from?

Many of the Internet marketing courses and systems out there are very expensive – they go all the way up to $2,000 and more in some cases. While that’s a hefty price to pay, people are willing to give it a go hoping to make up the cost with the new insights that they learn. A lot of times these products do offer immense value. I’ve personally studied courses like Product Launch Formula, Mass Control, and Blog Mastermind and I came away with a lot of good actionable insights after each one of them.

The Source of All Good Internet Marketing Products

influence-cialdiniHowever, I’ve found that every lesson and teaching in the Internet marketing world is based on one foundational concept – influence. After all, marketing really comes down to influencing people to perform an action that you want them to (e.g. buying your product, subscribing to your blog, etc). But what does it take to effectively do this? Understand how influence works and you won’t need buy into the hype of every Internet marketing product out there. You’ll be able to think for yourself and devise your own strategies.

There’s a popular book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini and it’s essentially the bible for all Internet marketers. It’s definitely a must read. In fact, all of the hyped up and expensive info products out there are based on this book – which by the way only costs $16. Cialdini explains that effective persuasion is accomplished with six principles: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency. If you want to be successful in marketing your online business, you absolutely need to get each of these down.

In this article, I’ll explain how each of the six principles of persuasion apply to Internet marketing and provide you with some tips to immediately put them into practice. Just remember that this is by no means a Cliff notes version of the book. You still need to get the book and read it in its entirety for the full effect.

The 6 Key Principles of Powerful Persuasion

1. Reciprocity
reciprocityIt’s a give and take world – you give a little and you get some back. In any Internet business, you can’t expect to sell anything unless you provide real value to your customers. Furthermore, you can’t expect to keep loyal friends and business partners unless you put something into the relationships. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. If you want a favor, it pays to do a favor for others first.

Application: Give away value to your prospects – through your blog, newsletter, and free products (ebooks, videos, reports). Once you do this, people will appreciate the valuable content that you provide and reward you by buying your products or subscribing to your feeds.

2. Scarcity
scarcityEvery Christmas shopping season there’s a hot toy that everyone wants to buy. In fact, the scarcity factor drives rabid buyers to pay hundreds of dollars more for a fad product. Remember the Tickle Me Elmo, Furby, and Tamegachi crazes?

Scarcity is extremely powerful and significantly increases the perceived value of an object or event (e.g. rare coins and collectibles, a chance to meet a celebrity, tickets to the Super Bowl). Use it effectively in your product launches and you’re more likely to sell out.

Application: Build scarcity into your product offering and marketing. Emphasize the fact that there is limited supply and that people need to act fast in order to reap the benefits. For example, if you’re selling an information product, package it with a consulting bonus (only X spots available) and a special price for a limited time. The scarcity component will force potential customers to place more value on the offer and act fast so they don’t miss out on a great opportunity.

3. Liking
likingHere’s an obvious concept that should come to you naturally – people are most influenced by others they like and trust. Build relationships, be transparent, and connect with your audience through personal anecdotes and stories. Be personable , both online and off, and build a following.

Application: Use various outlets to show people who you are and connect with your audience. Write blog posts injected with personality and opinions, create videos introducing yourself and explaining your thoughts, and be active on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. The more you put yourself out there, the more people will like you. The more people like you, the more influence you’ll have.

4. Authority
authorityIn order to expand your influence, you can’t just be popular, you also need to be knowledgeable and act as an expert in your field. There has to be a benefit for people to follow you – and often times that benefit is to gain knowledge and learn from your experiences.

Application: Work on becoming a top authority in your niche. Share your ideas through a blog and back up your knowledge base with solid examples and case studies. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know more than your target audience.

5. Social proof
social proofLike it or not, it’s in human nature for people to follow. We tend to look at what others are doing and flock towards towards what’s popular. For example, if there was a line for a restaurant that stretched 2 street blocks, many people would join in simply because of the social proof. If a lot of people are lining up to wait, the restaurant must be phenomenal, right?

Application: Highlight social proof factors in your business. If you have a high RSS feed count for your blog, prominently display it for everyone to see. If you’ve sold a million copies of a certain product, use it as a key piece in your marketing. If you get so much traffic that your server crashes, write about it and apologize for the down time. You get the idea. Sometimes it pays to brag about your accomplishments and popularity.

6. Commitment & Consistency
commitmentThere’s no such thing as an overnight success. Internet businesses take hard work and only reach a tipping point after a big commitment and consistent hard work from entrepreneurs. If you believe in your site and believe you can be the best at what you do, never give up. You’ll have a much bigger sphere of influence if you prove to your audience that you’re in it for the long haul and aren’t just out to make a quick buck. This means you need to be committed to your sites and be consistent with your efforts.

Application: Choose a niche that you have a passion for and build a business in it for the long term. Make a commitment to providing value with your sites and be consistent with your work and your marketing. For example, if you want to make money online with a blog, choose a posting frequency and stick with it, even when you think no one’s reading.

How are you using these six principles of persuasion to expand your sphere of influence online? Are you maximizing your influence to improve your Internet marketing?

Win a Free Copy of Influence

I highly recommend that everyone read Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It not only applies to building your online business, but also to other areas of your life like parenting and coaching. The book will give you a new perspective on Internet marketing with actionable tips on how you can increase your influence based on human psychology.

I’ll be giving away a free copy of the book to one lucky reader, on me. Just leave a comment on this post with your thoughts and I’ll pick a random winner on Friday (scarcity! ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Update: Winner of the free copy of Cialdini’s Influence is EH from iangilyeat.com.

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64 Responses to “6 Powerful Principles of Persuasion for Influential Internet Marketing”

This is a very nice article.
Clearly explains the role of influence in internet marketing.
Like one pointed that “popularity” alone can’t increase your influence but also by being an “expert in your field”.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

That’s right. Popularity is beneficial, but only if it’s for the right reason. It’s not really a good idea to be infamous for something online.

Matt on May 18th, 2009

I first read ‘Influence’ back when I was studying Psychology at University. As well as being full of some great material, it’s actually a pretty good read. I still refer back to the book to this day and very much agree that it’s a must read for anyone in marketing.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

The Influence book applies to pretty much every area of life, not just Internet marketing – it’s a part of how we’re wired as human beings. I’m sure it’s a part of many college curriculums around the world.

Erik on May 18th, 2009

This highlights a lot of the more underlying common sense guidance that just does not make its way to the surface on most blogs, sites etc. Outlining value and then connecting it on fundamental levels with the community, target audiences, etc seems to be lost in the woods over the necessity to constantly generate content. Quality, for quality’s sake, has been subverted by quantitative gains and analytics. A perfected mixture of both, according to your target area of influence yields much more attractive progress and results.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hey Erik,
You might up some good points here. I agree with you that a lot of people promote marketing tactics without really understanding they why and the human psychology behind it all. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and analyze the common sense guidelines that makes everything work.

Linny on May 18th, 2009

Referencing #3 – Over and over I’ve read that you can “be yourself” – but be careful. Stay professional or you run the risk of losing your audience.
I’m curious – do you think it’s possible to be “a bit of a nut” and still survive?

Dennis Edell on May 18th, 2009

Absolutely! Personality no matter what form is HUGE, but you must be consistent with it.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Haha yes, I agree. In fact, being a “bit of a nut” could actually help you depending on what niche you’re in. If everyone else is dry and boring, and you can be different, then you’ll stand above the competition.

Vin | NaturalBias.com on May 18th, 2009

Great article Gyutae! In the application of commitment and consistency, you said:

“Choose a niche that you have a passion for and build a business in it for the long term. Make a commitment to providing value with your sites and be consistent with your work and your marketing.”

I think this is a foundation for all of the principles except for scarcity. Without this element, it will be difficult to provide value, develop authority, earn liking or develop social proof.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Yep, I agree. Passion is the first step in anything you do with your businesses. If you don’t believe in something yourself, why should others?

John on May 18th, 2009

interesting read, good article.

A free copy of the book you’ve suggested would be much appreciated ;o)

Seriously, your article has encouraged my thought process (basically-given me a kick up the backside) so thanks, keep up the good work!


Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hi John,
Kicking people up the backside is one of my favorite ways to help. ๐Ÿ™‚ Now that it got you to do some thinking, how will you take action and implement your ideas? That’s the most important step.

Seamus Anthony on May 18th, 2009

Wow – this book looks right up my marketing nerd alley, will check it out. thanks for the tip ๐Ÿ™‚

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Haha, I totally feel you. Sometimes I think I had a marketing nerd book addiction.

Beth @ Smart Family Tips on May 18th, 2009

I, like Vin above, like the idea of finding something you’re passionate about and focusing on providing value. I’m new to internet marketing and am still trying to flush out which “programs” might truly be worthwhile as I attempt to learn more. This book sounds like a great place to start.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hi Beth,
The book focuses on the human psychology of gaining influence. In other words, what makes people tick and want to hear and follow you. If you’re looking for a passion or a topic for your site, I would suggest that you first look at your lifestyle, your hobbies, your connections, etc. Studying a marketing book won’t help too much in your initial phase.

Johnny on May 18th, 2009

2. Scarcity – that is pretty key in alot of things i have seen. at first my initial thoughts would be that if you have a product you want to sell, eventually you can’t keep up the scarcity facade for too long..but i do like your point about packaging ‘add-ons’ to it to keep it going. thanks for the great read!

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hey Johnny,
I agree that scarcity plays can often seem artificial and fake. A lot of times, it’s just a trick marketers use to get people to take action fast. Although they may work in the short term, people will eventually catch on.

There are still ways you can take advantage of scarcity while maintaining your levels of genuineness. For example, you can utilize scarcity in the form of a limited time discount price, coupons, bonuses, etc. As long as you have a good reason you should be okay.

Sleepless in Sacramento on May 18th, 2009

Thanks for the book overview. I will try and check out the real deal over this long holiday weekend coming up. I was one of those persons looking for a Tickle Me Elmo (all those years ago) and I understand the principle of Scarcity. I can’t help but think if I tried using this tool myself that I would be deceiving my potential customer. I (at this point) can’t imagine having a limited number of the products I sell. I guess I can look at it more as an urgent call to action ‘action’ than a tool of deception.

I will check out the book. ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Yes, the Tickle Me Elmo craze.. I remember that as well. Pretty crazy what people will do for a fad product. You can probably get one now for like $10.

Scarcity doesn’t necessarily mean you’re deceiving your customers. You can have real valid reasons why you have limited supply (e.g. your time, limited production, time sensitive, limited attention or number of seats).

Bill Downing on May 19th, 2009

Consistency. You practice what you preach. I have been following you on Facebook for awhile and I finally clicked a link and got this article. Good article. I am still trying to figure out a way to share my passion to train leaders through personality training. My hope is to influence the influener’s.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hi Bill,
Thanks for the compliment! I really do try to be consistent here on Winning the Web and practice what I preach (although that can be very difficult with all of the strategies out there). Good luck with your business! If you want to gain influence I think a good place to start is through a blog.

Ted on May 19th, 2009

Authority is very hard to fake. So, I think it’s probably a lot easier just to be passionate and knowledgeable about your niche. I’ve watched a number of people try to be successful online. Success usually comes from someone who is authoritative, knowledgeable and passionate within their niche.

I would definitely appreciate a free copy of the book.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hi Ted,
Authority is very hard to fake.. but if you’re truly passionate and knowledgeable and are consistent in your efforts, gaining authority is only a matter of time and smart marketing.

Wayne Liew on May 19th, 2009

I think the 4 principles of powerful persuasion that you have listed and elaborated above doesn’t only apply to Internet marketing or information marketing specifically. It works with all sorts of marketing, such as trying to get your product or services known in the market or even personal branding.

All I can say is that the principles that you have listed are very powerful for everyone with the aim of persuading someone or marketing something.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hey Wayne,
You’re right. The principles of persuasion apply to EVERYTHING.. from relationships to debate to selling – basically anything having to do with human interaction. If you can get the art of influence down, marketing should be a breeze. (Unfortunately it’s not always that easy).

atul chatterjee on May 19th, 2009

To start with it will not be possible to show sales of a million copies. I think it is the first few steps which need the most attention. As far as becoming an authority is concerned, it takes time.
One area which is undersold is the selling of services over the internet, be it counseling of various types, teaching etc. Everyone wants to sell a product and forget about it.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Good points. A lot of marketers make selling look easy. But what’s not visible is all of the hard work they put in in the background. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to reach success.

Mr Javo on May 19th, 2009

Excellent tips Gyutae, thanks for sharing…

Tibi Puiu on May 19th, 2009

Solid principle, indeed, with which we all undoubtedly come across everyday under any form of marketing, not just over the internet. Discounts, promotions, two in ones or deadlines also work well. Ultimately, though, you just need to have people talk about your product and spread it viral. Once you get that going, success will follow ๐Ÿ™‚

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Hi Tibi,
You’re right – getting people talking about your product definitely leads to viral success. However, it’s important to note that you can’t just flip a switch and get people talking. You can’t just submit to the social media sites and expect big results. Laying the groundwork is extremely important – and this is where influence comes into play. Building relationships and spreading brand awareness in the initial stages – when you have a big promotion, the effects will be maximized.

Dushan on May 19th, 2009

I totally agree on the fact that people are sometimes paying thousands of dollar for a knowledge they can acquire for 16$ in a good old non-electronic book. But what is missing in that case are the practical applications for an Internet Business, and that’s what the gurus (at least some of them) provide. That’s what you provide also in this post, which is very useful : indeed it’s easier to understand the theory behind Influence that to know how to apply it effectively on a business.

By the way, I think you betray Cialdini a little about the last principle of commitment/consistency… I’ve no problem with using that for our OWN benefit, but it is also a very powerful principle for selling to OTHERS… I think it’s the harder to come out with a concrete strategy for selling online, and I will be glad to hear more about it in that way on one of your next posts !

All the best,

P.S (I come from Switzerland, so please forgive my poor english)

LisaNewton on May 19th, 2009

Great ideas here. I found my niche and have every intention of staying with it for the long haul. Your post is very timely and necessary. Thank you.

Nick Stamoulis on May 19th, 2009

I think the most important sentence in the post is the one where if you beleive in your website and what you are doing to never give up.

Bob on May 19th, 2009

Gurus are great, but common sense prevails. Thanks for recommending Cialdinin’s book. I highly recommend it.

Epiphany @ GetExBackQuick.com on May 19th, 2009

Fantastic article, Gyutae! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve actually been meaning to get Cialdinin’s book (it’s on my Amazon wish list), but maybe I can win it here!

I think reciprocity is probably the most important principle you shared. I think giving is going to be the lesson of our time. For so long, people just took – trying to get bigger houses, fast cars, and as much money as possible. Now, with the economy, people are struggling and we’re forced to see things differently. I think whenever you focus on the giving the rest will happen naturally. ๐Ÿ™‚

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Ah, what an epiphany. ๐Ÿ™‚
Give and you shall receive.. I even wrote a post about it in more detail here: http://www.winningtheweb.com/give-receive-example-internet-marketing.p hp

EH on May 19th, 2009

Thanks for the excellent pointers. Two of the points that particularly stood out to me are 3.Liking and 6. Commitment & Consistency. When getting into social media and social networks online it is key to remember to be social! Build relationships, if someone comments on your post, website, etc. comment back. Developing relationships is key to success. Additionally, many people don’t realize the commitment it takes to be successful with internet marketing. Blogging isn’t as easy as some people think. It takes work and commitment in order for it to truly be successful. Like you said, it also takes consistency. In blogging, if you only post once in a blue moon, you are likely to quickly lose your following (if you ever had any!). But if you post on a regular basis on things of value, then you will quickly gain a following.

Jacob Share on May 19th, 2009

I’d forgotten about the Cialdini book but I’m glad you reminded me. I’ve put it on my reading list.

Tom Duong on May 19th, 2009

I totally agree with you on the scarcity tactic as being extremely powerful. I frequently see this tactic utilized in email marketing and sales letters, i.e., “I must warn you that they are closing the doors after 200 members, so when they are sold out, there’s no getting in on the action.” Very tempting, isn’t it?


Dennis Edell on May 20th, 2009

As long as it’s true…

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Yeah I think it’s important to have a reason why there’s scarcity and to back it up. A lot of times I see marketers limiting sales.. and then once that limit is reached, they go ahead and continue selling. Not only does that ruin your credibility but it decreases the effectiveness of the scarcity effect for everyone.

AliSwi on May 20th, 2009

While itโ€™s wonderful if your company can afford to pay big bucks for these marketing products or services, at some point doesnโ€™t conformity become a concern? If everyone uses the same proven tactics how long before they become less effective? Companies need to use the power of influence as it best applies to their target market while focusing on their core competencies. Great article!

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Fantastic point. The problem with tactics and “secrets” is that they lose their effectiveness over time. For example, say that you were engaging in some sort of sneaky link building campaign and Google decided to discount all those links because everyone was doing it. You’re not only left at where you started but you also wasted a whole lot of time.

Rather than focusing on specific tactics, learn the long term strategies that will help you think for yourself. Learn how to gain influence. Once you have that, you won’t need to pay for marketing products to tell you what to do.

Youngistaan on May 20th, 2009

Nice post. Thanks for give away this awesome book.

Nathalie Lussier on May 20th, 2009

I read this book in college too. On my own time, of course, since I was studying software engineering, and we’re not expected to know about people-stuff. Sit in your cube & code, you code monkey. But that’s a different situation! ๐Ÿ™‚

I think I’m only now starting to see how all of these things apply online, and to the rest of the world. Thanks for clarifying and highlighting certain applications.

Gyutae Park on May 21st, 2009

Haha, very true! I’m glad you broke out of that mold and decided to focus on people in addition to the computers. It’s a deadly combination I’m sure!

Jackie on May 20th, 2009

Hi Gyutae,

Thank you very much for those insights. You have made very valuable points to keep in mind while we do internet marketing. I am a believer of content value; as it is also a way to make a good reputation online. At the end of the day, we will be remembered by the value that we give our readers or subscribers. It would be wonderful to win Robert Cialdiniโ€™s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

I appreciate your sharing with us the wisdom of your experiences in online marketing. Thank you very much.


Phil on May 21st, 2009

Hi Gyutae,

as I received your article through STC it was a valuable insight into the six main tactics you have to use on getting (positive) influence on people. Very interesting. I think, if I didn’t win the book, I will buy it.

For me the most important points were reciprocity and liking.

Thanks for sharing your insights.


online seo company on May 22nd, 2009

Before you start business you need learn to basic internet marketing i am thing is best source for beginner can start business using this concept

Rob Nichols on May 24th, 2009

Thank you for breaking down some of the information from the book. I am in a new market for one of my site’s and really need some help on how I promote this business. I am learning to focus my efforts with a better understanding of the goal. Thanks for recommending Cialdininโ€™s book, I will pick up a copy and see where it leads.

MP3 tunes on May 25th, 2009

All very interesting to describe, but it seems to me that the most effective way to express yourself so external links.

Cara Membuat website on May 26th, 2009

Thanks for the information, i already buy the book, now times for reading.

Travel China Blog on May 26th, 2009

This is a great summary, I think these are golden principles for success not only in business also in relationship.
I think many people are aware of these but not using it properly, for example I have seen many online marketers using their income screen shot as a proof which sometimes are fake and not trust-worthy even it is true as it is too easy to make a fake one.
What is not used well is “Scarcity”, if you search for “marketing tip” you can find hundreds of identical or nearly identical posts.
It is hard to find a book which worth reading as time is too precious thanks for sharing and pointing a great book.

Cindy on May 27th, 2009

This sounds like a great book. I’ve been looking for a good psychology book to read lately. Thanks for the recommendation.

Jared on May 27th, 2009

Good post, I just came accross this book a couple weeks ago I put it on my list of ones to read. Sounds like it is key book for marketing.

Hope I Win,


M.Bruso from Mind2Earn on June 3rd, 2009

Beautifully written arcticle indeed. Straight to the point.
I didn’t read all the comments, sorry for that, there are so many.. :).

Of course, these principles can be aplied in any aspect of life. Being natural to us, humans, these principles are really effective.

I investigated few of them pretty deeply (see them on our site). Well the only funny thing is I didn’t read this book yet. Your post makes me want to have it now for sure.

Anyways, as I mentioned before, these principles are in our blood since our birth. Dr. R. Cialdini did not create them, he investigated and gave names to them. And we should heartly thank him for that.


zakmata on November 10th, 2009

Most of the principles cialdini talks about are about social proof/pressure, except for scarcity which deals with basic needs. I’ve been learning about this persuasion thing and it’s surprisingly easy to get people to do what you want.

My favorite example is using “because” with a reason at the end of a request, even if it’s a completely unrelated reason, most people agree right away; skipping the line at the copy machine is a documented example of this (don’t know where it’s published exactly, but many have commented on it).

gerald | link company on December 14th, 2009

Thanks for the source. Determination in making your site be at the top takes more than believing that you can do what you are supposed to do to achieve it. In the 4th principle, one must have enough knowledge and be an expert so that people will see their benefit when they follow you. I think this one is the most important.

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