Ever wonder how some online business pros send out one email and get a ton of sales, opens, and clicks…
Yet you can send out email after email with no traction?
Your open rate is abysmal, your clickthrough rate is bleak, and the sales you generate from your email series doesn’t exactly make email marketing seem worth it.
But it is. Take a look at the stats:
So what’s the difference between the pros I just mentioned, and the entrepreneurs who seem to struggle for every visitor, subscriber, and sale? It’s the understanding of one thing:
As an email marketer, you need to understand how the human brain works to be more effective. And what better way to understand that than to see the research behind it?
In this article, I’ll go over the 12 most powerful psychological marketing strategies that influence behavior, how to use them in email marketing, and the research behind them.
These are the strategies we’ve used to:
9x our sales from one email campaign
Build Click Triggers that pack conversion rates of 70% or more
Collected over 7,600 emails… one on piece of content.
These are powerful tactics that can increase sales, conversions and traffic. So put on your learning pants and let’s get into it.
Get all of these strategies in a FREE cheatsheet with our 2017 email marketing bundle.
In April 2016, I sent out an email to a portion of Sumo’s list promoting a bonus.
Even though we sent it to almost 300,000 of our subscribers, and even though our open rate was in line with our averages…
The email made only 11 sales.
The problem wasn’t the bonus. We’d given away website reviews before, and it was routinely the most popular part of webinars we’d ran in the past.
It wasn’t our list, either. Our email list is engaged and responsive - other emails we send have performed much better.
The problem was that we didn’t use any scarcity in the email.
How can I be so sure? Well, after that email flopped we decided to send out a sales recap email the morning the promotion ended. That email reminded our subscribers that there was only 12 hours left in the promotion -- meaning that time was scarce for them to get the free website review with their upgrade.
And that email?
It drove over 91 sales.
Scarcity works because humans suffer from FOMO. In this case, the type of scarcity I used is in the form of urgency.
Of course, scarcity won’t work if it’s placed on something we don’t want. But the idea that something we want is in limited supply or only offered for a limited time is tantalizing.
There are 9 ways to use scarcity to increase sales, but scarcity doesn’t do only that. It also increases the value of your product.
In a study done by researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole, participants were asked to rate two jars of cookies for their value.
Initially both jars contained 10 of the same cookie. But from one jar, eight cookies were removed, making them more scarce. Now participants had to choose between the jar with 10 cookies or the jar with only two left.
Guess which one people chose from more often? The jar with only two cookies.
Scarcity is one of the oldest and best known marketing tactics in the book. It’s been used for over 65 years to sell more and charge more.
Scarcity is used liberally in online marketing.
For example, every time you see an entrepreneur take a cart open/close approach to their offerings, they’re using scarcity to drive sales.
But you can build scarcity into your email campaign… even if you have an evergreen product.
Provide limited time discounts or bonuses. This is how we increased our sales so much on our recap email - while you can always upgrade to Sumo pro, we offered a limited-time bonus for the website reviews in our email.
Send reminders. When you open your email inbox, you probably don’t action everything right away. Sometimes, you’ll see an email that interests you -- whether that’s a promotion or a friend’s response -- and you’ll revisit it later.
Your subscribers are the same way. If there’s no urgency behind the call to action, they’ll leave it for later, even if they want your offer…
And then promptly forget about it.
So send reminders like we did in our recap email. Let them know they have a limited amount of time to act on your email in the subject line:
Use a countdown timer. There’s something anxiety-inducing about flipping over one of those timekeepers with the sand in it, and watching the grains of sand deplete from the top of the timer.
That type of anxiety is the type that makes you act.
The cool thing is, you can use countdown timers within your emails, too. Amy Porterfield uses a countdown timer within her sales emails:
This is a great way to include scarcity without your subscribers even having to leave their inboxes.
Collect more subscribers by using urgency. You can use urgency in your email collection apps, too. If you can offer a content upgrade or an opt-in offer (maybe a 15 minute call with you, for example) for a limited amount of time, include a countdown timer on your Click Trigger or pop-up and be clear that it’s limited.
We’ve all been there:
You go to a Christmas party or function, and you receive a gift from a friend who -- woops! -- you didn’t get anything for in return.
Queue the anxiety.
Chances are, you felt badly that you didn’t give them anything. That’s not what gift giving is about, it still makes you feel guilty.
Ever wonder why?
That’s because you, fellow human, are predisposed to hold reciprocity to a high regard.
As a social norm, reciprocity is important. We’ve been conditioned to seek equal ground when it comes to giving and receiving.
Every once in awhile, a study is done that proves something so strongly that it’s almost laughable.
And in this case, it is laughable.
The year was 1974, and a researcher, Phillip Kunz sent Christmas cards to 600 people. And almost 35% of those people sent Christmas cards back to him. But here’s the kicker:
Kunz didn’t even know these folks.
Crazy right? So if he didn’t even know them, why did they send Christmas cards back to him?
Because of reciprocity.
This is used in marketing all the time to increase sales, get more email addresses, and boost social sharing.
Use reciprocity to collect more emails. You can use this principle to increase email subscribers by creating something of extremely high value and giving it away for free.
This also triggers another psychological marketing strategy I’ll be going over later, but we’ve given away a very high value swipe file in our Instagram Marketing guide...
And reciprocity is why it’s collected over 7,600 emails.
Yes, from this one article alone.
Use reciprocity in your emails. Reciprocity can come into play in your subscribers inbox, too.
For example, sending something exclusive and high value for free to your list without being asked is a great way to trigger reciprocity.
If you’re willing to give away a unit of your course or an eBook you worked hard on for free, many of your subscribers will follow your call to action - whether that be to share your site with their friends, share content on social media or click the link to your sales page.
Make your emails so high value that your subscribers can’t believe it’s free. Around this time last year, I was having breakfast with my good friend Cait. She opened what appeared to be a holiday card while we were waiting for our meals…
But instead of just a holiday card, a check fell out into her lap. The check was from a reader of her blog and subscriber of her email list. It was for $100 -- because the information she was giving away for free in her content was so valuable that the reader felt she should pay her for it.
(Brb I’m just going to check my mailbox…)
You shouldn’t expect the same from your audience, but I have no doubt that the reader who sent Cait the check would have also bought any product Cait came out with in the blink of an eye.
The idea here is to get your subscribers so much value in your emails and your content (to collect more emails) that they’d pay for it.
Tools: Give away free, high-value content upgrades and opt-in offers (and collect emails at the same time) with a Welcome Mat specific to your content, or a Click Trigger pop-up. Use Google Drive or DropBox to link directly to the “asset” for after your new subscriber signs up for your list. This cuts down on any delays and also makes your segmentation more simple.
No offense to anybody who truly loves them, but these things…
Well, they’re not exactly beautiful.
They’re not super functional either. Unlike a Saddleback bag which comes with a 100 year warranty, that Louis Vuitton is not going to last you a lifetime. It’s just a basic handbag, made in a factory like most other handbags.
But, unlike those bags, it’ll set you back a whopping $1,960.00.
And why would you want to wander around as a walking billboard, with a company logo splashed all over one of the most used accessories you’ll ever carry?
Oh, right. I know why:
Not only do LV lovers buy into the prestige of owning a $2,000 handbag, they’re also telling everyone else that they’re part of an exclusive club - the 1% -- by displaying the logo so prominently.
Exclusivity is highly intoxicating for us, which influences our purchasing decisions.
It makes us feel special - like we’re a part of a club or community. It sets us apart from the crowd (even if we’re just like everybody else in the rest of our behaviour).
A student of the great persuasion researcher, Robert Cialdini, took to studying the effects of exclusivity on sales.
Cialdini’s student, who owned an Australian beef company, asked his phone sales team to phone three random samples of groups of customers to make three requests:
The standard order request
The standard order request with the information of an anticipated beef shortage (this is triggering scarcity, which ended up doubling the amount of orders placed).
The standard order request that told customers both of the potential beef shortage, and the fact that the information of the shortage was exclusive information to the company from the Australian National Weather Service.
The results? Well, the final random sampling of customers with the exclusivity comment boosted their orders by 600%.
Even just the access to exclusive information is intoxicating to consumer behaviour.
You probably can’t charge premium prices for your products yet, unless you’re a premium brand already.
And you might not have any exclusive information, either.
Plus, you’re not going anywhere fast if you try to trigger prestige by charging to be part of your email list. But you can still use this in your email marketing (and in fact, it’s used all the time).
Use exclusive language. Even using words that seem exclusive can make all the difference. Invite people to join your club, tribe, or community.
Even the word “join” feels like you’re being invited to be part of something that not everybody is part of.
Give your subscribers a name. The feeling of being part of an exclusive club can be triggered just by grouping your audience together through a nickname.
For example, consider how effective nicknaming Star Trek fans “trekkies” and Justin Bieber fans “beliebers” is. These identifiers set their audiences apart from other people.
Use social proof. Social proof is another psychological marketing tactic we’ll get into shortly, but it can also trigger some exclusivity.
Check out how Pat Flynn invites you to join 150,000+ members in the SPI community:
Which (while definitely an impressive number) is like letting you know how many others have joined this exclusive club.
Instead of trying to reach the masses with your content or emails, identify exactly who your content is for.
Chris Guillebeau did this during the launch of his new podcast, Side Hustle School. He’s not trying to reach everybody, and by defining who his show is for, it also gives the feel of a private, exclusive club.
Most of the people who will have found you and invested enough time to actually read this “who it’s for” disclaimer will likely be part of your target audience, but this is still effective for community building.
I recently listed some items on Craigslist, and I had to stop myself from falling into a trap if I wanted to sell my stuff:
The trap of the endowment effect.
The endowment effect is what happens when we have something we see of value. It’s when we value those things more highly when they’re already in our possession.
It turns out that the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” might not quite be true. Maybe the more accurate saying would be “one man treasures his trash”.
And the crazy thing is that we put a lot more value on the item just because it’s come into our possession.
This is partially because of loss aversion. It’s far more painful for us to lose something than it is exciting to gain.
Skeptical? Don’t be. Many studies have proven this, including a study at Duke University.
Researchers found that students who won tickets to a sporting event thought they were worth around $2,400. That’s a hefty number, at least compared to those who had not won the tickets. They reported they’d pay $170 for them:
The endowment effect can even be triggered by simply touching an object.
The endowment effect can be a little more difficult to trigger in your email marketing, but it’s not impossible.
Here are a couple of ways to do it:
Gate your content for emails. Putting content behind an email subscription gate will become more and more popular over the next year.
Trigger the endowment effect this way by giving away the first few paragraphs or points of your content, to make your audience feel as if they have a stake in it, and then put the subscription form thereafter.
Increase sales through email marketing from your current subscribers. Send your email list a sample chapter of your book or give them access to a unit of your course. In online business, this is about as close as you can get to allowing your subscribers to touch your product, but it can be effective nonetheless.
Use loss aversion in headlines, email subject lines, and copy. Make the person feel the pain of loss. Check out how we’ve done this in our recent guide to headline writing:
Offer a solid money-back guarantee. While this isn’t just for email marketing, you can remind your subscribers about your guarantee in emails rather than leave it up to your sales pages to make them aware.
Even if your customer never uses it (and your product is so good that chances are, they won’t!), the removal of loss aversion from the purchasing decision is often just enough to push them over the edge and open their wallets.
Tools: The Before and After WordPress plugin will help you gate content behind an email subscription form. This useful Headline Generator will help you come up with headlines that trigger loss aversion.
If you’ve been reading the Sumo blog for any period of time, you won’t be a stranger to the Foot in the Door Technique.
In a nutshell, people are more likely to comply with a larger request if you first get them to comply with a smaller request.
This is because humans like to act in a consistent way. Once they take one action, their subsequent actions usually remain consistent with the initial action.
And you can use this to grow your email list, get more traffic and land more sales from your email marketing.
There are many studies that prove that humans have a tendency toward consistency, but few are known as well as the study from which the Foot in the Door technique was born.
Researchers Freedman and Fraser approached homes in the 1960s to ask people to post small stickers in the window of their homes promoting safe driving.
Those who were willing to do so were far more likely to then later comply with a request to post a large (and rather ugly) sign on their lawns promoting the same cause.
The idea here is that people want to act consistently with how they view themselves and how they’ve acted previously.
The people who agreed to put the sticker in their windows thought to themselves…
“I’m an advocate for safe driving”.
When they were asked to then put the sign up, they needed to act consistently to maintain that self belief.
This is used in email marketing frequently and scores some pretty impressive results.
Use it to increase your conversion rate. Do this with a two step opt-in process to have your visitors click on a button or link to bring up a pop-up.
The smaller request: clicking the button or link.
The larger request: subscribing through the pop-up.
Link your sales emails to a video. Have your audience watch the video before unlocking the cart to buy your product. People like Jeff Walker and Jon Morrow do this with their product launches to convert more.
The smaller request: Watching the video.
The larger request: Buying the product.
Establish consistency in opening your emails. Have a doubt opt-in process to encourage your new subscribers to open your emails and click the links.
The smaller request: Confirming their email address.
The larger request: Opening future emails and following the CTA.
It may seem like the foot in the door technique is just adding more work for the visitor or email subscriber, and we’ve told you before to make things as easy as possible on your website.
Tools: Click Triggers within List Builder will help you set a 2 step opt-in process for your pop-ups. Every email service provider will allow you to enable double opt-ins (and most will have this as a default function).
I fell into the trap.
I recently learned that if you create a baby registry on Amazon, they’ll send you a baby box for free.
As nice a gesture as it is from Amazon, it’s only valued at about $35, and is mainly made up of samples.
Yet I found myself spending no fewer than 30 minutes setting up a registry that I wasn’t otherwise planning on using, buying something off the registry for $10 and completing the registry with everything Amazon wanted me to check off…
And I’m not even planning on registering with Amazon.
Good marketing on Amazon’s part, but I should be flogged for being a gullible consumer.
So what’s my problem? Why did I spend the equivalent of $100 worth of time and $10 worth of cold hard cash to get something for free I really didn’t need or want?
Well, because I have psychology just like you and the guy next to you. I find “FREE” intoxicating.
And I’m not the only one.
Dan Ariely, researcher and author of the book Predictably Irrational, did a study where he offered to sell students one of two chocolate options:
A Lindt Truffle for $0.26 or
A Hershey’s Kiss for $0.01.
In this case, 60% of students who purchased chose the Lindt Truffle, while 40% chose the Kiss.
When he dropped the price of each chocolate by a penny -- meaning now the Truffle and Kiss were $0.25 and free, respectively -- all of a sudden 90% of students chose the Kiss...
Even though the relative price of the two choices remained the same.
To prove this point, Ariely did another experiment. This time, it was a survey of people who were standing in line for a free tattoo.
And the results of this survey are a bit shocking.
It turns out that 68% of those people in line would not have been getting a tattoo in the first place had it not been “free”.
Yup, you read that right. They weren’t even “all that” drunk, either.
This is one of the easiest psychological marketing strategies to apply. If you’re giving away something for free (which you should be), tell people it’s free.
If you’re not giving away anything for free yet, start.
Use the word “free” in your email collection apps. In your content upgrades and opt-in offers, remind people that what you’re giving away is free. This is especially compelling for the high-value offers.
This Welcome Mat we set up for our 2017 email marketing trends guide converts at over 13%:
Which can partially be attributed to the usage of “Free”.
Add “free” to your email subject lines. Including the word “Free” in your email collection apps will help you collect more emails. But including it in your email subject lines will help you increase your open rate.
Check out how Buffer uses the word “free” in their email subject lines to get more opens:
Start implementing this for quick results as soon as possible.
What’s the difference between these two phrases?:
Can I have your last scoop of ice cream?
Can I have your last scoop of ice cream, because I want it?
At face value, it looks like I just tacked on a (very weak) reason at the end of the former sentence.
But, that one tiny difference can actually mean a sharp uptick in conversions, clicks, and sales.
The difference maker? The word “because”.
If you had one scoop of ice cream left and I requested it, you’re far more likely to give it to me if I use the word because in my explanation of why I want it. Even if my explanation makes no sense.
Here’s the study that demonstrated this.
This concept comes from a study called the Illogical Reasoning study.
Performed at Harvard, just by using the word “because” 34% more people allowed a researcher to skip the line at a photocopier just by using the word “because”. And it wasn’t the reasoning behind the line-skippage, either.
The researcher used a logical reason in one test (“because I am in a rush”), and 94% of people let her skip the line.
She then followed it with an illogical reason (“because I have to make copies” - everybody was there to make copies!) and 93% of people let her skip the line.
The word “because” was the difference maker -- not the reason behind the request.
This is an easy one to use in your email marketing. Like the word “free”, you can implement this concept just by broadening your language horizons.
Use it in your email capture forms, content, and within your emails. While it’s definitely shady to just throw in “because” everywhere to manipulate people, using it to define logical reasoning behind why your visitors or subscribers should click a link in your email, sign up for your list, or join your webinar is just smart marketing.
Remember when you were a kid, and your sibling (or a frenemy) would copy every word you said?
You’d say “stop it” and they’d say “stop it” right back at you?
It probably drove you nuts back then, right? I hated it when my brother would do that to me. But it turns out that we don’t hate it as much as we remember.
In fact, hearing the exact words we use reflected back onto us is… well, sort of intoxicating.
Rick Van Baaren conducted a study where he had servers in a restaurant confirm customer's orders using two methods:
One group confirmed they’d heard the order with a simple acknowledgement
The other group confirmed they’d heard the order by repeating the customer’s exact words back to them.
Surprisingly, the customer hearing exactly what they said repeated back to them increased tipping by 26%.
Copywriters often use this strategy to resonate with potential customers. After all, as Jay Abraham has said: “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.”
This is something you can use liberally in your marketing:
Read your reader’s mind in your content. I use this frequently in Sumo articles, and on my personal blog I use it in almost every piece I publish. Collect feedback through emails, surveys, and social listening and repeat the commonly used phrases and sayings back at them to make them feel as if you’re reading their minds.
Use it on sales emails and pages. Use it to pre-empt objectives, open the copy or answer questions. For example, when I was launching my how to sell on Etsy course, I sent a survey to my audience and one question was about what was holding them back from starting a shop. One response I got was a question about whether it’s possible have an Etsy business if you’re “allergic to social media”.
You better believe I used this in the launch sales page, the launch content and my email marketing for the course (especially since others had a concern about that, too).
Collect more emails with mimicry. Using this strategy not only in the type of content upgrades or opt-in offers you create, but also the landing pages, pop-ups and forms you use to collect emails on them. This is what I did on my Welcome Mat for my sitewide opt-in offer on my personal blog.
My readers were telling me that they had a hard time juggling building their blogs with a “day job”, so I used their words verbatim.
Tools: Use SurveyMonkey or Google Forms to get feedback from your customers or audience members so you can “mimic” the language they use.Quora, Reddit, and Facebook groups can all be great tools for social listening to find out what your target audience is saying about your topic or niche if you don’t want to reach out to them directly.
You have no idea how much most things are worth.
It’s okay. Neither do I. But we’re not completely left to our own devices. Our brains step in and do the heavy lifting of anchoring for you.
What this means, is that our brains use a cognitive bias to determine the worth of something by relying on the first piece of information we get. Any subsequent information we receive is measured relative to that first piece.
In pricing terms, the first price we hear on something is the price we use as a yardstick to measure whether we’re getting a good deal or being fleeced -- relative to that price.
So if you were to be shopping for a new car and saw this price on the Toyota website:
That’s the price you’d anchor in your mind for that type of vehicle.
Should a dealership offer you the same vehicle for $31,500, you’d probably see that as a great deal. But if another dealer was charging $35,000 for the car, you’d see that as pricey, as it is -- relative to the price you anchored on.
This is used in marketing all the time. Every time you see a sale presented this way:
That’s what the store is doing.
One of the most famous anchoring studies was done in the 1970s by researchers Tversky and Kahneman.
First, the researchers had participants spin a wheel which was marked with numbers in the span of 0-100. The wheel was set to always lang on a 10 or a 65.
After the participants spun the wheel, they were asked to estimate the percentage of African countries were part of the UN, and whether they believed the percentage was higher or lower than the number on the wheel.
Here’s what they found:
Participants who spun a 10 on the wheel estimated that a quarter of the countries in Africa were part of the UN (25%).
Participants who spun a 65 on the wheel estimated that almost half of the countries in Africa were part of the UN (45%).
Participants of this study were victims to anchoring.
You may be thinking something like “what does the percentage of African countries in the UN do to help me in my email marketing?” -- and that’s a fair question.
But in reality, you can use the anchoring effect in your email marketing to increase conversions, sales, and subscribers.
Use this in your sales emails. Most sales emails won’t go from zero to promo in 5-seconds flat.
They’ll describe the pain points their product solves, how the product works, and works to “sell” it before giving away the price. You can use price anchoring if you have a competitively priced product by listing the worth of all the features before giving away the actual price.
Or, if your product is competitively priced, anchor the price with other similar product’s pricing in your promotional emails.
Use this in your email collection apps. If you’re giving away a discount in exchange for emails, show an example of the discount in action on your landing pages, pop-ups and forms.
Instead of just mentioning a 20% discount, cross out the average original price and show the new expected price beside it.
Ever hear this saying?
“People buy from people they know, like, and trust”.
Even if you hadn’t heard the quote before, chances are you’re still familiar with the concept. That’s why content marketing and email marketing work so well.
Through these marketing channels, you’re building expertise and authority (trust), building a relationship with your readers (know) and sharing a bit about yourself, too (like).
But if it seems like a big job to get your visitors to know, like, and trust you, here’s a panacea:
You can use this one marketing psychology principal to expedite it. It’s called the Mere Exposure Effect.
Here’s how it works…
People have the tendency to like things and people they have had more exposure too.
That’s why people need to see an ad at least three times before they will buy (this is called effective frequency by the way).
Research shows that not only will people be more likely to build friendships with those they interact with more often, we’ll also have a tendency to like things better the more exposure we have to them.
In one study, a psychologist displayed an arbitrary design (that looks sort of like a Chinese character) to participants and found that those participants who were shown certain characters more frequently had a positive reaction to those characters. In fact, the more often the design was displayed to the participant, the more the person liked the design.
This should be used to contact them more often. Show up in their inbox, send them quality content and emails before you hit them up with a sales.
Use this in your email marketing to get your audience familiar with you through exposure.
Use this in your opt-in offers or content upgrades. This is partially why email courses and challenges work so well. Generally you’d be well advised to avoid emailing every day, but emailing every day can trigger the Mere Exposure Effect.
So use your opt-in offer as an opportunity for daily emailing by chunking out your eBook, webinar or PDF into an email course or challenge.
I do this with my personal blog, Unsettle, which allows me to built a relationship with my audience and get them used to me showing up in their inbox every day without feeling like I’m abusing their inboxes.
Be consistent with your marketing. Don’t be one of those people who sends emails sporadically. Not only are you risking your audience completely forgetting about you, but you’re also not allowing them the opportunity to become familiar with you - triggering this effect.
Tools: Almost all email service providers will allow you to create an autoresponder series, which is how you can create an email course or challenge for daily emailing.
It’s easy to get sucked into the “more is better” mentality in your business.
In fact, using higher numbers (i.e “we have 28 variations!) is a form of social proof and can be pretty attention-getting.
But attention can be a vanity metric. After all, the meaningful metric is those who actually act upon your calls to action.
And it turns out that the saying “less is more” trumps “more is better” in marketing.
You’ve probably heard about it before.
That’s because it’s a quintessential marketing study: the almighty Jam Study.
The one where Columbia researchers set up two jam displays in a local grocer and tested them against one another:
Display A had 24 flavors of jam
Display B had 6 flavors of jam.
Both displays were giving out samples of jam along with $1 coupons for the product.
The results were interesting. While Display A (the display with 24 flavors) attracted more interest than B, there were far more sales from Display B:
Display A (24 flavors) sold to 3% of the people who sampled the jam
Display B (6 flavors) sold to 30% of the people who sampled the jam
Yup, you read that right. That’s a 27% increase in sales by giving the shoppers fewer choices.
There are a ton of practical uses for this knowledge in marketing. For example, eliminating too much choice (ie calls to action, visual clutter and links) from your website will increase conversion rates.
But you can also use it in your email marketing.
Don’t give subscribers more than one call to action. If you ask them in an email to share your content on social media, link to your sales page, and ask them to respond back to you...well, chances are you won’t get them to do any of those things. And you’ll be kissing all those opens, clicks, and sales.
Keep your email sales sequence simple. Even if you have a thousand different products with dozens of options, you don’t need to list them all in your email marketing. Give your subscribers fewer choices to streamline your sales sequence and get more sales.
Tools: Use Sumo’s Heat Maps app to identify the calls to action and email collection forms on your website that aren’t getting as much attention from your visitors -- and then use that data to eliminate them and increase your conversions.
I don’t watch TV.
And not in the way that some people say they don’t watch TV… “except for The Voice, American Idol, America’s Got Talent and Top Chef Canada.” I don’t even own a television.
I haven’t slogged through a Netflix series in well over a year, I don’t watch movies due to the attention span of a gnat, and am “not a music person”. All of this means that I do not follow celebrities.
But even though I don’t care about celebrities or their lives, I still found myself just recently using social proof to guide a purchasing decision.
See, pregnancy means that everything that was once comfortable and cute to wear is no longer comfortable and it certainly isn’t cute. So, I set out to find myself some maternity jeans.
After typing in “best maternity jeans” into the Google (hello, predictable search patterns!) I came across a retailer called Seraphine.
And I found these pants, which I immediately clicked onto and put in my cart:
It was only afterward that I realized that I had fallen into a social proof trap.
This smart store used celebrities as social proof for their products, and celebrity endorsements are a super-effective form of social proof.
Meaning that, even though the only movie I know Kate Winslet from is The Titanic, I still thought to myself “hey, if Rose has a pair for her pregnancy, they must be great”.
The store uses social proof all over the place - in their menu (Celebs Love), in their product images (and they even remind you as a text overlay), and by displaying reviews for the product.
Social proof is a the psychological preference for doing what other people are doing -- in this case, influential people. The reasoning behind this is because if other people are doing it, it proves to us that it must be worthwhile.
Lest you think you’d never follow the crowd simply because “that’s what everyone else is doing”, think again.
Research shows that you would - and do, regularly. In fact, you use other people’s behaviour and preferences as a benchmark to guide your own actions.
A study of a bank in Germany analyzed 10,000 client accounts and found that the customers who came from referrals:
Came with a 16% higher lifetime value to the bank than non-referrals and
Churned from the bank 18% less.
So as you can see, not only is social proof useful for growing your email list, capturing new leads and building authority, but it also can lead to more valuable customers overall.
You can use social proof in your marketing in a lot of different places:
Use social proof in your email collection tools. Use endorsements, quotes or raw numbers on your landing pages, pop-ups, and Welcome Mats to convert more people. Check out how Lewis Howes has done this with endorsements:
Display testimonials in your emails. Studies show that adding testimonials on sales pages can increase conversions by 34%, and just think about how they might affect clicks onto your sales pages from your sales emails.
Use ratings and reviews to your advantage. Take a page out of Seraphine’s book and display ratings and reviews for your product in your listings -- and make sure that you also use them in your emails (whether or not they’re sales emails).
See what I did there?
Anyway, marketing psychology is one of the most important things to understand as an online entrepreneur in 2017 and beyond.
Knowledge is power (and in this case, subscribers, conversions, and money) and rather than see using psychology as manipulation, it can be used to sell your products to people who genuinely need them.
So start by choosing a couple of these strategies that you’re most compelled by.
Then, implement them into your email marketing strategy wherever you can.
Test to see which strategies work best with your audience.
The more you understand about what drives behavior, the more effective your email marketing will be.
Get all of these strategies in a FREE cheatsheet with our 2017 email marketing bundle.