How to Persuade Someone to Buy Something

by JaneG

The ability to persuade someone to buy something, is one of the most important and fundamental skills any business person has to master, in order to be successful.

Just to show you that I know what I am talking about: I have a degree in business, I have worked in sales and marketing for several years, more recently I have done a lot of selling online.

People like to complain about commercials and the borderline unethical methods they use. The truth is: the commercials pay for that show you are watching or the web page you are reading.

To me marketing is all about getting people to try new products and services. Without marketing people would not try new options, then the market could not reward value and punish the lack thereof.

In this article I will discuss some of the top techniques marketers use to persuade people to try something new.

Sell a solution not a product or service

Below I have embedded an advertisement for Amazon's Kindle and Fire. In the commercial the actors are comparing their devices to the Apple Ipad, the most successful competitor to Amazon's products.

What the video does is to identify a want. You want to read in bright daylight, the Kindle fills the need the Ipad does not.The second need they identify, is the need to watch movies and web browse at a low cost. Again the Kindle Fire fills the need the Ipad does not.

Do you think it would have been as effective, if they showed you features instead of solutions for needs?

Creating a sense of urgency

If you are trying to persuade shoppers to buy something, you don't want them to take time to think about it or to compare products. They might find a better product or decide it's not worth the cost. The best outcome is for them to get their credit card out and make the purchase right away. 

Below I have added a screen shot from a search I ran on Amazon. Now, if you know Amazon you know they are one of the most successful companies, when it comes to selling physical goods. I have drawn a green rectangle around the part where they are trying to create a sense of urgency. In the first line, Amazon basically says that if you buy in the next 3 hours you can have it tomorrow. Below that they tell you there is only 10 left in stock. That implies that if you don't buy soon, it will be sold out.

The "while stocks last" is a classic and powerful technique. So much so that you sometimes see it, when marketers are selling digital goods. They can't really run out, because buyers are downloading ebooks and videos. This practice is illegal in countries like the USA.

Screenshot of Amazon search
Screenshot of Amazon search

Strong negative emotions

Strong basic emotions are powerful tools that marketers use to persuade shoppers to buy something. Let's look at examples:

Embarrassment: We all know Head and Shoulders shampoo. Initially they struggled to sell their shampoo, at the time their ads focused on the health benefits of their product. It was only when they switch the marketing focus, to the embarrassment dandruff sufferers faced, that the brand really took off.

Negative emotions - persuading sometone to buy something
Negative emotions - persuading someto...

Fear: Fear is a very popular one, from political ads, car ads (fear of dying), investment ads (losing your money). You would be surprised how widely this emotion is used.

Confusion: With many of the more complicated products and services, claiming that your product is the easiest to use can increase the percentage of people who are interested.

The money back guarantee

Basically you always gain more in sales by giving a money back guarantee, than you loose in returns. Even with products like digital goods that have a high rate of return compared to physical goods.

When you sell something online, you will find that if the buyer isn't happy Paypal or the banks will cancel the transaction. If the requested is made within a set time usually 60 days. They do so because they want people to feel safe when they shop online. So you might as well use it as a sales gimmick.

Peer recommendation

If someone you know and trust recommends a product, that can be very persuasive. It's not like a sales person or a commercial selling a product. A friend has no ulterior motive in recommending a something.

Of course as a marketer you can't make word-of-mouth happen. What you however can do, is have someone, whom the targeted buyer relates to, tell them how much what you are selling did for them.

Authority endorsement

Authority endorsements can also be very effective. If say a book on investment is endorsed by Warren Buffett, I might consider getting it or if Oprah recommends a soap, it sells out instantly.

In the past however it has failed when say an actor recommends a credit card. This happens because actors have no authority when it comes to credit cards. On the other hand, they do have some authority when it comes to beauty products.

Call to action

This is where you tell your audience what you want them to do. It doesn't necessarily mean you are selling a product. You might want them to friend you on Facebook or give you their email address.

If you look at the example bellow, from Obama's reelection campaign. The call to action is large and bright, standing out from the rest of the picture. It was centrally located on their webpage.

In the call to action you want to use short simple words. Here they use 'two', 'term', 'fund', 'donate', 'now'.

You will often see an incentive, with a call to action. In Obama's previous campaign they offered a free T-Shirt with each donation of more than $30.

Don't collect extra demographic data during the process. That might turn buyers off.

The White House knows how to persuade someone to buy something
The White House knows how to persuade someone to buy something

I hope you enjoyed reading how to persuade someone to buy something. I have really only scratched the surface of what marketing is all about. If you are interested in finding out more, why not check out some of the best selling marketing books on Amazon.

Updated: 02/26/2012, JaneG
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What do you think about these persuasion methods?

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Sheri_Oz on 04/10/2012

Can never hear these tips too often. Need to drill them into my head. Thanks.

PeggyHazelwood on 04/09/2012

I've jotted these on a sticky to refer to. This sounds logical whether we're aware of the process or not. Thanks for the good tips.

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