Sweden vs. FinlandIn a recent Psychology Today article, social psychology professor, Dr. Douglas Kenrick, talks about the how his colleague, Dr. Robert Cialdini, born into a blue-collar Milwaukee family and working himself through college as a garbage collector, became an international authority on the topics of influence and persuasion and a member of the “Academic Dream Team” that helped President Obama win a second term in office.

Beginning early in his career as a professor at Arizona State University, Cialdini conducted numerous studies, and consulted with dozens of companies, to understand why people comply with requests. Deducing six fundamental factors of influence, which he introduced in his 1993 bestseller, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Cialdini has since published numerous works and is a highly-sought-after consultant and speaker on business and policy applications of his six Principles of Persuasion.

Now known worldwide as the “Guru of Social Influence,” Dr. Cialdini sets a high standard for ethically establishing authority and thought leadership. His Influence Principles can be looked to as a guide for you to determine, develop, and deploy your competitive advantage to define yourself as an authority and thought leader in your area of specialization.

The Six Principles of Persuasion

Decades of study went into defining Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion, and you could spend many hours learning the ins and outs of them by reading his books, academic research papers, and blog articles. Dozens of marketing and sales writers have referenced these Principles, and a Google search on the phrase will yield hundreds of pages. You could even attend Cialdini Principles of Persuasion Workshops and go on to become a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer. For now, let’s start with the basics, presented quite simply in the video below by Dr. Cialdini and his business partner, Steve Martin:

Apply the Influence Principles to Your Competitive Advantage

In her book Creating Competitive Advantage, Jaynie L. Smith says, “Competitive advantage is what separates you from the rest of the herd. It’s what keeps your business alive and growing… Yet the biggest marketing flaw in most companies is their failure to fully reap the benefits of their competitive advantages.”

Walking through Cialdini’s Principles, give some serious consideration to new ways that you can employ them to help you identify your competitive advantage and improve the likelihood that your target market will be persuaded by your requests.

  • Reciprocity — The first influence principle discussed in the video is Reciprocation, defined as the “obligation to give when you receive.” What can you give to your target market that your competitors are not providing? Cialdini recommends that you “be the first to give, and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.”
  • Scarcity — The Scarcity principle is seen when “people want more of those things they can have less of.” All of us have limited resources, but are you clear about the scarcity of your time, services, or products in your value propositions? Cialdini says, “You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal.”
  • Authority — “People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts,” yet it may not be enough to display awards and degrees on your office wall or website. How do you demonstrate your authority in your field? How can you employ introductions by others to let people know about your credentials and expertise?
  • Consistency — Cialdini has proven that “people like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done.” You can activate consistency by “looking for, and asking for, small commitments that can be made.” What small things can you ask of your customers to lead them to make larger commitments later on? Remember, these commitments are most effective when they are voluntary, active, public, and written.
  • Liking — It seems obvious: “People prefer to say, ‘yes,’ to those that they like,” but how do you get people to like you, your company, your products, or your services more than others? Find areas of similarity, find ways to genuinely compliment people, and find opportunities to cooperate with them towards mutual goals.
  • Consensus — “Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions of others to determine their own.” Are you showing consensus by sharing testimonials from previous or existing clients and customers in your marketing materials? Remember, these displays of support are most effective when they come from people who readers perceive as similar to them (the Liking Principle).


Now it’s time to focus on defining and refining your competitive advantage and the ways that you will communicate them to the people that you want to influence. Keep in mind the point that Jaynie L. Smith makes in her book, Relevant Selling: “Differentiators that are not relevant are not competitive advantages.”

  • For each of the Principles of Persuasion, what relevant differentiators distinguish you, your products, or your services from others that are available in to your target market?
  • What simple and low-cost changes can you make in the ways that you present your value proposition to activate one or several of Cialdini’s Influence Principles?