Cialdini Principles: 7 Influencing Techniques (+ Examples)

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Written by Gust de Backer

January 8, 2022

Cialdini Principles 1

Cialdini Principles: scarcity, authority, social proof, sympathy, reciprocity, consistency and unity form Dr. Robert Cialdini’s 7 influencing techniques.

You have a website that gets traffic, but you’re not getting enough results from it.

I’m going to explain to you, how to:

  • Apply Cialdini Principles to your business.
  • Ensure that a visitor will convert to a lead or customer.
  • Determine which principles work best for your target audience.

Let’s start…

What are the Cialdini Principles?

Dr. Robert Cialdini wrote the book Influence and Pre-suasion.

He did a lot of research on how to persuade people in his career as a psychologist.

His findings were later subbed as the ‘7 Cialdini Principles’.

For a brief explanation, see the video below:

Why are Cialdini Principles so valuable?

As you probably know, humans have 3 types of brains:

  1. Reptile brain: oldest part of the brain, this part helps us survive with instincts and reflexes (fight, flight or freeze mode). The reptilian brain wants to waste as little energy as possible, it does not think much and is purely focused on survival.
  2. Mammalian brain: also called the limbic brain, in which things like emotions, social behavior and motivation are regulated.
  3. Human brain: also called the neocortex, this is the smartest part of the brain. Here you do complex calculations, learn language and can you make rational decisions.

95% of our behavior is determined by the reptile and mammalian brain.

Making rational decisions takes time and energy, so we prefer to make decisions based on emotion.

Often, the rational brain mostly justifies the decisions we have made with the reptilian and mammalian brain.

Cialdini’s principles are so valuable because the reptilian and mammalian brains respond incredibly well to them.

Who is your target audience?

Certain Cialdini Principles work better with certain people.

You’ve probably heard of an MBTI/DISC analysis:

Disc Personality Types
Disc Personality Types
  • Competitive/Dominant (red): this person is results-oriented and rational. Decides quickly based on facts, is goal oriented and therefore eager to know what something will accomplish.
  • Spontaneous/Influential (yellow): this person is extroverted and fast. Everything must happen quickly, also this person likes to be in a good atmosphere, because feeling and emotion is important to him/her.
  • Humanistic/Stable (green): this person is very people-oriented and emotional. Attaches great value to personal contact and a good atmosphere. This person is also a slow decision maker, who decides based on emotion.
  • Methodical/Conscientious (blue): very introverted and slow person. Decides very slowly and constantly searches for new information and facts.

It is helpful to know what bin your target audience falls into to determine which Cialdini Principles will be most effective.

7 Cialdini Principles

In the beginning there were 6 basic principles of influence, later ‘Unity’ was added:

1. Scarcity

With scarcity you can prevent procrastination….

Losing something hurts twice as much as winning something:

Cialdini Schaarste
Cialdini Schaarste

Scarcity gives extra motivation to order it now, think of:

  • Day/week deals
  • Limited time
  • Limited stock
  • Exclusivity
  • Limited number of spots

Additionally, scarcity also works well by using loss language:

  • Wrong: ‘We will keep you informed about …’.
  • Right: ‘Don’t miss out on …’.

Scarcity works particularly well with the red and yellow decision maker. With the blue decision-maker it could be counterproductive.

Note: only apply it if it is actually true.

2. Authority

By nature, we follow someone with authority….

After all, we trust experts and people who (think they) know what they are doing:

Google Cloud Authority
Google Cloud Authority

You can incorporate Authority into your website using:

  • Well-known people
  • Hallmarks
  • Prices
  • Claims
  • Titles
  • Experience
  • Knowledge

This Cialdini Principle works particularly well on the red and blue decision maker.

3. Social proof

When we don’t know what to do we look at what others have done.

14% of people trust an ad and 70% trust someone else’s opinion:

Let your customers tell their story.

This principle can also be combined well with the ‘Unity’ principle by saying something like:

  • ‘Already more than 8,000 PPC marketers like you are…’.

Social proof can be applied well by showing:

  • Reviews (that are relevant to the target audience and the action)
  • Review stars.
  • How often a certain action has been done.
  • A top 5 of your products.

The green and blue decision makers in particular attach great value to social proof:

Social Proof
Social Proof

Note: as with all principles, don’t overdo it, as it creates suspicion.

4. Sympathy

If you like someone then you are more likely to grant that person something…

We are more likely to say ‘yes’ to someone we like than to someone we dislike.

You won’t buy from an ugly and grumpy salesman because you feel absolutely no sympathy for him.

A brand can be of great help here, because we find one brand more sympathetic than another. Research shows that there are 4 factors that can cause sympathy:

  1. Physical attractiveness: people with good looks have an advantage.
  2. Similarity: we find people who look like us more likeable.
  3. Compliments: sincere compliments create sympathy.
  4. Contact and cooperation: a lot of contact quickly leads to sympathy, especially if they are working towards the same goal.

Sympathy can be created by:

  • Having a good ‘About Us’ page.
  • Being vulnerable.
  • Using humor.
  • Creating positive brand associations.
  • Emphasizing similarities.
  • Make sincere compliments.
  • Offering good support.

Green and blue people in particular value sympathy.

Tip: looking at the peak-end rule, the last experience a lead or customer has with your company should be hugely positive.

5. Reciprocity

Giving and taking…

If you give something of value then you should expect something in return.

If a restaurant offers peppermints when paying the bill, people are more likely to tip (more).

Reciprocity can be applied in a huge number of ways, such as:

  • Gift giving
  • E-books
  • Blogs
  • Training
  • Checklists
  • Research to share
  • Free trials

And so much more…

Reciprocity works especially well on the yellow and green decision makers.

It is very important that what you give or do is of real value to the recipient.

6. Consistency

People are consistent to their previously displayed behavior….

If we’ve shown an interest in something or a liking for something then there’s a huge chance that we’re going to be consistent to this behavior instead of proving ourselves wrong.

Marketers have embraced this principle by working with micro-conversions:

  • E-book download
  • Social follow
  • Mailing list subscription
  • Quizzes
  • Exit-intent pop-up
  • Welcome back pop-up
  • Save as favorite
  • Thank you page (place an additional conversion option here)

These micro-conversions eventually lead us to a larger conversion.

It’s better to work from micro-conversions to a larger conversion than to offer the larger conversion directly.

The bigger or more public the commitment is the more likely we are to stick with it.

The yellow decision maker is most sensitive to consistency.

7. Unity

The more you feel part of a group, the more you allow yourself to be influenced by that group…

This principle was added later, but is just as important.

Unity applies when you create a group feeling. Don’t use language like:

  • 300 people have downloaded this e-book.

But language like:

  • Already 1,500 people who want to get rid of obesity, just like you, have downloaded this e-book.

Remind your target audience of that shared identity, that helps you create loyal fans:

Cialdini Unity
Cialdini Unity

Unity can be deployed by:

  • Engaging in dialogue with your customer.
  • Rewarding ideas.
  • Allowing your customer to co-create (Nike shoe personalization).
  • Not talking about newsletter readers, but addressing them as part of the (comm)unity.

Unity works especially well with the green and blue decision makers.


The formula B=(MAT)+rU is a formula that can be used to get desired behavior:

Fogg Behavior Model
Fogg Behavior Model

B = Behavior > What behavior do you want to change, what is the desired outcome.

M = Motivation > How motivated is someone to do something.

A = Ability > is the person able to do the desired action.

T = Trigger to change – (Trigger) > Send the eye where you want it to go, but also Cialdini principles.


rU = Remove uncertainty – (Reduce uncertainty) > Remove uncertainty. What would stop people from demonstrating the desired behavior?

Reduce Uncertainty BMATrU
Reduce Uncertainty BMATrU

 Apply B=(MAT)+rU

  1. Describe current behavior: look at numbers and conversions in, for example, Google Analytics.
  2. Describe desired behavior: why is there currently no desired behavior, check for example with Hotjar.
  3. Improve the situation:
    • Increase motivation: play into greed, fear, status and fulfilment.
    • Make it easier to perform: could it be easier, is it clear enough?
    • More and better triggers: what triggers can we use more or better and what else can you do with Cialdini Principles?
    • Reduce uncertainty: state that your people are not going to spam and why they won’t regret it.

And now you…

Now you have enough knowledge to influence the entire world… 😉

I’m curious which principle you find most valuable and why.

Let me know in a comment below!

P.S. Want more help? Send an email at [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 6 principles of persuasion?

The 6 basic principles of persuasion were devised by Dr. Robert Cialdini and include: scarcity, authority, social proof, sympathy, reciprocity and consistency.

What are the 7 principles of persuasion?

The 7 basic principles of persuasion were devised by Dr. Robert Cialdini and include: scarcity, authority, social proof, sympathy, reciprocity, consistency and later unity was added.

What is B=(MAT)+rU

B=(MAT) comes from BJ Fogg, a behavioral psychologist. To get desired behavior there must be a high motivation, it must be easy to take the desired action and there must be a trigger to take the action. rU stands for reduce uncertainty, make sure all doubts are removed.

How do you apply scarcity?

Scarcity is applied to prevent procrastination, this can be done by working with daily/weekly deals, limited time, limited stock, exclusivity or a limited number of places.

How do you apply authority?

Show that you have authority by associating with famous people, labels, awards, claims, titles, experience and/or knowledge.

How do you apply social proof?

Show reviews and ratings, show how often a certain action has been done or create a top 5 of popular products.

How do you apply likability?

Have a good about-us page, be vulnerable, use humor, create positive brand associations, emphasize similarities or make sincere compliments for example.

How do you apply reciprocity?

You can apply reciprocity by doing something of value for the other person or giving them something. Think of giving a gift, e-book, training, checklist, free trial, etc.

How do you apply consistency?

You can capitalize on consistency by, for example, showing an exit-intent or welcome-back pop-up, placing a trigger on the thank-you page to get a new conversion or perhaps adding an option to save something as a favorite.

How do you apply unity?

Unity can be applied by constantly reminding your target audience that they are part of a community.

Gust de Backer
Gust de Backer

I try to help business surpass their growth ceiling with my content.

Sounds interesting?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn!

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