The 3 most important marketing strategies for entrepreneurs

Robert Cialdini and Steve J. Martin are leading influence experts and authors of The Small BIG – a book that ingeniously explores influence and how you can use small changes to grow your business. In this exclusive interview by Virgin Startup mentor Ross Kingsland, they reveal the most important growth strategies for entrepreneurs!

Trust is everything

R: The first things that entrepreneurs need to consider when marketing anything is to assure their market of their trustworthiness, and one mistake that many businesses make in this regard is to present only the positive side of your case - it makes them seem like everyone else. There is research to show that if a business mentions a small weakness it can be beneficial. Take what L’Oreal has done with their slogan “We’re expensive, but you’re worth it”, for instance – they admit they’re pricey but justify it. Everything has pluses and minuses.

What many businesses forget to do is to establish their trustworthiness before expecting their market to adopt their product. So once they establish their trustworthiness, ironically enough, they can then mention their drawbacks, which they can then overcome. By failing to do that they miss the opportunity to differentiate themselves from all their competitors, who are simply doing what everyone else is doing.
S: The mistake is that entrepreneurs underestimate is the differences that can be made with these small changes. They will often rely on the bigger educational or informationally-led programmes. “Let’s have a more costly incentive,” or a “more different offer to present,” - that’s fine and those things will often work, but if your competitors are also doing that you just find yourself in a war of noise of information or price. What we present in this book are evidenced-based insights that a small change in the way in which the message is framed, the fact that others are already using this product or service, or even that the time on an online review will make it more credible and more persuasive.

I see lots of examples of where these small things are the difference; because they are small, they are missed.

Influence your customers to take action

R: You would think that if you offer a longer deadline more people would accept the offer that you have for them. In fact, because of the tendency for people to want to avoid loss, if you give them a shorter deadline they are more likely to leap to the opportunity and act so that they don’t lose out.  But if you give them a longer deadline they are more leisurely and simply don’t get round to accepting the offer.

S: Sometimes the challenge is not to get someone to attend to a message or say “Yes” to a proposition; the challenge is when there is a gap between saying “Yes” and then actually carrying out that action.

So one of the insights in the book is that anything that you can do to arrange for an intention plan – “Where will you be when you see this product?”, “Where will you be coming from when you buy this produce?” gives a sense of concreteness to that decision. Sometimes it’s not just enough to have someone persuaded by your message or what you have to say; sometimes you need to take that extra step in order to get this decision acted upon.

R: Another example of a small thing that is available to marketers that is rarely employed effectively is the testimonial. David Ogilvy, who is known as the father of modern advertising, once reported that if at the top of an ad you put a statement in quotation marks, their research showed that they got a 26% - 29% increase in the effectiveness of the ad. Someone at the Wharton Business School, Scott Armstrong, did a study to identify why those quotation marks made such a difference. It’s because the testimonials were inside quotation marks.

Inside those quotation marks are two kinds of testimonials, from experts or from peers. Both of those reduce uncertainty about what is likely to be a good choice by those who are reading the ad. One of the things we need to remember is the power of testimonials - not the quotation marks themselves. That is the psychological factor that drives individuals to make a choice.

Small psychological influence has big rewards

R: There’s a very savvy online car rental agency (Lings Cars) that has arranged things so that when you go to the landing page you see a map of Great Britain and a pin in every location on a map where anyone has rented a car from them in the last 12 months.  And it covers the entire map. And then when you pass your cursor over the map and hover over a certain pin, up pops a testimonial by the person who hired one there last.

It’s brilliant, only possible because of the technology that we now have, and it carries the psychological dimension of “What are the other people around me, like me, doing?” And then here is a testimonial advocating this service. Beautiful.

So for one example like this this; let’s say that you are an entrepreneur and you want to launch a new product or new model. The research shows that if you launch it at the beginning of the week you will do better, if you launch it at the beginning of the month you will do even better and if you launch it at the beginning of the year you’ll do still better. Because it’s at the beginning of each of those time-demarcated units, people feel most eager to change. It’s at the beginning that is when people are most receptive to adopting some new behaviour or take action on a suggestion.

S: I think there are two really good examples that can be used for entrepreneurs. So there’s the classic study where people spend more money on French wine in stores if they have French music playing. Yet when they change it to German music, sales of German wine go up. It is a really interesting example of priming that makes sales go up, a very subtle cue in the environment.

To find out more about The Small BIG, visit the website here, or Amazon.

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