Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert B. Cialdini (Book Summary)

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert B. Cialdini
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This book tells how to persuade by influencing a person before they decide. It tells not just what to say, but when to say it. It's educational and entertaining. The lessons can be applied to marketing, sales, or any role that requires persuasion. It cites many scientific studies and includes illustrative anecdotes.

Cialdini's popular book Influence told consumers how to resist unwelcome influence attempts. This book tells businesses and individuals how to be more influential in ethical, scientifically-based ways.

I read this because I'm working to improve the marketing of the website maintenance plans we offer. It's a valuable read for anyone doing online marketing, where persuasion is key.

I heard about this book on Copyblogger FM, and I decided to read it because I liked Influence. Notes follow.

Part 1: Pre-Suasion: The Frontloading of Attention

Pre-Suasion: An Introduction

Highest-achieving salespeople and marketers spend more time crafting what they say and do before making request. Before introducing message, they make audience sympathetic to it.

To reduce price resistance, before you give your fee, joke, "As you can tell, I'm not going to be able to charge you X dollars for this," where X is an unrealistically high amount (say, 10x actual fee).

Privileged Moments

To change someone's behavior, alter what's prominent in their mind at the decision moment. E.g., ask, "Do you consider yourself helpful?" or, "Do you consider yourself adventurous, liking to try new things?"

People believe what they pay attention to (or ignore) reflects what they value at that time. To make something seem more important, make them focus on it.

"Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it."

Website visitors who saw the site with a background of clouds became inclined towards soft, comfortable furniture. Those who saw the site with a background of pennies became inclined towards inexpensive furniture.

When you ask people to evaluate your products or services, they focus on the product or service or your company, and think more favorably of them.

What's Focal is Causal

People automatically view what's focal as causal. E.g., leaders are given more credit or blame than they deserve simply because they're in spotlight.

The more prominent and attention-grabbing scare tactics are, the better they work. To make them more effective, add to the chilling message clear info about available steps that can be taken to avoid problem.

Make something appear distinctive from competing options to attract attention, which makes that distinguishing factor seems more important and alluring.

Commanders of Attention 2: The Magnetizers

Start your message with self-relevant cues (such as word "you," person's age, sex, etc.)

Telling a mystery story keeps audience focused on issues and makes them want to pay attention so they can solve the mystery.

Structure of mystery story

  1. Pose mystery.
  2. Deepen mystery.
  3. Home in on proper explanation by considering (and offering evidence against) alternative explanation.
  4. Provide clue to proper explanation.
  5. Resolve mystery.
  6. Draw implication for phenomenon under study.

Counterarguments are typically more powerful than arguments, especially when counterclaim shows the rival to be a generally untrustworthy source of info, in addition to being wrong in this particular instance.

Part 2: Processes: The Role of Association

The Primacy of Associations: I Link, Therefore I Think

Words and images that connote achievement increase worker performance on an assigned task, and more than double willingness to keep at it.

Metaphors are powerful. Example: if crime is described as a raging beast, people are more likely to recommend catch-and-cage solutions. If crime is described as a virus, people are more likely to recommend solutions that remove unhealthy conditions.

People holding a heavy object perceive related items as serious, important, or requiring effort. People holding a warm object feel warmer toward, closer to, more trusting of those around them.

Avoid negative connotations. Replace "used" with "pre-owned," "cost" or "price" with "purchase" or "investment."

People give more attention and importance to anything self-connected. E.g., people with same birthday, birthplace, first name, language; products with names that share letters of alphabet with their names.

When people grasp something fluently (picture or process it quickly and effortlessly) they like it more and think it's more valid and worthwhile. E.g., poetry with rhyme and regular meter is perceived as more favorable and aesthetic, persuasive.

People have a greater liking for those with easily recognizable facial features and easily pronounced names (regardless of foreignness of name).

Difficult-to-read claims are seen as less true.

Persuasive Geographies: All the Right Places, All the Right Traces

To produce work more suited to your target audience, work while surrounded by people or objects that remind you of them, or with photos of those people.

The elderly feel happier than when they were younger, stronger, healthier because they concentrate on positive thoughts and go to places that lift their moods (positive memories, pleasant thought, favorable info, happy faces, upsides of products). Elderly with best moods are those with greatest ability to pay attention, because they can focus on those previously listed items.

Increase personal happiness:

  1. Write your blessings/gratitude at beginning of each day.
  2. Look on bright side of situations, events, future possibilities. Be optimistic.
  3. Limit time spent on problems or unhealthy comparisons with others.

The Mechanics of Pre-Suasion: Causes, Constraints, and Correctives

To prompt an action, find a concept already associated strongly and positively with that action, and bring that concept to mind in audience just before requesting the action. E.g., bring up concept of togetherness just before asking for help.

Part 3: Best Practices: The Optimization of Pre-Suasion

Six Main Roads to Change: Broad Boulevards as Smart Shortcuts

To increase return on using rule of reciprocation, what you give before asking should be meaningful, unexpected, customized.

To be more likable, be friendly, attractive, humorous. Highlight similarities and give compliments. Show people you genuinely like them. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

People view popular choices as more right, morally and practically. Label products "most popular" to increase sales.

Telling people that their peers are doing the thing you want them to do is more effective than appealing to self interest.

Admit a weakness early on to gain instant trustworthiness. Channel the weakness onto a strength. E.g., "Our setup costs aren't the lowest, but you'll recoup them quickly due to our superior efficiency." This works best when strength doesn't just add something positive, but instead challenges relevance of weakness.

Any constraint on access (number of items, period of time, etc.) increases the worth of what's offered.

People want to be consistent, so get them to commit to something before they need to do it, or remind them of their previous commitment.

When to use influence principles

  1. Stage 1 (cultivating a positive association): use Reciprocity and Liking. Give first (in a meaningful, unexpected, customized way), highlighting genuine commonalities, offering true compliments.
  2. Stage 2 (reducing uncertainty): use Social Proof and Authority. Give evidence that choice is well-regarded by peers or experts.
  3. Stage 3 (motivating action): use Consistency and Scarcity. Remind what they said about topic in past, and what they could lose.

Unity 1: Being Together

7th principle of influence: Relationships. They not only intensify willingness to help, but also cause it.

Most influential relationships are those that allow people to say, "that person is of us," not just "that person is like us." It's about shared identities (race, ethnicity, nationality, family, politics, religion).

Being of same family (bloodline) is ultimate relationship.

You can use power of family even with those not genetically connected by using familial language and imagery (brotherhood, sisterhood, forefathers, motherland, heritage, etc.) You can also say you'll treat them as family.

The medium can be the message; the multitude can be the message (via social proof); the messenger can be the message (via authority) the merger (of self and other, via relationships) can be the message.

Being of same place forms strong relationship. This applies at levels of home/domicile, locality, region.

To help your kids develop a broadly charitable nature, give them contact in your home to people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, and treat them like family.

Unity 2: Acting Together

When people act in united ways, they become united. Acting together in motoric, vocal, sensory ways can be a substitute for being together in kinship.

If buyer is shopping based on how product will affect them emotionally, use feeling-related arguments and say "I feel …." If buyer is shopping based on logic and reason, use logical arguments and say "I think…."

People feel a special affinity for things they have a hand in creating. The more involved they are, the higher they rate its quality.

Companies can get consumers to feel more loyal by inviting current and prospective customers to co-create new or updated products and services, mostly by giving info on desirable features. Call it "advice," not "opinions" or "expectations."

When you ask someone for advice, they feel a sense of partnership with you, and responsibility.

Post-Suasion: Aftereffects

Persuasive openers can produce dramatic, immediate shifts in people, but to turn these shifts into lasting changes, get people to commit to them (in active, effortful, voluntary way). Ideally, get them to behave consistently with the change. Incorporate behaviors that affect their personal identity.


You can buy the Pre-Suasion ebook, book, or audiobook on Amazon.

This book is packed with ways to be more persuasive in your marketing. And what’s the center of online marketing? Your website! Make sure your site is well cared for, so it doesn’t fall down on the job. The easiest way to do that is by enlisting the help of website experts. Contact us today!

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