In addition to Cialdini’s bestselling book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, and countless published research articles, he recently wrote a book that explains the power of “pre-suasion.”Cialdini is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to persuasion and influence.Thefollowing is my takeaway not only from my conversation with Cialdini, but also from reading his most recent book and contemplating marketing messages.A word of caution and/or advice: pre-suasion is powerful and should be used only in an ethical manner.It’s about getting attention and causing action, not about manipulation.

1.Make It Personal
After more than a decade in search marketing, I have encountered clients with various preferences regarding content.Some want a formal tone with substantiated facts. Others want content that conveys empathy and appeals to the emotions.Through the supervision of thousands of content pieces over the years — from blog posts to informative guides to landing pages — there is one common factor that results in a high rate of conversion.In “Pre-Suasion”, Cialdini identified a powerful magnet of attention: the self.Cialdini provided an example of this concept that involved the topic of personal health. He explained how messages that are self-relevant and tailored to the audience, such as referring to their age or health history, are more likely to attract attention and be memorable. Furthermore, these messages have a higher probability of being taken seriously and saved for future reference.

2.Create a Mystery
In the world of search marketing, we live and breathe metrics: Traffic, rankings, conversion rates, click-through rates, time on page, etc.There are also many statistics reported on the percentage of content website visitors will read, on average.While that percentage varies based on the source, the number tends to be high and can be discouraging for any content marketer.What if there was a way to keep the reader’s attention from the introduction all the way to the last paragraph?It would no doubt be a content marketer’s dream come true.These debates are centered on one thing: the mysterious.Albert Einstein referred to “the mysterious” as “the most beautiful thing we can experience” and “the source of all true science and art.”Albert Einstein’s quote and the Mona Lisa painting were both examples provided by Cialdini to illustrate the power of mystery.Through Cialdini’s research for one of his books, he discovered that mystery stories were used in successful content.The reason being is our human desire to have closure.We want to know the ending of a story and will give our attention to the mystery until weknow how it is resolved.Apply this concept by weaving a mystery throughout your content.First present the mystery, then deepen it before youprovide alternative explanations and the eventual resolution.Case studies and customer stories would be prime material that could be molded into a mystery.

3.Provide a Linked Association
Every idea or notion is linked within a set of associations.Effective communicators know how to use language to manage the audience’s mental associations to the message.Cialdini referenced recent psycholinguistic analysis that suggested that language directs the audience to areas of reality that are linked to mental associations that are in favor of the communicator’s view.Metaphors are great devices for creating these associations.Tropicana successfully implemented a metaphor into their marketing campaign: “Your Daily Ray of Sunshine.” The message was persuasive and linked the product to a positive association.You can apply this pre-suasion strategy into your content marketing by findingmetaphors or other language that associate your concept with something positive and relatable.

There’s More
I only scratched the surface of the information presented in “Pre-Suasion”.The book is filled with strategies that are backed by research, including the if/when-then plans and a seventh principle of influence (Cialdini’s other book, “Influence”, presents six principles).It is a book that is a must-read for any content marketer.Next time you’re working on a content marketing campaign, why not infuse elements of pre-suasion?


Peter Zmijewski is the founder and CEO at KeywordSpy.His expert knowledge on Internet Marketing practices and techniques has earned him the title “Internet Marketing Guru“ He is also an innovator, investor and entrepreneur widely recognized by the top players in the industry.