Persuasion psychology in email

In Cialdini’s 1984 bestseller “Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion”, there are six principles you can use in your marketing to be more persuasive; reciprocity, commitment, consensus, liking, authority and scarcity.

This short and very watchable video explains each principle and gives examples such as how waiters increased their tips 23% and an estate agent increased contracts by 15%.

So how can we apply this to email marketing?


Giving before you get means a balance of entertaining and informative content rather than just promotional content. How can you help your customers without them having to buy from you?


Urgency is a great driver in email. Such as using “don’t miss out” just before an offer ends or two hour flash sales. Other options include when you have a limited stock for a sought after item or promoting last ‘n’ places left for events. Use your subject line to make the point about scarcity, talking about something as a secret makes it sound scarce and not readily available elsewhere.


Make sure customers know what makes you and your brand credible. Have you won awards? Had positive press articles written about your brand? What experience do you have? Though be careful not to come across as arrogant when talking about yourself, keep the tone factual.


Permission based marketing is already about consistency and commitment; you’ve already persuaded someone to sign-up so they are on the first step for consistent behaviour. Keep your email subject line, copy, call to action and landing page consistent, so that each step you don’t ask for too much and that you’ve connected the ‘yes’ steps between each of the actions. This keeps the customer comfortably nodding along as they take consistent action.


Give your email character, be human, using a 1-1 and personal tone to your copy. You want the reader to know they are engaging with real people and not a dry corporate and faceless brand.


More commonly called social proof now. Use ratings, reviews and testimonials in your emails. Incorporate content from your social networks.