7 Ways to Influence Buyer Decisions with Marketing Psychology

It's fascinating to think about how many commands and signals the brain sends and receives every day, but with so much to do and at such a fast pace, your brain is always looking for ways to get its jobs done faster.

This is particularly true when it comes to cognitive functions, such as decision making. The brain largely relies on past information it has stored in order to quickly reach a verdict.

In terms of consumers making purchasing decisions, being aware of these shortcuts can help you to understand, predict, and leverage their behaviours in your favour.

You're not looking to maliciously manipulate your prospects and customers. But yes, there are ways to influence their actions—actions they will be glad they took.

7 psychological principles you can leverage in your marketing and influence the buying decisions of your prospects:

1. Social proof

This term was coined by the author Robert Cialdini in his book Influence. It’s the theory that people tend to follow others in novel situations where “appropriate” behaviour is unknown to them. Such conformity is practiced by people so that they are liked and accepted.

A few ways you can use social proof to influence buyer behaviour:

  • Add testimonials to your website and landing pages

  • Have a dedicated testimonial page

  • Highlight endorsements from popular brands

  • Include stamps of approval (partnerships, awards, or other “trust seals” that speak to your credibility)

  • Use the numbers to get more subscribers (boast that a large group of people is using your products or resources.)

2. Anchoring

The anchoring bias is the tendency of an individual to use the first piece of information presented to them as a benchmark (or anchor) for making their decision. As you can imagine, this tactic is particularly useful for pricing.

Here are some types and examples of anchoring:

  • Indicate mark-downs

  • Show the amount saved

3. Reciprocity

When someone is kind to you, do you feel compelled to act in the same manner? This is reciprocity—the human tendency to want to respond to a kind gesture with one of their own.

Sociologist Phillip Kunz conducted an experiment in 1974, whereby he sent 600 Christmas cards to complete strangers (selected at random). In response to his kind gesture, approximately 200 strangers replied back.

Here's what reciprocity might look like in your marketing:

  • Provide free (valuable) information and education

  • Offer free tools and trials

4. The commitment and consistency bias

The commitment and consistency bias is one where, once we heed a small request, we are more likely to comply with a larger one later. This comes from our inclination to exhibit behaviours consistent with preceding ones. The foot-in-the-door technique makes use of this bias, and here are some ways it is used in marketing:

  • Encourage movement down your marketing funnel

  • Get more account signups

  • Increase engagement with long-form content

5. The exposure effect

Also referred to as the “familiarity principle,” this is the concept that more you develop familiarity with something, the more you prefer it.

  • Run display ads for brand awareness

  • Use retargeting ads to increase CTR

  • Send the same message across all channels

  • Promote your content

6. Paradox of choice

As the number of options to choose from increases, a buyer becomes paralysed in their decision-making, and sometimes choose nothing at all. Further, it can lead to post-purchase regret with the possibility that the other choices were better.

Here are some ways to remove analysis paralysis for your audience.

  • Limit the number of items in your main navigation menu

  • Have only 1 Call To Action per landing page

  • Remove social sharing buttons

7. The Pygmalion effect

This last psychological tactic can be used both on your customers and your own team.

The Pygmalion effect, also known as the Rosenthal effect, says that if you, or others, believe something to be true of yourself, it will eventually become so. So if a teacher holds his or her students to high standards with the belief that they are capable of meeting them, the students are highly likely to perform better. Similarly, setting high standards for your employees with enthusiasm can have the same effect.

  • Unify your team and improve the customer experience

  • Create a positive feedback loop with your customers


While you can use these tactics to win over more clients, keep in mind the following:

  • Don’t employ these tactics to consumers for whom your product or service is not a good fit.

  • Don’t use these tactics to make promises you can’t keep or to represent more capabilities than you have.

  • A customer who feels “cheated” may feel inclined to get back at you (remember the principle of reciprocity?). They might spread negative word of mouth about your brand to others, in person or online.

  • When using these tactics, align your business goals with those of your prospective buyers to make it a win-win.

  • Stay patient. Allow enough time to see results in your data.