Marketing automation with Cialdini’s 7 principles of influence

No marketing specialty is as hot as marketing automation and no influence principle as well-known as Cialdini. What happens when you combine the two and deploy them for your customers?

What are the 7 principles?

Since its very first printing, Cialdini’s book has been a staple in the marketing world. Some even consider it the holy grail in marketing. Cialdini researched and found seven principles of influence, which his right-hand man Neidert then subdivided into three core motifs:

1. Building relationships

At the beginning of an influence process, the messenger and receiver do not yet know each other, but influence can only occur when they do. The following principles help develop a relationship:

  • Reciprocity

  • Sympathy

2. Elimination of uncertainty.

Has the relationship been established? Then the next step for the messenger is to remove some doubt or uncertainty from the receiver. That is what these principles are aimed at:

  • Authority

  • Social proof

  • Unity

3. Inciting action

The final step in the influencing process is, of course, to incite action. You do this as an influencer with:

  • Scarcity

  • Consistency

But what about newer forms of marketing, such as marketing automation? You’ll read more about that below per motive and principle, as well as how to apply them in your marketing automation strategy.

Motive 1. Build relationships

Most of your website visitors are on your website for the first time. So you are still virtually unknown to them, or in other words, you have not yet built a relationship with them. How can you build that relationship with marketing automation?

Principle 1. Reciprocity

Give something in order to get something back.

Reciprocity and Marketing Automation

Within marketing automation, you can do small favors. Think about sharing a free whitepaper. Do you host this on your website? Then you can create a trackable link and add it to your marketing automation tool, for example under ‘media’. Every time a lead interacts with your whitepaper, you can see this in your marketingautomation tool. Does this visitor use your whitepaper? Then they are one step closer to becoming a customer. After all, they are “in debt” to you.

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And how about discounts? That works exactly the same. As a webshop, you can, for example, give a discount of € 5 on the next purchase of this new customer or newsletter subscriber. The customer thinks, “That’s nice. I’m getting a little present from that webshop.” This creates two reactions: you increase in appreciation and you increase the likelihood of a purchase. If not immediately, then in the longer term.

Next, you can use marketing automation to send one or more emails that include the discount code. This is also called the “welcome flow” and it closes reciprocity in the perfect way. You gave the customer something, the customer gave it back, and you’re helping the customer out again.

But beware: this is THE moment when you are top of mind with your new subscriber, so take advantage of this too. The open rates of these types of emails are significantly higher than your regular email campaigns. So think carefully in advance about what you want to achieve with a welcome campaign. Think for example of increasing the chance of a purchase.

A tip for your welcome campaign: ask the gender of your subscribers at the very first registration. You can then very easily enrich your automated campaigns on this.


Principle 2. Sympathy

People like to say yes to those they like. But who exactly do we like? According to the psychology of persuasion, this has to do with three factors. We like people:

  • Who look like us.

  • Who give us compliments

  • with whom we work toward a common goal.

Want to apply likability in your marketing automation? Then look for similarities between you and your customers. And see if you can give sincere compliments before you get to the point.

Sympathy and marketing automation

Want to create sympathy within marketing automation? A key factor is making your team visible and the recognition that follows. For example, have your team members write something personal about themselves on your ‘about us’ page and use the name of one of those same team members to send the white paper if it is requested.

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Bovenstaand voorbeeld laat zien hoe online marketingbureau Heers het op hun ‘over ons’-pagina aanpakt. Kort, krachtig en persoonlijk. Het geeft een persoonlijk tintje aan het bureau en als je later een keer een e-mail met whitepaper toegestuurd krijgt, dan weet je van wie deze afkomstig is. Een makkelijke manier om relaties op te bouwen.

Motive 2. Removing uncertainty.

The relationship has been established. Now it’s time to convince your visitor of your added value in their lives through authority, social proof and unity.


Principle 3. Authority

People follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts. If someone radiates authority – for example by a doctor’s coat or job title – visitors are also more likely to accept what this person says. Why is that? It’s in our nature.

We tend to obey people who, for example, have more authority or are more successful and well-known than we are. This is already true of doing a favor for someone in a uniform. But also, for example, a doctor who has diplomas hanging on the wall or taking tips from someone who is an expert in that field.

Do you want to apply this principle? Then it is important that you already have that authority. Like the dentist in the Prodent commercial who is supposedly not affiliated with Prodent and his “expert” opinion on the toothpaste. Then again, it doesn’t matter who gave you that authority. As long as you’re not the one saying you’re brilliant.

Authority and marketing automation

With marketing automation you can work with dynamic content in emails or on landing pages written or supported by experts in your specific industry.

Dynamic content can also be combined with reviews. Think of an automated email flow that shows the products someone is looking for, including a quote from the expert supporting the products and a rating from other users.

Another option is the after sales email. Imagine: you work for or own a web shop that sells furniture and accessories. At the moment your customer buys a new product, for example a sofa, you can use marketing automation to send an automated mail. This mail is -depending on the product and the delivery time- sent an x number of days after the purchase.

In the meantime, the customer has not purchased anything, but you want to cross-sell. So in your e-mail you thank again for the purchase and you give great tips from an interior design specialist (such as Jan des Bouvrie) that the bank will look even better. For example, with side tables or rugs. It is the way to trigger your reader just a little bit more. You take away any uncertainty about your own interior styling and turn your fan into a super fan.

Make sure your customers see you as an expert in your field. It gives you an extra push for credibility and for that relationship you so badly want with the customer.


Principle 4. Social Proof.

People look to the actions of others to make their own choices.

Especially when people are uncertain about their purchase or application they look to others to make the decision. In this case, for example, it is a good idea to show what others are doing. In this way, a potential new customer can be convinced to purchase a service or product.

As an example Cialdini mentions the cards you always find in the bathroom of hotel chains. On these cards you are asked to recycle your towels with the message that this is good for the environment. In an experiment, the texts on the cards were changed. When the text was changed to “75% of our guests use their towels again during their stay” the reuse of towels increased by 26%. And when the text was changed to: ‘75% of the guests from this room reused their towel’ the number of guests who did so increased by 33%.

If it already works for hotel towel reuse, what will it be able to do for marketing automation?

Social proof & marketing automation

Social proof can be used to good effect in marketing automation. Did a customer buy a product or service from you? Then follow up with an email with the reviews of similar customers attached.

We like the example of travel agencies or airlines that send an automated email with tips from a local a week before your trip. It is an easily configurable automated email flow that strengthens the connection with the company through social proof. After all, a local gives local tips. And as a traveler, you’d rather be among the locals than among all the other tourists spending six hours with their Instagram photo shoot, right?

Other ways to add social proof to a service or product:

  • This training has already been booked 600 times

  • 600 people preceded you

  • Best booked

  • Reviews of training courses

  • Top 3 most viewed

  • Top-3 most sold


Principle 5. Unity

People like to belong somewhere. From a group to a community or a family, we, as humans, like to belong somewhere. We categorize ourselves, for example, according to our gender, our nationality or our friends. It ensures that we can compare ourselves to others and feel connected: as part of a greater whole.

Unity is the last principle that ensures that you remove uncertainty from your potential customer. By showing the visitor others who are similar to him or her. Whether that relates to demographics, preferences, style, or whatever, you create unity and security for the customer to commit to you.

Unity & marketing automation

You can create the feeling of unity among your visitors with marketing automation, for example, by sending messages based on someone’s purchase or preference, which then translate such a choice into personalized marketing messages. This way you create the ‘club’ effect.

For example: you have a clothing webshop with different styles and one of your customers buys a complete sports outfit. You can then classify these as ‘sports enthusiasts’ and address them from then on with automated emails or social posts with: ‘for you, as a true sports fan’. Your customer will probably feel positively addressed and part of the club. The next sports outfit will be purchased in no time.

Motive 3. Stimulate action

You have a relationship with your customer and you have removed the uncertainty about whether your product or service suits him or her. Time to move on to the final blow: incitement to action. And you do that with scarcity and consistency.


Principle 6. Scarcity

A scarce product or service is more desirable. 

Visitors become greedy when a product has a limited edition or when there is a time limit on a special offer. The limited edition in particular creates a strong effect, according to Cialdini. It creates a sense of exclusivity. Scarcity acts as an amplifier in the value of the product or service.

Just look at how once again does it. You always have the idea that you have actually already missed the boat for the most beautiful apartments and that you should book your stay straight away. If you look at the example, this is shown by the in red “Only 1 room left on our site!”, and in orange “Great deal today”, and even the button helps: “View our last available rooms”. If you don’t book now, your will is very strong.

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Marketing automation and Cialdini: scarcity

All of these elements create a high level of anxiety: you want this. And you want it now. So you also book immediately. While you haven’t even looked at all the other options. And afterwards you always feel a bit used. is effective in getting you to do their bidding. Every. Single. Damn. Time.


Scarcity and marketing automation

This principle offers many possibilities within marketing automation. For example, place a countdown timer in your email or on your website, include offers that only apply that day or highlight limited editions of products.

Or how about exclusive offers that only apply that day and limited editions of products that are almost sold out? The more you can apply the pressure, the better you are at applying scarcity.


Principle 7: Consistency

Let beliefs be consistent with values.

People like to be consistent. So once they have made up their mind about something or someone, there is a good chance that they will continue to support that position. If you want to influence this, it must be done incrementally. Little by little, you make someone more of a fan of your brand. Until they can’t get away from it anymore.

If we look at the psychological aspect of this, then the explanation is probably to be found in the fact that people attune their devotion to their self-image. In short, in marketing you get people excited about your brand step by step and then retain them because they identify with your brand. A strong example of this is Nike versus Adidas, or Android versus Apple. You are a fan of one or the other.

Consistency and marketing automation

With marketing automation, that consistency is all about the hooks you put in place to gradually make someone a customer. It works like this:

It starts with a post on your Instagram page. Your potential customer sees this and becomes familiar with your brand.

Next, this person visits your website once and reads a blog. That’s hook two.

Readers of this blog you can then target with landing pages with dynamic content about the topic they read the blog about. That was hook three.

Is the interest piqued and does he or she want to know more about your services? Then the next step is to sign up for a newsletter, download a white paper or request a demo.

And then the real influencing can begin.

With an email address, your visitor makes himself known and you can send additional targeted information to fully convince him. Until it’s time to contact them. And then you suddenly have a customer!

Met een e-mailadres maakt je bezoeker zich bekend en kun je heel gericht extra informatie toesturen om hem of haar volledig te overtuigen. Totdat het tijd is om contact op te nemen. En dan heb je er ineens een klant bij!

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By offering customers something small (usually free), such as a white paper, guide or free demo, you increase the feeling with the customer that they are indeed a customer. The next step to buy your service or product is then suddenly a lot smaller.


Seen this article on Frankwatching?

It could be! Recently, our article was added to the Frankwatching website. Anyway, back to the 7 principles. Because, how often have you been fooled by one of your favorite brands? It happens more often than you think. And looking at the psychology behind it, it’s not surprising. It takes some persuasion to get you to buy a product or service. You don’t opt for a long-term relationship right after the first date, do you?

If you apply them cleverly, you are optimally equipped to convince your customers from the first impression.

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