Start Up Blog

Persuasion & Startups

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 29, 2013

This video was a nice reminder of what motivates people in life. I dig the animation, but I did think that the examples were kind of naff. In the spirit of de-naffing – I thought I’d list out the 6 key motivators, and then give an example of how a startup can employ it in a cool way that makes sense.

According to the science these are the key drivers that persuade people to take action.

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Liking
  6. Consensus

Reciprocity: Be the resource first. Give to an audience something valuable, without asking for anything in return. Advice, information, news, utility. When I think of this, I think about the freemium model. I think about Google serving data points and monetizing later. How can your startup help in the first instance?

Scarcity: One of my favourite marketing strategies is when brands who know they have something cool and limit the distribution of their thing. Invites to Google+ and Pinterest come to mind, as does the retail strategy of many premium goods. This also has an important impact on our ability to price more profitably.

Authority: People want to deal with experts. One thing smart startups can do these days is build credentials in related spheres to what they sell. Smart brands do thought pieces on their industry, share intimate knowledge they have learned, and even give away perceived trade secrets. This is a smart way to fast track reputation and gain authority. A company blog is a great start. Talking at relevant industry conferences, getting articles published and mini doco’s are also great ways of developing a brand as an authority. Another old school method is gaining borrowed interest via sponsorships.

Consistency: In a world of exponential change and category fragmentation, it would be easy to think we desire unique and changeable experiences. But the opposite is true. While our tastes are becoming more niche, every niche experience we have we want to be consistent with our expectations. In technology Apple does it extremely well with their interface. But the true master would have to be McDonalds. When it comes to homogeneity of experience, they are the true masters. A simple question we can ask ourselves is this: How will the system we are building facilitate a ritual? Humans are creatures of habit and certainty – brands that serve this, have a chance at generating loyalty.

Liking: While this doesn’t appear in many strategy documents, people do business with people they like. The science says we like people and companies that are similar to us, and co-operate with us. When it comes to startups, a fast track to doing this is to personify the brand. Have a set of values that people can relate to, to stand for something politically and environmentally. The days of corporate fence sitting and both party political donations are over. The best way to be likable is to take a stand and find the people who value what we do. The others are irrelevant.

Consensus: With humans being social animals, we look for decision validation within our reference group. This doesn’t mean that the wisdom of crowds is right. In fact, it might mean the wisdom of a closed group of people we trust. My best current example is that the popularity of Facebook and its ever growing user base assures me that it isn’t right for me.

While it is hard to do all of these, it’s a nice reminder of the type of activity we need to undertake to inspire people to take action.

What are some of the methods that you’ve used?

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4 Responses

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  1. Pete (@pc0) said, on January 30, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Reblogged this on AnyDex and commented:
    Steve has found another gem here, highly recommended.

  2. Jack M said, on February 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Another great article. Steve breaks it down in a way that is actionable. Great job!

  3. Martin said, on February 9, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Very insightful article, thanks!


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