I have a passion for persuasion. I think that everyone should know how to persuade ethically and effectively. This obsession has led me to study psychology, strategy, marketing, cognitive science, and anything related to persuasion and influence that I could get my hands on.
I have observed that there are two main models of persuasion that are in use today. These are more like meta models of persuasion since they encompass many little models under them.
The needs based model.
As the title suggests, the needs based model relies on us understanding the various needs of another person and designing our products and services to fulfill those needs. While seemingly simple in surface, the needs based model is the core behind almost any form of marketing and advertising today.
The basic idea behind this model is that people have wants and needs such as the Maslow hierarchy of needs and we are motivated to fulfill those needs. Marketers then direct their attention towards linking their product or service to a particular need.
Maslow’s list includes:
- Physiological needs, such as food, water, bodily comforts, and other individual biological needs.
- Safety needs, such as shelter and protection, free from worry about things like money, health, etc.
- Love/belonging needs, such as friendships, relationships, acceptance, family, intimacy, camaraderie, etc.
- Esteem needs, such as self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect from others but also status, glory, reputation/fame, etc.
- Self-Actualization needs such as morality, creativity, spontaneity, lack of prejudice, effortlessness, achievement, problem solving, playfulness, etc.
Along with Maslow’s original list of needs, there other needs that are slightly more “negative” or darker/sinister in nature, far more secretive and powerful. They too are part of the human nature and cannot be ignored. In fact one book I read called them appropriately “hidden addictions” This list includes:
- The 7 “deadly” sins/vices: Lust, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. All of them very powerful and very easily taken advantage of
- The need to be right instead of wrong
- The need for a scapegoat
- The need to know secrets that nobody else knows
- The need for power (or a sense of power)
- The desire to win (or not to lose)
The basis of the needs based model is that you first determine what the other person’s most pressing need is and then you frame your offer in a way that gives them the hope that you can fulfill that need, without anyone directly stating the need. This is how scam artists usually take advantage of people.
The biases/shortcuts based model.
The shortcut/biases based model takes advantage of the brain’s inherent desire to preserve as much energy as possible and use heuristics to make decisions rather than think harder. The list of cognitive biases is HUGE!
By presenting an offer in ways that take advantage of these biases (such as for example the status quo bias or the confirmation bias) you can get someone to make a quick decision in your favor.
For example we tend to remember much better things in the beginning and things in the end and not so much the things in the middle, so if for example you start off the year working hard, you slack off in the middle but then you pick it up again toward the end of the year (when reviews are usually done) people will tend to remember more what you did last and thus give you a higher score.
Another very important example is the status quo bias where you tend to go with the default choice rather than weigh all the choices evenly. “Evil” websites and software developers for example can take advantage of this by leaving checked off options where you are charged a recurring fee, or where you inadvertently install programs you never intend to use.
The core distinction among the two models is customizability.
When you’re creating a product to target a very specific need or want, you HAVE to customize your pitch for the appropriate audience or else you won’t connect with them. (By the way this is also how you gain rapport with people….more on that on another post)
However when you’re using biases and shortcuts, since we all have pretty much the same biases, you can keep your pitch constant regardless of the audience you’re presenting to. This is the main idea behind a book called Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. He focuses primarily on how you can frame your product in such a way that it will appeal to any audience without the need to vary it based on needs.
The most effective persuasion techniques combine both models for the biggest bang for your buck.