An electronic sign was clocking our speed.
Granted, the speed limit was 40 mph, so we weren’t speeding that much. But why did that electronic sign scare us enough to drive below the speed limit?
The police weren’t handing out tickets. No one waved signs screaming “SLOW DOWN!”
So why did that sign work so well controlling traffic?
What I know for sure from a copywriter/marketing perspective is that sign worked because it represents authority.
In Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence, he explains how authority figures are more effective in making people take action.
We are so programmed to respond to authority, it can make us take action even when it goes against our beliefs!
(By the way, if you haven’t read Influence, or Dr. Cialdini’s latest edition Yes!, I strongly suggest you read it. It’s one of the most respected and revealing marketing books ever written).
Programmed to follow
Dr. Cialdini explains from birth, we’re trained to believe obeying authority is good. And disobeying authority is bad.
So when an authority figure tells us what to do, we usually follow along without giving it much thought.
For instance, if a guy wearing ragged, ripped clothes tells you to move, you’ll likely ignore him. But if a man in uniform tells you to move, you’ll automatically step aside.
Maybe later you’ll notice he was just an impatient security guard from the lingerie store and not a policeman.
Using authority to boost sales
Following authority is so ingrained in most of us, some marketers increase sales just by implying authority.
That’s why in print ads and commercials selling dietary aids, you often see a model or actor wearing a lab coat.
That actor may not know their tibia from their fibula, but that lab coat makes you believe they’re a trusted medical professional and telling you the truth.
Doctors are authority figures. Therefore, actors wearing lab coats make sales go up.
Please understand, I’m not suggesting you fool people that way in your marketing.
Instead, I’m trying to show that if implying authority motivates people to buy, think of how much more powerful it is if you prove your authority.
In your marketing, how do you prove you’re the trusted figure that will solve your prospect’s pressing need or problem?
Just telling prospects you’re great isn’t going to do it. You need to prove it.
Show me the proof
Simple ways of proving it is making sure your marketing material includes:
- Quality testimonials
- Business or industry certifications
- A strong guarantee
- Providing education
- Endorsements from other respected people
(e.g.: celebrities and industry leaders)
- Alliances with respected and well-known leaders
- Images or graphics that support your claims
And very importantly, be sure to back up all of your claims/statements with quantifiable proof. Specificity sells…
Don’t say: Our widget will save you money.
Say: Our proprietary technology saves you an average of 37% in energy costs within the first month.
Don’t say: We have the best customer service in town.
Say: We have a 98.9% customer satisfaction rate. And 9 out of 10 customers stay with us over 15 years.
So here are your questions for the day:
How does your website or brochure position your company as the authority?
How can you make it stronger?