5 Marketing Psychology Techniques To Improve Your Conversions

Creating fresh, engaging and innovative content that converts is a tough task. You’ve tried almost every strategy in the marketing playbook, but the results are still lacklustre at best. If this sounds familiar, then it may be time to start leveraging some marketing psychology into your strategy.

But wait – as a startup you might be thinking, “What about those who have yet to start their marketing initiatives?”

Don’t fret – these principles are just as effective in attracting new customers as they are in bolstering existing campaigns.

Here’s what we’ll cover

What Is Marketing Psychology?

Marketing psychology involves understanding who the customer is, what they desire and what it takes to motivate them to make a purchase. While most marketers are not actually trained psychologists, they remain cognizant of and are able to leverage psychological principles strategically to better communicate and engage with their customers.

Using this information, marketers are able to look for pain points and psychological motivators of their client base. This means they’re better able to cater their content and marketing strategy towards them.

It sounds complicated, but there are a few tried and true marketing psychology principles you can easily incorporate to increase your conversion rates and sales.

We compiled a list of our top 5, along with their academic psychological study and a real-world example to help get you started.

5 Marketing Psychology Techniques To Improve Your Conversions

1. Attractive endorsements and design

Humans as a species have always been drawn to beautiful things. A whole branch of philosophy, aesthetics – is dedicated to discerning what exactly makes beautiful things beautiful.

Still not sold on the prevalence of beauty in our lives? The Trojan wars were incited over the visage of Helen of Troy, the “face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium.

Nowadays, the international community is less inclined to enter into conflict over one woman’s beautiful face. But that doesn’t mean that our inclination to be drawn towards beautiful things is a thing of the past.

Our attraction to beautiful things is something that marketers have been utilizing before formal economic systems even existed. It’s called the “halo effect.”

Researchers Nisbett and Wilson conducted an experiment. 2 groups of undergraduate students were asked to evaluate the appearance, mannerisms and accent of a lecturer with a strong Belgian accent.

The first group was presented with a video where the lecturer answered questions in an open, friendly and inviting manner. The other group watched a video where the same lecturer answered the same questions in a cold and distant fashion.

Unsurprisingly, the lecturer who appeared to be friendly had all of his metrics (appearance, mannerisms, accent) rated higher compared to his cold and distant counterpart.

Their experiment proved that an impression created in one area; in this case – the lecturer’s friendliness – directly influences the opinion of other areas.

You might be surprised at just how ubiquitous this marketing psychology principle is. Attractive politicians are seen as more authoritative and knowledgeable, jury sentences are more lenient towards attractive criminals and beautiful, slim women are perceived to be more successful in life.

Swiss luxury watchmaker, Tag Heuer’s, inclusion of Cara Delevigne as one of their primary brand ambassadors is one example of the real-world application of the halo effect in action.

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Swiss watchmaker company, Tag Heuer, has leveraged model Cara Delevigne to draw interest to their brand. (https://www.tagheuer.com/en-us/cara-delevingne)

Celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing and attractive spokesman are all leveraged by marketing psychology marketers to achieve one effect. To make their brand as attractive as their endorsers by sheer association.

However, this goes beyond the practice of attractive endorsements. Beautiful web design, UX design and graphic design all help to construct the brand’s aesthetic appeal.

Consider using attractive brand ambassadors and influences to better market your products and services. Or try make aesthetics a priority when you’re designing an ad campaign or your product packaging. 

2. Social proof

Most, if not all of us have experienced some form of peer pressure in our lives. Whether it be conforming to our friend’s beliefs or attending an unwanted company dinner, our desire to fit in can sometimes trump rationality and logic.

The most famous example of this is Asch’s series of conformity studies.

Gathering a cohort of 8 male college students, he asked them to match the line on the left with the most similar on the right as shown in this picture:

The Asch's study was concerned with the conditions of independence and lack of independence in the face of group pressure (https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-16966-001)

The only caveat? Only 1 person in the group of 8 was a participant in the study. The rest of the students were all in on the experiment.

The other 7 had agreed prior to select either A or B, the choices most visually dissimilar from the correct choice, C. The sole participant of the study was always left to make his selection last after everyone else had egregiously selected the same choice.

Unsurprisingly, Asch discovered that in the 12 trials where the research assistants were told to select the wrong answer, 75 percent of the actual participants caved in to social pressure. They gave the wrong answer at least once. 

Asch’s study provides concrete evidence for the power of social proof as a marketing psychology technique. 

Just look at HubSpot who has a page dedicated to client testimonials. This allows potential customers to hear directly from clients who have used their service.

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HubSpot showcases customer testimonials to establish trust and credibility. (https://www.hubspot.com/case-studies)

The proof is in the pudding, or rather, the social proof is in the trust we rely on from others. If you’re not getting the conversion you’re looking for, incentivize customers to provide their testimonials and reviews. Give your client base that extra, trusting push and you’ll be seeing increased conversions in no time.

3. Reciprocity 

It’s human nature to give and to also feel like it’s necessary to return the reciprocity.

“Kindness begets kindness,” “quid pro quo” and “give and take” are all idioms that have stood the test of time in capturing this fundamental essence of humanity. Our reciprocative nature goes as far as to influence our perception, whether or not we’re conscious of it.

An academic proof of this concept can be found in Regan’s 1971 study on the effects of a favor on liking and compliance. In his experiment, subjects were paired up and asked to rate a research assistant’s paintings, which they believed was a painter.

Half way through the study, the research assistant would leave and return back with sodas; giving one to some and none to others.

Once the study was completed, all of the participants of the experiment were asked to do a favour – whether or not they’d be willing to purchase a raffle ticket from him which was more expensive than the soda. The participants who received the soda were much more likely to purchase tickets as opposed to the participants who didn’t.

Regan’s reciprocity experiment proved that there is strong support for this social contract of equivalent exchange. This is a principle that marketing psychology marketers can easily leverage in their campaigns.

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Sephora entices customers to purchase with regular sales and discount codes. (https://www.sephora.com/ca/en/beauty/beauty-offers)

Providing a discount, voucher or a free gift is a great way to establish a good rapport with customers. There’s a reason why so many brands such as Sephora, Victoria’s Secret and Urban Decay regularly give customers discounts and free gifts. Even if it might be a loss in the short term, the long term gains are worth it. 

4. Scarcity

As a business, people will naturally be wary of your brand’s reputation and quality of products/services. In order to overcome this obstacle, you’ll need to obtain your customer’s trust and one of the easiest ways to achieve this is through social proof. 

Whether or not this scarcity is real or fabricated, scarce and rare resources are immediately more valuable to us. 

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One illustrious example of this principle in action is the great “Cabbage Patch Panic” of 1983. The doll wrought more demand than suppliers could provide and soon, consumers were fighting amongst each other and tearing apart stores for their chance at securing this scarce commodity. 

The resale market for this doll grew exponentially, with some secondary sellers securing upwards of $150 per doll – one determined parent even flew from Kansas City to London to secure one for his daughter. 

The explanation of this inherent compulsive desire is still not entirely known to this day. Some studies assert that our desire for scarce commodities speaks to our vanity.

Offer your products for a limited time or limit its supply to have your customers wondering what they could be potentially missing out on. Your conversions are sure to jump once your client base is pressed for urgency. 

5. Foot-in-the-door

This final marketing psychology technique is named after door-to-door charlatans unable to take a hint. Simply put, the foot-in-the-door technique. This psychological principle is when people agree to a larger request if they have previously agreed to a smaller request.

This marketing psychology principle works by first establishing a bond between the requester and the requestee via a small request.

Later, when a larger, subsequent request is made, the requestee will feel compelled to act consistently with their prior actions and oblige the requester again.

A study conducted in 1996 had a team of psychologists telephoning housewives in California querying them about household products. A few days later, the team of psychologists called the housewives back and asked if they’ll agree to let them go through their house to record the number of household products they had. 

The psychologists found that the women who had been asked the questionnaire prior were more than twice as likely to agree to the larger request as opposed to the cohort of women who were only asked the larger request.

Curious about how the foot-in-the-door technique is used in the real world?

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Indigo Canada's optional mailing is an example of a smaller request that opens the door for a larger commitment. (https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/email-extras/signup/)

Indigo Canada’s optional mailing list is a great example of the foot-in-the-door technique being employed successfully.

Providing a 10 percent discount for a subsequent order easily incentivizes potential customers into a micro-commitment. It paves the way for Indigo Canada to showcase their products.

Free lunch seminars, mailing list benefits and grocery store samples are a few examples that you may be used to seeing in your day to day life.

Key Takeaways On Marketing Psychology

Attractive design/endorsements – Employ the use of trendy influencers and other endorsements to give your brand that attractive touch. Ensure your ad and marketing campaigns are pleasant to look at and that your website’s user experience and graphic design work together to beautifully construct your brand.

Social proof – Use customer reviews and testimonials to leverage social proof in your favour. If you don’t have any customer reviews yet, consider sending out some free samples to trendsetters to advertise your product and build brand trust at the same time.

Reciprocity – When we receive, we also like to give back. The most hasslefree to leverage this dynamic is to offer your customers free samples, discounts or even a voucher for purchasing your products. By giving to your customers, your customers will want to reciprocate and give back to you as well.

Scarcity – Offer your products for a limited time or only manufacture a limited amount to limit your supply and artificially increase your products’ demand. Use time tested campaigns such as “while supplies last,” or “only for a limited time” while marketing your products to impart a sense of urgency to your customers.

Loss aversion – The sense of despair we feel from losing an object is vastly greater than the sense of achievement we get from obtaining something. Let your customers try out your products and give them the freedom to return them cost-free if they don’t like them. 

Offer free-trials for your services and cut off access after a week or a month. You’ll have the dual benefit of proving to your customers that you stand by your product, as well as letting them become attached to it. 

Foot-in-the-door – Having them pledge to a micro-commitment opens up the opportunity for your customers to commit to a larger request. Mailing list subscriptions and customer feedback surveys are surefire ways to get your customers saying “yes,” which you can eventually scale up to convert them into customers.

Thea Christie

Written By Thea Christie

Thea is an Editor at Advesa and possesses a strange love of grammar, syntax and punctuation. In the past, she’s worked as a content specialist for publications in the startup, SME and tech space. When she’s not storytelling, she’s busy being a travel junkie. @theachristie