You’re watching a movie and a Colgate commercial is shown during the break. “Stronger and whiter teeth, a fresh breath and healthier gum. Switch now to Colgate, the number one toothpaste recommended by dental professionals”, as told by a smiling dentist. But is this really a dentist? He is wearing a white coat, so he must be. Do you believe him? There’s a big chance you do. In the end, he looks like the professional that knows everything about a healthy looking smile. Following the lead of an expert is called authority, another of Cialdini’s persuasion principles. Authority can be a powerful tool for both offline and online marketing. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know and give you some tools how to use it yourself. Keep reading if you want to learn how to show off your expertise!
Judge a book by its coverThe most important fact about authority is that it’s mainly based on perception. We are visual creatures. To show off authority, you will need to convince others you have the right knowledge. If you are able to do this and people believe you are trustworthy, you are able to influence their behaviour. You doubtless have heard of this master in authority: Dr Phil. Yes, he is a doctor. Hence why he is showing off his title. Yet he is not licensed as a psychologist, even though he has helped thousands of people in his show. Dailymail even calls him a tv shrink. Dr Phil convinces his fans with his title, nice suit and trustworthy attitude. Is he licensed in what he does? People don’t seem to care. Dr Phil gets away with pretending to be a psychologist, when in fact he is not. He is the perfect example that we value visual aspects more than facts. Be careful though, we don’t want you to misuse authority! Always remember to be an expert. Otherwise, it will backfire and result in negative outcomes.
First impressions are the most lastingNow you know that visual appearance is important, it will not be a surprise to you that your website should visually stimulate your customer. This happens within an eyeblink: we can assess the visual appeal of a website within 0.05 seconds! It is important to give your online shopper a positive, first impression within this timeframe. You can lose a customer by just one mouse-click. If you do it right, the visual aspect of a website can even be so strong, that it draws away the attention from usability problems. This shows that the first impression is a very important one. Consequently, this first impression will leave a mark about how much customers enjoy your website and products. This will have an impact (positive or negative, depending on the impression) on the chance they will pay for their online basket.
Be an expertDo you have a product that you support completely and know everything about? Are you able to share your knowledge about this product with others? Good! You are ready to become an authority on your product. We especially want to make you realise it’s important to not just be an advertiser. You must be an expert. The more specific your area of expertise, the better this will show off to your customers. Let us explain this through the idea of Stephen Covey who created two circles: one of concern and one of influence. As their names suggest, the bigger Circle of Concern holds everything you are involved with. The Circle of Influence lays inside the Circle of Concern and holds everything you can have an influence on. Which one should you focus on? If you put too much energy in the Circle of Concern, you focus on stuff you can’t influence. In return, this will lead to frustration, anger and disappointment. As a consequence, your Circle of Influence will shrink, meaning the impact of your influence will become less and less. If you put your energy in the Circle of Influence, you are being proactive. You will see improvement, get satisfaction and energy. Your Circle of Influence will grow and the influence you have will be more effective. In conclusion, if we can give you one advice: it is to stay within your Circle of Influence. Focus on the stuff you know, so your influence will increase. Eventually, this will show off to your customers, leading to more trust and increased conversion.
How to use authorityYou already know that authority is one of Cialdini’s persuasion principles. We previously showed you how to use social proof and scarcity for business improvement. We will now further explain three examples mentioned by Cialdini to show you how to put authority into practice:
- Use of titles; Such as Founder, CEO or PhD assuming there’s a high level of expertise and knowledge and you know whom you’re talking to. Example: Apple launched their Genius Bar, where you can speak with an Apple expert to get immediate support;
- Use the right visual design; Wearing a suit, uniform or other forms of clothes are ways that express authority. Think about the dentist in the white coat. For eCommerce, the suit or uniform of your website is its visual design. Therefore, make sure that the layout, images, typography and colour match its purpose. Example: adding an About Page including a photo to your website. Research shows that a photo results in more trustworthiness;
- Use of trappings or accessories that add authority; In the offline world, a powerful trapping can be a badge for a policeman. This badge, therefore, makes people respect the person in a suit more. For your website, you can add a badge in the form of social media or a case study. Example: Airbnb added a community centre to their website where customers can discuss problems and ask questions.