Thursday, March 18, 2010

Influence at Work

I'm currently reading the book, Influence: Science and Practice by Dr. Robert Cialdini, in which he describes his 6 weapons of influence. The book is a very good read, giving scores of examples and research on influence. It wasn't until I recently attended a "free" stock seminar from Rich Dad Education that I saw all of these weapons pointed at me. I was as interested in learning about how to do technical analysis of stock charts as I was in watching them fire off these weapons into the crowd. The premise of the "free" seminar was to tease us with information and get us to pay for the $500 3-day seminar. So below is a list of the six weapons of influence, and how Rich Dad Education used them:
  1. Reciprocity - People feel an obligation to repay favors.
    • I was greeted with a free USB drive (a paltry 128mb) loaded with useful Rich Dad info (or propaganda). And of course the free seminar which covered just a couple topics. In theory, I'd feel an obligation to sign up for the seminar to reciprocate all that they've given me.
  2. Commitment and Consistency - When people commit to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. 
    • After pounding into our heads that education is an invaluable asset, we must've done at least 20 audience fill-in-the-blanks where the answer was education. They had us verbally commit to our education, and write down our financial and personal goals. Of course for $500, they would provide us the tools to meet those goals. So by not paying for the course, we're then being inconsistent with our commitment to education and to achieving our goals.
  3. Social Proof - People often decide what to believe or how to act in a situation by looking at what other people are believing or doing.
    • We did a show of hands toward the end of who was seriously interested in buying into the seminar (about 1/3). They were excused to the back of the ballroom to sign-up, leaving all us non-committal free-loaders to look at all the believers.
  4. Liking - People tend to say yes to people they know and like.
    • The speaker tried his best to be likable. He talked about how he helps his dad with his retirement account, how his goals are to spend time with his family, travel, and play golf - which is why he does these seminars 20 weeks of the year and spends the rest of the time doing what he loves. How can you not like that.
    • We also got to see a few video testimonials of different types of people we could develop an affinity with to follow their success - the engineer, the salesman, the stay-at-home mom.
  5. Authority - People tend to obey authority figures.
  6. Scarcity - People assign more value to opportunities when they are less available.
    • Sign up today, at this "free" seminar, it will only be $495. If you wait, and register over the phone, it'll be $995! Think of the value this is mentally creating; you get a $1000 course for only $500. I can't wait or else I'll pay double.
      • But wait there's more... you'll also get this stock analysis software for free! (except you have to pay $40/mo to get the stock data feed or else its useless). The speaker claims its worth at least $2000. So I'm getting $3000 of value for only $500. Score!
      • But wait there's more!... Act now, and you can bring a guest for free! Now its $4000 of value for $500, and I can split it with a friend.
    • Seats are limited on a first-come-first-serve basis.
    • We're only doing 2 workshops scheduled in the area.
Fortunately, Dr. Cialdini's book, Influence: Science and Practice, makes you more aware of these weapons for you to use as a marketer, but also gives some advice on how to defend, resist, and see through them. For me, the free seminar was enlightening and cost-effective; I got to see the principles of influence in action while getting a little bit of general financial knowledge. Not a bad way to spend two hours.

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and Practice. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2009.

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