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Building Your Business - The Power of Persuasion

Today, many people feel as though they are paying more for almost everything. Seemingly always-on-the-rise gas prices and increased food costs, for example, are forcing some consumers to really think about their spending habits, cutting activities they consider nonessential completely out of their budgets. When contemplating a purchase, some people may ask themselves this question: Is this product/service something I really need?

This cautious attitude makes effectively marketing your services more important than ever. Familiarizing yourself with a few powerful persuasion tools is a good first step to realizing this goal.

Persuasion 101

Although you are in business, most days you are also a consumer. Knowing what helps you make purchasing decisions can get you thinking about ways to better market your services. Successful marketing is really about persuading people they need what you have to offer.

When you understand, and then strategically use, persuasion techniques, your business can remain strong, even when the economy is weakened.

Author and psychologist Robert Cialdini identifies six core elements of persuasion in his book Influence: Science and Practice. The six elements include reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. Let’s take a closer look at each of these, as well as how they might help your marketing efforts.


Most people feel obligated to give something in return after receiving a gift. The gesture can be as simple as sending a Christmas card, or as subtle as buying a product after receiving a free sample.

Be sure to share articles you find on health issues that may concern your clients. Before you ask a client if she would like to make another appointment, offer her water or tea. A packet of Epsom salts to go, hand lotion in the bathroom or a touch of aromatherapy are all simple offerings that can trigger reciprocation.


If you’ve ever been asked to make a contribution after you’ve signed a petition and felt uneasy saying no, you aren’t alone. There is strategic reasoning behind this approach:

People like to appear consistent. When you ask someone to verbally confirm a position, many will be reluctant to contradict the original statement. An example in a massage therapy setting might be to ask a potential client about his commitment to his own personal health and well-being: “Tell me, do you try and take time to really take care of yourself?” A client who answers yes is probably more open to scheduling another session, as doing so would be consistent with his commitment to self-care.

Social Proof

When making decisions, people tend to feel more comfortable following the lead of others. Most of us trust the fact that others have done due diligence, freeing us from the obligation to do independent research. A perfect example of this can be seen in the number of consumer reviews that appear online.

Document and share with your clients any positive feedback you receive. When a client offers a compliment, capture the sentiment right away. Find a way to share these with prospects, either in a newsletter or by posting them on your website. You may also include them in any printed marketing material you distribute. Remember to always ask permission if you use someone’s name or comment as a testimonial.


The five factors that influence liking are physical attractiveness, similarity, repeated contact, positive circumstance and association. Of particular interest is the idea that people tend to like people who are interested in them. One of the best ways to communicate your interest is by listening to your clients.

Repeated contact is also important. Sales research shows that on average, prospects need to be contacted six to nine times before they purchase. Don’t make the mistake of thinking no means never. What no really signals is not now. An amazing thing I’ve experienced is that once a difficult prospect is converted, she often becomes a loyal client.


We’re a society of rules and regulations, and we are programmed to bend to authority figures. People in positions of authority often use subtle signs to communicate their status. My husband is a chemist, and I joke with him that his IQ goes up 50 points when he puts on his lab coat.

I know some massage therapists who wear hospital scrubs when working. Authority, however, can be communicated in other, less obvious ways. During a session, you can use anatomically correct terminology to let your client know you are a professional. Also, maintain an appropriate demeanor, and frame and hang your massage therapy credentials where clients can see them. As a health professional, you need to look, act and speak the part.


Finally, we all want what is rare. Shoppers tend to make impulsive decisions when they think supply is limited. A crowded schedule or packed waiting room demonstrates your services are in demand. On Tuesdays, for example, my dry cleaner offers a slight discount on men's shirts and the parking lot is jammed. Some therapists offer senior discount days or a discount on weekends for couples. Looking and being busy are good things and can help you manage your schedule.

For an extra push, pick up Cialdini's book and learn more about the science of persuasion. You could gain some new business, or save yourself from buying something you really don't need. Either way, this book is well worth the purchase price. Trust me. I’m an authority.

Jean Bailey has 27 years of corporate marketing and advertising experience and has held key positions with several Fortune 500 companies. She teaches marketing and sales for a Chicago-based massage therapy school and lectures and consults on marketing and communication for other health-related businesses. Jean is also a certified reflexologist and maintains a small private practice.

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