The dark art of psychological manipulation can be powerful, profitable, and sometimes downright creepy.
This post covers the good, the bad, and the ugly, including what works and what doesn’t.
It describes Machiavellian strategies used in the guru/coaching/expert industry, as well as several persuasive and influential tactics that, while they might be manipulative, aren’t any more manipulative than what politicians, parents, preachers, police, and good people do every single day to get their way and make the world go around.
Some methods I endorse, some I do NOT.
Homicide detectives leverage the power of psychological manipulation to close countless murder cases and put a lot of bad people behind bars.
Take the controversial Reid Technique, developed in the 1950s. During an interrogation, investigators insist they have evidence of a suspect’s involvement in a crime while shifting blame away from the suspect by justifying the crime.
The 9-step technique works so well, many overzealous homicide detectives have pushed it too far and convinced innocent people to confess to horrendous crimes.
DNA is now clearing some of these individuals, many who’ve spent decades behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit.
Now, when the suspect is guilty, and the method enables justice to be served, it’s psychological manipulation being used for good.
Just like a fitness or nutrition coach who persuades an obese prospect to make positive changes in their life by first imagining two futures.
One where they're fatter, lazier, and unhealthier. And one where they’re fit, vibrant, and healthy.
A coach savvy in the art of persuasion can get the prospect to see and feel these futures without being aware the coach just took them on a mental and emotional journey.
Such strategies can be extremely effective in getting past a person’s resistance to change. And many overweight people have a LOT invested in resisting exercise and healthy foods.
If, by leveraging psychology, a coach can convince an obese, unhealthy person to invest in their health and fitness and start making positive changes, they’ve done a good thing.
That new client’s entire life could improve. In fact, the coach may have saved their life. And it all started with the art and science of influence.
Psychological manipulation is one of the main reasons Tony Robbins makes 100X what your typical success coach makes.
And it has almost nothing to do with the quality/value of the coaching. Though Tony is a MASTER at getting people to BELIEVE that’s what makes the difference.
The REAL difference is in what’s right there in front of his audience’s eyes from the first time they’re exposed to Tony’s message until he leads them up his ascension ladder—something Tony leverages an enormous amount of psychology to do.
Though not everyone who employs such strategies are as well-intentioned as homicide cops, personal trainers, and Tony Robbins.
The dark side of psychological manipulation…
Throughout history, psychopaths, sociopaths, and megalomaniacs have toyed with people’s minds.
Hitler, cult leaders, con artists, pimps, and child predators have all used words as weapons to get their way.
Words can make someone fall in love with you or hate you. They can bring people together or force them apart. They can seduce or start a war. Can keep a person poor or make them rich.
They can be useless, nothing more than noises.
Or they can impact, influence, and persuade.
Here’s an example a guru trying to use mind control on a crowd…
There’s a guru, who I’ll call Scar, who, for many years, hosted an annual summit for personal trainers and gym owners who wanted to grow their businesses.
No doubt, lots of fitness entrepreneurs benefited from attending this event. Many of the guest speakers delivered fantastic content. And attendees forged win-win relationships with other success-minded individuals in the fitness industry.
I have friends to this day who I first met at that event over a decade ago.
In 2009, on the morning of day one of the event, one gym owner noticed something in the motivational video playing on the big screen over the stage.
The video was a montage of social proof and other feel-good stuff over a soundtrack of inspirational music to get everyone pumped up.
This attendee was certain he saw something flash on the screen.
It happened so fast. The blink of an eye, really.
And he was correct.
He DID see something.
Something he wasn’t supposed to see…
Not on a level of conscious awareness, at least.
What he saw was supposed to slip below the radar—the absolute threshold level (ATL)—of his conscious awareness.
What he saw was meant for his subconscious mind, NOT his conscious mind.
Similar to Tyler Durden’s shenanigans as a projectionist splicing images of beefy man parts into family films, Scar’s videos contained embedded commands that flashed on the screen at a fraction a second.
Commands intended to get people to pull out their wallets and BUY.
As Edward Norton commented about the subliminal weenies in Fight Club, “Nobody knows they saw it, but they did.”
You see, at Scar’s event, for milliseconds on the screen flashed the commands…
Buy from Scar.
Buy from Scar.
Buy from Scar.
Scar believed the audience would comply with the orders on the screen. After all, the subconscious mind is a powerful supercomputer.
One of these days, I’m going to embed subliminal commands into relaxing music for my wife as she sleeps.
The commands will be: “Do what Chris says. Do whatever Chris says. Anything he wants anything, make it happen. And do it with a smile, woman. Do what Chris says.” Over and over, like Scar.
I may even have to do it to get my way on Sunday mornings.
You see, on Sundays, we take our crew of little ones out to breakfast. Sometimes we hit a diner, but I really enjoy getting Sriracha-Honey Sunrise bagel sandwiches from Bruegger’s Bagels and taking them to the park.
Problem is, my wife’s not a big fan of bagels.
So my thought is, in the relaxing sleep music I’ll play in our room each night, I’ll embed the commands: “I love bagels. Bagels are yummy. I can’t wait to go get bagels at Bruegger’s with hubby. Mmm.”
Now, will that make the wife more willing to go for bagels on Sundays?
I doubt it (might be worth a shot, though).
There was a famous experiment in 1956 by James Vicary, where 45,699 moviegoers were exposed to the commands “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coke” which flashed on the screen during a film for about one-third of a millisecond.
Vicary claimed that, due to the subliminal messages, popcorn sales increased 57.5% and Coca-Cola sales by 18.1%.
He later confessed to fabricating those numbers.
And while I doubt Scar’s subliminal commands were all that effective, it was only one of over a dozen techniques employed at the event to drive sales.
I’d wager that, compared to the many supraliminal methods he used—which CAN be perceived by the conscious mind—the subliminal embedded commands played little, if any role, in generating sales.
Now, here’s an example of a supraliminal technique (also meant to shortcut trust) used at that same event….
On that same stage as the screen with the flashing embedded commands was an American Flag.
And to many of the good people of the United States, the American Flag represents trust, strength, and something to believe in. The white signifies purity and innocence. The red—valor and bravery. The blue—vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Together the stars and stripes represent authority and something worth fighting for.
And it sends a strong message about the speaker standing in front of it.
However, unlike the embedded SUBliminal commands, the flag is SUPRAliminal.
It’s above the absolute threshold level of the audience’s conscious awareness. Everyone can see it.
One marketer who’s fantastic at employing supraliminal techniques of influence is Frank Kern.
I’ve attended quite a few of Frank’s seminars and workshops over the years and was in his private mastermind for awhile. All money well spent. He got close to $50K out of me, largely because he’s so good at this stuff.
Whenever I’ve attended one of Frank’s events, I’d keep a running list of the strategies of influence I spotted.
In fact, I often learned as much—if not more—analyzing seminars for these strategies than I did from what was being taught.
And at each of Frank’s events I’ve attended, he’s stacked one supraliminal technique on top of another.
Here’s one of my favorites…
I was at one of his Mass Control events. As usual, I was seated in the back corner.
Must’ve been a thousand people there.
Frank started tossing Easter eggs stuffed with cash into the crowd.
Hoping to catch an egg, all these attendees in front of me sprang to their feet, threw their arms up high, and splayed their fingers wide.
From where I was seated, seeing them all with their arms held high in the air and Frank on stage with the long surfer hair and beard he was sporting at the time…
... it looked like a bunch of people worshiping Jesus!
I'm not sure how many people in the crowd saw what was going on, but to me, it was obvious.
The message being sent to the subconscious minds of the audience was…
Worship Frank Kern, and you’ll get money.
And it was supraliminal fair play because it was right there in the open for everyone to see.
Anyone who cared to look deeply enough could’ve noticed it.
Especially if they were sitting in the back of the room where I was. I still kick myself for not snapping a photo.
I used to dissect all of Frank’s material for the stealth triggers he wove throughout the subtext.
Here’s another example…
There was a pre-launch video that ended with Frank walking along the beach—a place that symbolizes freedom (something Frank’s viewers, many stuck at dead-end jobs they hated, sorely wanted).
As Frank is walking and talking, he motions to a crack in the earth and tells the cameraman filming the video to watch his step.
The message to the viewer: You’re safe with Frank. Frank’s got your back. He’s watching out for you. And because of that, your money, time, and dreams are safe and secure when you invest them in a Frank Kern product.
A lot of internet marketers began working these types of strategies into their content.
As did I.
In November 2008, in a number of my Market Annihilator pre-launch videos, I changed locations. I’d start the video in one spot and travel to another.
In one video, I started at the gym and told the viewer what I was going to teach them. The camera then followed me as I climbed on my Harley. The camerawoman hopped on back and kept filming as I rode us to my house.
Now, you wouldn’t get on the back of a motorcycle with someone you don’t trust, would you?
And the way the video was filmed—with the camera POV being on the back of the bike—the viewer WAS on back.
What messaged does that send to the subconscious of the viewer?
Now, the video editor sped up the ride from the gym to my house. So while the camera filmed the trip, it flew by in a matter of seconds.
But I wanted them to take the viewer on that ride with me. To be the person on the back of my motorcycle who trusts me with their life.
Once we arrived at my house, the camera followed me inside, I introduced my obese cat, Bodhi, and then settled behind my desk, logged onto the computer, and revealed how my website was generating new clients every day for a personal training company I owned.
Now, not only did having the viewer on the back of the motorcycle imply trust, but the entire act of changing locations did as well.
I was doing what pickup artists (PUA's) refer to as bouncing.
A PUA might take an HB (PUAnese for “hot babe”) from a club, to a restaurant, to another club.
The reason they change venues like this is to make the HB feel more comfortable with the PUA, thereby increasing the chances of a successful seduction.
So, by changing venues with the viewer, they’re a *little* more comfortable with me. A *little* more trusting.
During 2008 and 2009, if you were watching the big info-marketing launches, you saw the marketers in their pre-launch videos bounce you around from one location to the next.
It actually got pretty ridiculous.
Another thing we did—similar to having the viewer via camera POV climb onto the back of my Harley—was have the camera person film us from the passenger seat while we changed locations.
You wouldn’t be the passenger in a vehicle if you didn’t trust the driver, right?
And when the camera is filming from the passenger seat, THAT’s the point-of-view of the viewer.
EVERY information marketer and guru was pulling this stuff.
Now, the bouncing, passenger POV, beach crack NLP, Jesus Easter eggs were all SMALL TIME compared to some of the big levers we’ll get into in a moment.
None of these little techniques made the sale. But many made tiny contributions toward it.
One percent here. Two percent there.
Add the dozens of one and two percents from those little tactics with bigger the five, ten, and fifteen-percenter strategies—the more powerful psychological levers I’m about to discuss—and conversions go up. Every little bit helps.
Let’s take Scar’s annual summit, for example.
No single tactic was responsible for all the sales.
If the Universe magically served us up all the data from how much of an impact on sales every little element of Scars events had on sales, the embedded subliminal commands and the supraliminal use of the American Flag would be MINOR.
The bigger levers did the heavy lifting.
Let’s JUST take the six Weapons of Influence from Robert Cialdini’s class book Influence—only a fraction of the strategies employed at the event.
If you’re not yet familiar with these weapons, they are:
- Commitment & Consistency
- Social Proof
Now, if you were at the Scar’s event, you probably didn't notice the flashing commands telling you to trust him and buy from him.
But if you were familiar with Cialdini’s work, you’d have spotted one principle in action after another…
Reciprocity — People feel compelled to give back to others who’ve given to them. We feel the urge to balance the scales. To reciprocate.
Which is why…
Everyone who attended Scar’s even received a gift.
A voucher for food and drinks at the restaurant/nightclub across the street where the crowd would be going to party later.
And even though the attendees had paid hundreds of dollars to attend the event (essentially paying for the voucher themselves) the voucher was presented as a gift.
A gift that earned reciprocity points.
Commitment & Consistency — People want to appear consistent in their behavior.
Knowing this, throughout one event, Scar told the audience that, just by attending this event, they were all five-percenters. The top five percent of go-getters in the fitness industry. Fitness entrepreneurs who "get shit done."
Not like the 95 percent of the industry who’ll never do anything significant with their lives.
Then, when Scar pitched a paid mastermind group, he had everyone interested raise their hands.
I believe about eight or ten percent of the 430+ people in attendance raised their hands. Scar herded them onto the stage in front of everyone.
He told the rest of the crowd (who were still seated) that the men and women on stage were the real doers.
He reminded the audience that just by attending this event, everyone in the room was a five-percenter.
“But these action takers on the stage, these are the one-percenters.”
Then when it came time to get into the 5-figure price tag of the mastermind and get all the “one-percenters” to hand over their payment information and sign the contracts, they wanted to stay consistent with their new, coveted “one-percenter” status.
No way they wanted to go back to being a plain ol’ five-percenter.
Authority — People tend to obey authority figures. Cialdini often points to the famous Milgram experiment as an example.
Well, just the fact that Scar was on stage, hosting the event, and delivering his presentations (and projecting confidence as he did) positioned him as an authority figure.
Liking — People prefer to say yes to people they like.
By and large, we like people who are similar to us, who compliment us or cooperate with us toward mutual goals.
We also tend to like people who do likable things, such as contributing time or money to make a difference in the world.
So, during the event, Scar made sure to let the audience know about the philanthropy work he’s involved in. About the sick children he donated too.
This increased his likability factor, thereby making him more influential.
Social proof — People tend to emulate the actions of others. If it’s safe for the rest of the tribe, then it must be safe for us.
The crowd of hundreds of people listening to Scar talk (implying that what he has to say is important) was social proof that you, too, should listen to Scar.
The video testimonials woven between flashes of the "Trust Scar" and "Buy from Scar" commands provided further proof.
The testimonials were from personal trainers and gym owners just like the audience who gave Scar money and got results. So just give Scar money like they did, and you’ll get results too.
At one point during the event, the attendees posed for a group photo donning black t-shirts with the words "I’m with Scar" on front.
Scar stood in the middle wearing a red shirt that said: "I’m Scar."
Powerful social proof.
Scarcity — People want what they can’t have or what they think they’re going to lose a chance to get. And limited supply creates higher perceived value.
One example of scarcity from the event was alerting the crowd that if they wanted to join the mastermind, now’s their chance. If they don’t join before the event is over, they’ll be locked out because there are only so many seats available.
Here's another example...
After pitching a new area-exclusive boot camp licensing program, Scar told the crowd that, if they want to open a location, they needed to hurry to the back of the room and lock down their territory (otherwise, someone else could snatch it from them).
What attendees didn't know was that...
Runners had been planted in the crowd.
The runners sprang to their feet and dashed to the sign-up tables in back, feigning like they were signing up—taking all the good areas—creating a sort of scarcity frenzy.
These planted runners also established social proof. So they were a double whammy of influence.
Anyone in marketing knows the power of a deadline.
I’ve launched many info products and coaching programs over the years. There’s always a massive spike in sales on the final day before the doors close (or before the price increases).
For years I had a coaching program for fitness coaches who wanted more clients. There were two tiers, $5,000 and $10,000.
Usually, whenever I sent an email to my list and mentioned this program, I’d make either one or two sales. So $5,000 to $20,000. Usually $5K or $10K.
Well, after having the program open for a while, I wanted to focus more on information products and less on coaching, so I decided to shut down the coaching.
I wrote an email and sent it to my list, telling them this was their last chance to join the program because I was closing it.
Knowing full-well the power of scarcity, I figured I’d get a nice bump in sales.
Did I ever!
That email did 6 figures in coaching sales.
THAT’s what scarcity can do.
My first info-product launch—a course that taught personal trainers and gym owners how I got clients from the internet—did $304K in billable sales in 8 days.
I don’t remember the exact percentage of sales per day. But I believe it was approximately...
- 50% of the sales came in day one
- 10-15% total between days two-through-seven
- 35-40% day eight, the closing day.
The reason day one was the largest was because I ran a two-week pre-launch up until the morning the doors opened AND used a fast action scarcity offer—an extra bonus for anyone who bought in the first 24 hours.
In subsequent launches, where I didn’t run a big pre-launch or offer a fast-action bonus, the last day almost always does the most sales.
Often to the tune of over 70% of the sales.
It’s easy to see why so many businesses rely on deadlines to make scales.
These days most scarcity is fake as a blow-up doll named Candy.
Just about every coaching program or transformation challenge these days advertise having only two spots left.
Or five. Or seven. Or one.
Or make up any number you want that doesn’t sound like a lot.
That sounds like at any minute now, it could be zero. That you’re about to be shut out for good, so ya better hurry!
Just about every boot camp markets like this these days (many owned by friends of mine). And the number of “spots left” is almost always a made-up number.
Ninety-nine percent of the coaches who advertises only two spots left will take as many people as they can get.
If 100 more people tried to join, they’d find a way to squeeze ’em in.
In fact, if ONLY two more people joined, they’d slip into panic and depression because they’d go out of business.
Two is what they say when they’re hoping for 20.
And consumers are onto this.
They’ve seen the two—or five or seven or whatever—spots left thing countless times and no longer buy it (though many still fall for it).
Now, the good news is…
You don’t have to resort to embedded subliminal commands, planted runners, or bogus scarcity to increase influence...
There are ways to influence buying decisions that are both on the up-and-up and highly effective.
FAR more effective than flashing commands on a screen at a fraction of a second.
And when you leverage the psychological triggers to influence people to make decisions that are GOOD for them, that improve their lives, you’re doing a good thing.
Every successful marketer, preacher, and politician uses some form of psychological manipulation.
Politicians do it to get votes.
Preachers do it to get you to invite your friends and put money in the basket.
Marketers do it to generate leads.
Salespeople do it to close deals.
Detectives do it to get confessions.
CEOs do it to win negotiations.
Generals do it to win wars.
Athletes do it to win games.
Almost EVERYONE does some form of it to attract a mate.
Companies do it in their commercials, in their customer service departments, and on their product packaging.
Parents do it to get their child to stop vandalizing the hallway walls with crayons, clean their room, and eat their veggies.
And if you’re a coach, consultant, guru, expert, or entrepreneur who’s the face of your business…
…and you understand how to activate an orchestra of psychological triggers (like the ones I’m about to share)...
...provided what you sell adds massive value to people's lives...
...you can build yourself a tribe of devout clients, almost cult-like in their loyalty to you and your brand.
Now, I realize the word “cult” may freak a few people out.
What comes to mind are yogi-like gurus marrying children and convincing their followers to drink Kool-Aid, brand themselves, and shut out “suppressives” (or SP—for Suppressive Person—as they’re called in Scientology).
When I refer to a cult, THAT’s not the kind of cult I’m talking about.
By cult mean I mean something closer to this definition:
“Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)”
And what business doesn’t want that?
And there are strategic ways to do it. Ways not only backed by research experiments on human behavior but proven to work time and again in the real world.
I employed much of it in my own business (before becoming uncomfortable being in the spotlight and stepping back to work behind the scenes on other people’s businesses—something much more suited to my introverted personality).
And if you 100% believe your product or service can help people, and you have their best interest in mind, employing these techniques is a WIN not just for you, but for your clients as well.
Now, just like increasing the persuasiveness of your marketing and conversion systems increases sales…
…activating the core psychological triggers of influence increases retention, ascension, and average client lifetime value.
Something smart businesses focus on.
Implementing a Grand Strategy of Influence like I’m about to describe can help you do that.
It also increases the conversions of lead nurture campaigns so that a higher percentage of leads convert to clients on the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth touch via email, Messenger, SMS, etc.
Most businesses wing this stuff.
Many autoresponder series try to sell, sell, sell but do little-to-nothing to create real influence.
It may educate. It may be one more attempt to convince the lead to buy or hop on a strategy call.
But it does only a fraction what it could.
Using the strategy below can…
• Increase conversions.
• Increase the amount you’re able to charge.
• Strengthen brand loyalty.
• Ascend more clients to higher-ticket programs.
• Retain clients longer.
• Convert more clients into evangelists (which generates more referrals).
Clients who would’ve stayed for just months end up staying for years.
Customers who would’ve just bought your entry-level product ascend to your most expensive offer.
Clients who would’ve given you just a little money give you a lot of money—even if the quality or value of your product or service remains the same.
You become a part of your clients’ identity that they feel damn good.
Am I saying this will happen with every lead and every client?
Probably won’t even happen with most of 'em.
However, in terms of lifetime client value, it isn’t uncommon in coaching/consulting/expert/knowledge businesses for…
- 20% of clients become FAR more valuable.
- 60% of clients become SOMEWHAT more valuable.
- 20% of clients stay the same. No increase.
Which often results in a tremendous increase in average lifetime value.
And that’s without having to increase client acquisition costs.
Though, once average lifetime value increases, you’re obviously able to spend more per acquisition.
And the business that can afford to spend the most to acquire a new customer wins.
So how’s it work?
Step one: Develop a psychological profile of your average ideal client or customer.
This should include (especially the area you help them improve) their...
- Core beliefs
- Core values
- Points of emotional impact, including pain points
Usually, much of this data is buried in their subconscious three to six layers deeper than any answers they’d provide in, say, a survey. Sending out surveys CAN be helpful but rarely get to the goods.
Now, ask most entrepreneurs, and they’ll tell you they already know their ideal client inside and out.
When, in reality, fewer than ten or fifteen percent of businesses and coaches are aware of their ideal client's TRUE Psychological Influence Profile.
I’ve worked with coaches and entrepreneurs who’ve served niches for over a decade, who thought they understood the psychology of the people they were trying influence, yet couldn’t understand why their content and marketing weren't profitable.
The problem was, all they understood was what they gathered from glancing at the surface.
They didn’t understand the beating heart of their clients.
And since they didn’t understand it, they couldn’t effectively speak to it, touch it, and influence them.
I’ve seen them use jargon in their ads and content their potential clients would NEVER use, focus on benefits their audience could care less about, and drive home points that simply don’t matter to their customer.
Once they honed in their understanding of the psychology of who they were selling to and took the next two steps, their entire business became far more profitable.
REAL emotional influence often happens a few layers below the surface.
Which is why you must dig deep enough to get to the roots.
It also enables you to best help your client.
Now, good marketers and direct response copywriters are aware of this.
They know that you want to enter the conversation going on in their target’s mind.
The key to doing this is knowing WHO they are, what keeps them up at night, what frustrates the hell out of them, and want they most in life.
Often what they want goes a lot deeper than what’s on the surface.
For example, when I was personal trainer, whenever I spoke with a prospect about their fitness goals, I kept asking them questions like...
“Why is that?”
“How does that make you feel?”
Or one I learned from Dr. Drew: "I wonder why that is...any idea?"
At first, they often say something along the lines of “I just want to be healthier,” or “I want to lose twenty pounds.”
That’s the surface reason.
By continuing to ask WHY...
"WHY do you want to be healthy?"
"WHY do you want to lose twenty pounds?"
...about five or six layers deep I’d get to the REAL reason:
His wife just left him for another man, he looks like crap and feels like crap about himself, and he's worried he’ll be alone for the rest of his life. He wants to be able to date attractive women so he can get over his wife and hopefully fall in love again and live out his life with a companion.
Now, this can take some digging to get to, and often the prospect is too embarrassed to state it directly, so the answer will be in the subtext. What we don’t say, and HOW we say things, is often closer to the truth than what we say.
But with rare exception, in content, you don’t have the same luxury as a conversation to discover what makes each of your readers or viewers tick.
Which is why you MUST have a clear picture of who it is you’re targeting.
You need to know who are your average ideal customer is, what angers them, what they agonize over, what they worry about, what language they use, what excites them, and what they want most (especially in the area of life your product, service, or content helps fix).
Surveys can give some clues.
In-depth conversations with as many of your ideal clients as is reasonably possible is often far more revealing.
As is analyzing response data (email opens, clicks, opt-ins, sales etc when you touch on certain buttons) as well as Facebook Insights.
The better you know you’re ideal customer and can enter the conversation going on in their head, the better you’ll be able to tailor your content toward them and influence them.
The better you'll be able to push those hot buttons buried below the surface.
Flesh out following...
- Your persona in a way that mirrors the idealized version of your client (in the area of their life that you help you them improve). Think of yourself as playing a character. The character can—and should be authentically YOU, but it's also a role you play. A role that accentuates the aspects of yourself relevant to your audience reaching their goals.
- Your unique voice in a way that’s original, compelling, and speaks to your ideal client on a visceral level.
- Your core message in a way that enables you to not only enter the conversation already going on in their mind but that articulates their problems, frustrations, fears, dreams/desires, suspicions, enemies, core values, and core beliefs better than they’re able to themselves.
- Your origin story — Reveal WHY you do what you do and the road you've taken to get to where you are. Ideally in some variation of monomyth form but doesn’t always need to be told in whole. Specifics chapters/scenes of your journey can be deployed at the legs of your audience's journey where they’ll have the greatest impact.
- Ongoing adventures with multiple delayed conflict-resolution gaps.
- Your likability factor — Clients who love you and what you represent to them will give you far more money over time than those who don’t, even if the actual value of your product or service remains the same.
And as I explain in another post, as I long ago learned from Dan Kennedy, the real business most coaches and experts are in is the self-aggrandizement business. However, without notching up likability (as I describe here), it’s easy to repel your ideal client by coming across as arrogant.
- The benefits of your products, services, and methods.
Step three: Unite steps one and two above in your…
A. Content (ideally loaded with open loops, unresolved conflict, cliff hangers, teases/hooks, etc).
There are over three dozen triggers you can repeatedly activate throughout all your content, ads, and communication.
Now, laying out all these triggers goes far beyond the scope of this blog post.
However, in a moment, I’ll tell you about some of the books and resources where you can learn a lot of this stuff (I make no money plugging these, by the way. I’m not affiliate for these resources). Many of them are books you can pick up for ten or fifteen bucks on Amazon.
Collectively, employing these triggers in my clients’ businesses has generated hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here are some examples in action…
Some triggers are relatively universal and can be applied the same way to most any audience.
Others are like a key code, customized from the data of steps one and two above and then used in step three.
It’s very personalized to your brand and your ideal client.
Now, I’m not sure which niche you serve.
I work with clients in fitness, sports, success, entertainment, business, marketing, relationships, cannabis, automotive, art, fiction, and travel.
Many are what you’d consider gurus, mentors, experts, coaches, authors, and consultants.
All of them are the face of their business.
Their businesses are personality-driven. THEY are their brand.
And when you leverage these strategies, SOME of the parallels between coach/client and cult-leader/devoted-follower become striking (without the bad juju or harmful manipulation).
Anyone who was in the info-marketing space and remembers when Frank Kern was the Long-Haired-Surfer-“Dude”-From-The-Big-Lebowski Frank, witnessed this first hand.
A segment of the internet marketing community wanted to become what Frank represented and figured the best way was to give Frank money. And they did. A LOT of it.
He built himself an internet marketing cult.
I know because I joined the damn thing!
Between his info-products, seminars, a workshop, mastermind group, and a day of private consulting, like mentioned earlier, I gave him close to $50K.
Most other internet marketers got only get a fraction of that from me. Sure, I might have dropped $2,000-$3,000 on one of their information products, but I didn’t ascend most their program ladders as I did with Frank and a few other gurus.
And it’s because Frank’s a master at activating many of these triggers.
Now, I don’t know who your ideal client is.
But one thing I’m certain of…
Is that they have an enemy.
The enemy could be a person, entity, group, industry, condition, mindset, the status quo, a philosophy, you name it.
Even monks have enemies, by the way (depending on their tradition, this enemy could be the egoic mind, Satan, etc.)
And almost nothing bonds people like having a shared enemy.
An ancient proverb says…
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
And I’ll add that the BEST friend of all is the friend who joins forces with you to fight your shared enemy.
Who stands up to the enemy with you.
Who hurls rocks at the enemy.
Who saves you and yours from the enemy.
Helps your overcome the enemy.
My client BigMike Straumietis has a number of brands, most in the cannabis industry. In some of those brands, the enemy is Big Marijuana (like Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, but with weed.)
And while BigMike now does over $100M a year, he’s always been the “little guy” at heart.
David in the face of Goliath.
He’s stood up to massive bullies over the years...
- Neighborhood bullies as a kid.
- Two governments and a biker gang when he was an outlaw grower.
- A group of competitors doing over a billion a year in combined annual revenue who went to great lengths to try to get him shut out of the industry.
BigMike is the epitome of a cannabis grower.
Since 1983 he’s overseen the cultivation of over a million marijuana plants.
And, along with his team of 30 PhD scientists, has developed 53 innovations and advancements in the science of cannabis cultivation.
In fact, if you’ve grown or consumed cannabis in the last 15 or so years, you’ve enjoyed the benefits of least some of these advancements.
Today’s cannabis is better because of BigMike. And he’s been featured on the cover of every major cannabis magazine.
BigMike loves the cannabis community and is well-respected in it.
Now, over recent years, big-money corporate outsiders have come in to claim their piece of the cannabis profit pie. They’re poured immense resources into squeezing out the small and mid-size commercial growers. And, in many cases, they’re succeeding.
They lobby for laws and regulations that favor big money (and often win).
And they deal with such quantity they can sell their cannabis for far less than smaller growers can.
The entire mess has devastated many growers in California's Emerald Triangle, where, for decades, growers have fed their families by growing the plant they love.
Because of Big Marijuana, regulations are in place that make it near impossible for many old school growers to do business legally.
And the price of a pound of cannabis is a fraction of what it used to be.
Corporate Cannabis has come in stomping on the soul of the true cannabis growing community. It’s heartbreaking to watch.
So what does Mike do?
He attacks the enemy.
As Blair Warren taught in his One Sentence Persuasion program, BigMike throws rocks at the enemy.
He stands for the little guy.
Fights for laws that support the small grower.
Over time, BigMike has built himself the world’s most profitable cannabis business.
But he did it from the ground up, starting with outlaws grows in the early ’80s, and then moving into the legal side as laws changed.
He isn’t some big money investor coming in to profit off the Green Rush.
He’s the little guy who’s fought his ass off for nearly four decades to become the big guy.
He’s walked hard roads through the darkest of valleys and come out on top (I would know, I penned his soon-to-be-released memoir).
And today, he stands for the little guy.
That creates a bond with BigMike’s following that runs deep.
No other cannabis mogul has the amount of influence BigMike has.
And part of it is standing up and throwing stones at an enemy he shares with the cannabis community.
Combine that with the dozens of other triggers we consistently activate, and it’s easy to see how BigMike has become so successful in the industry.
He's well-known as the best marketer in cannabis. Here he is on the cover of High Times on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher...
When I started helping him with these strategies, his business was doing $30 million a year. And now, as he describes in the video I share at the end of this post, the methods I’m referring to on this page have played a key role him doing over $100 million a year now.
No one in the cannabis industry does this stuff at the level BigMike does.
And he's invested more time and education in learning marketing than probably anyone I know—and I'm close to a LOT of damn savvy marketers who've dedicated their lives to the craft.
Shared human experience
Another strategy is connecting with an audience through some deep shared, human experience with either a disclosure or what I call Bridge Stories.
Stories that create bridges of rapport between you and your audience.
These kinds of stories can include…
– Dealing with a common frustration—this is one stand-up comedians use A LOT
– Stories about your mother or father
– Not getting something you wanted for Christmas or your birthday
– Crazy things that might have happened at a family get-together
– Stories about school
– Being hired or fired from a job
– Losing your first boyfriend/girlfriend
– Pets, or the loss of a pet
– Stories about your children
– Debt or bankruptcy
– Stories about being screwed over
– Stories about loss
– Overcoming alcoholism/addiction
– Something embarrassing happening
– Stories or disclosures about insecurities, flaws, mistakes, failures, strange quirks, etc.
For example, here’s one Dan Kennedy gets into in his Influential Writing and Communication Workshop…
Dan is open about having gone through bankruptcy, something most business consultants would conceal (even though it’s a matter of public record).
Not only does Dan's openness about it enable him to control the narrative…
But when someone admits something that most people would hide, we tend to put more trust in the rest of what they say.
For example, savvy copywriters know that by disclosing a flaw with their product, readers will be more likely to believe the rest of the salescopy. After all, you were open about something most businesses would hide, so you must be being straight about everything.
Disclosing the flaw makes the rest of the copy more believable.
And admitting flaws or failures makes someone appear more human and relatable.
Most of us love flawed, complex characters in stories.
And the television show The Wire was chock-full of them, including some of my favorites of all time, like Omar Little, Stringer Bell, and Jimmy McNulty.
On the show, many of the criminals (the “bad guys”) have some admirable traits, and the cops (the “good guys”) have glaring flaws.
We’re all shades of gray. We all have our strong points as well as weak points.
Jimmy McNulty was a detective on the show played by Dominic West. And man, that dude was FLAWED!
But if he was flawless, I never would’ve emotionally invested myself in his journey over five seasons of some of the greatest television ever made.
I wouldn’t have cared about him.
But McNulty was complex. A good guy with some genuine, human faults.
Think of your favorite fictional characters. I bet almost all of them have flaws. The flaws keep us interested. Keep us fascinated.
As do the strange quirks and vulnerabilities and mistakes they make.
Dan explains how, in the Superman comics, readership almost fizzled out until the Achille’s Heel was introduced…
Our favorite characters have vulnerabilities.
If they didn’t, if they were impossible to kill or hurt (whether physically or emotionally), no one would root for them.
If they’re guaranteed victory over the villain, guaranteed to get the girl, guaranteed to win the game, there’s no conflict, drama, or entertainment.
Nothing to keep readers or viewers fascinated.
Our favorite characters may be righteous and stand for all sorts of values that resonate with us, but they’re far from perfect.
Perfect is boring.
But that’s how many businesses, coaches, “experts,” and marketers try to come across…
Like they’re 100% on top of every aspect of their game.
That’s boring and people don’t trust it because it’s not authentic.
It's not HUMAN.
Dan disclosing his bankruptcy stimulates trust, makes him interesting, and makes us like him more.
It makes him more HUMAN (and people prefer to do business with a human, rather than a soulless entity).
And further, any member of his audience of entrepreneurs who’ve been bankrupt now feel a deeper connection to him.
Same when he brings up his past stuttering, alcoholism, and divorces.
By now revealing this stuff...
...he strengthens his connection with members of his audience who've struggled with stuttering, alcohol, divorces, or bankruptcy, OR who've even had a close loved one struggle (like a mother with a son who stutters or whose husband is an alcoholic).
That’s a large segment of his following. Bring up enough flaws, and tell enough bridge stories and he hits ’em all.
Will it resonate with everyone?
Nope. Disclosing flaws and failures, like bankruptcy, will repel people for sure. People who aren’t a good fit for Dan and would be a better fit for some other guru.
If you want your message to resonate deeply with people, you have to be willing to turn off others.
To try to attract everyone waters down the message. You’ll never have some people love you if you’re not willing to have others hate you.
To get some people invested emotionally one way, you have to be willing to let others get worked up emotionally the other way.
It’s much better to be one of those individuals others either “love or hate” than be someone no one feels deeply either way about. Who no one invests in emotionally.
And one of the best ways to speak to people emotionally, build trust, and come across as a genuine human is to disclose flaws and tell bridge stories.
But not every bridge story need involve a flaw or personal failure.
A story from elementary school or of getting your first car or not getting what you wanted for Christmas one year or your dog dying can all be used to create bridges.
We all went to school, got a first car, and at some point didn’t get something we wanted. Plus those of us who’ve had pets have had pets die.
Now, the best stories are the ones that are relevant to your clients' goals.
For example, if you’re a fitness coach, you want to tie your stories in some way to your client reach their health and fitness goals (sometimes you gotta get creative here).
Look for where you can connect the underlying lessons, values, principles in stories to helping your audience move toward their goals.
The stories—which could be from your life, someone else’s life, or even be parables or fables—should entertain, connect, and benefit them in some way.
Dogs of influence…
Justin Goff is a marketer with a fantastic email newsletter for copywriters, where he employs many principles of influence.
Pulling seven figures from a list of less than a thousand subscribers, he has an incredibly high email subscriber value.
In his newsletter (as well as his social media content) he uses something that hits a lot of people right in the heart…
You see, Justin is a dog lover and often talks about them in his content.
This enables him to develop rapport with many members of his audience who are also dog lovers.
But it goes beyond that.
One of his email newsletters started with…
“Last week I reached out to a local Great Dane rescue here in Austin to see if they needed any help with raising money.”
I don’t know about you, but reading that makes me like Justin a little bit more.
I mean, going out his way to help a dog rescue is an awfully nice thing to do, and no doubt wins likability points with many—if not all—of his readers.
In the email, Justin explains that when the woman who runs the rescue asked if he had any ideas.
He told her that he has experience building multi-million dollar businesses that included direct mail marketing and that he could help her (pro bono) with a direct mail campaign.
This mention of the successful businesses he’s built enables Justin to remind his subscribers of his authority as a marketer and entrepreneur.
In the email sequence, Justin describes coming up with a strategy to target people who’ve previously donated over $100 to the rescue. By revealing his strategy, Justin is teaching marketing lessons to subscribers, which is what many of them signed up for.
He’s adding value to their lives.
Justin describes how he wrote the letter for the rescue (winning more of those juicy likability points because the work was pro bono).
In another email, Justin drives people to a video in his FB group where breaks down the letter and the strategy, why he did it the way he did it, and the results—further teaching his reader and proving his copywriting chops.
This email sequence (which was 2 or 3 emails total) was a powerhouse of influence.
Since the content was told in a story, it was entertaining, which keeps people reading and looking forward to future content.
After all, storybooks are much more fun than textbooks.
Human beings are wired to be captivated by a good story.
The email enabled him to teach his readers and add value to their lives.
And because he’s the big-hearted fella donating his time and effort to rescue dogs, it scored likability points.
It also enabled him to bond with fellow dog lovers (44% of Americans own a dog).
It established authority and…
… provided proof he knows what he’s talking about and that his methods work.
It enabled him to self-promote like crazy while coming across extremely likable ( a topic I discuss in another blog post — how to boldly self-promote in a super cool way).
And now I’m telling the story for him! I’m spreading the damn legend and further building his authority.
And people sharing your content or story is one of the biggest—and most cost-effective—ways to build an audience.
Influence, influence, influence…
Content should work on more than just one level. More than the just the surface. More than just the text.
Now, hitting just one trigger, one time (like in an ad or single piece of content) isn’t going to do much to influence your audience.
But when you consistently hit a wide range of dozens triggers in your content...
... you can gain a tremendous amount of influence over a segment of your audience who will eagerly give you money over and over and over, ascend to your most expensive programs, and evangelize for you (like I’ve done for Robert Cialdini, Justin Goff, Dan Kennedy, BigMike, Frank Kern, The Wire in this post).
Repetition is key.
You want to hit as many of these triggers as you can, over and over and over in your content (whether it’s videos, podcasts, email newsletters, blog posts, videos, on stage, social media posts, etc), in your offers, and even in your direct communication.
This not only enables you to attract more of the right kinds of clients…
…it enables you to increase price, ascension, retention, and referrals and can have a tremendous impact on the average client lifetime value, in many cases multiplying it many times over.
And in coaching, consulting, and expert/knowledge/guru businesses, these strategies can often increase the average client lifetime value far more than just about any improvements you make to your service (not saying it *should* be this way, but it IS like that).
Now, this post contains only a few of the many dozens of triggers and strategies you can employ.
If you’d like to learn more of them, be sure to get on my email newsletter list here…
Blair Warren — One Sentence Persuasion.
Robert Cialidni — Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Sally Hogshead — Fascinate, Revised and Updated: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist
Dan Kennedy — Influential Writing and Communication Workshop, Personality in Copy CDs, and Advanced Coaching and Consulting Seminar.
Frank Kern — Mass Control and Core Influence.
Dave Lakhani — Subliminal Persuasion: Influence & Marketing Secrets They Don't Want You To Know
Robert Greene — 48 Laws of Power
Steven Goldstein — The Turn-On: How the Powerful Make Us Like Them-from Washington to Wall Street to Hollywood
Eric Hoffer — True Believer
Tim Sanders — The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life's Dreams
Patrick Hanlon — Primal Branding
And about sharing your origin story…
James Bonnet — Stealing Fire From the Gods
Christopher Vogler — The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
Nancy Duarte — Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
You can also…
Read about how I used these types of strategies to build my own business.
And how to boldly self-promote in a super cool way (how to boast in a likable way).
P.S. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you got something from it, please click the "like" button—at the top or bottom of the post—share it on social media, and maybe pass it along to someone you think it would benefit.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.
P.P.S. As mentioned earlier, when I started helping cannabis mogul BigMike with this stuff, his business was doing $30M a year. And now, like he describes in a video, these methods have played a key role him doing over $100M a year now.
Check it out...
And, as I said, if you’d like to learn more of these triggers and strategies, be sure to get on my email newsletter list here…