Persuasion Psychology:

Commitment and Consistency

By Sarah Jamieson

Persuasion Psychology - Commitment and Consistency: Commitment as a persuasion principle is also exceptionally powerful. It works in a very simple way. Because we all need to know where we stand in relation to each other, consistency is a highly valued trait in society.

Inconsistency is seen as undesirable.

On a personal level, consistency provides us with an effective orientation to life, and gives us a valuable mental shortcut to make decisions - by reducing the amount of information and complexity we need to consider.

Once we’ve made a commitment to something, we want to be seen to be consistent with that commitment. According to the evidence, our choices exert a powerful hold over us - by compelling us to remain consistent with our decisions.

Amazingly, commitment even has the power to reshape the way we see ourselves, so that after making a commitment, we are open to making new and much larger commitments that are consistent with our newer self-image.

From a marketing perspective, consistency is extremely useful.

If you can get prospects to commit to something, their own sense of consistency will lead them to follow through on the decision – no strong-arm sales tactics required.

In fact, after making a commitment, prospects will create their own new reasons to justify the decision. We don’t require someone else to sell us on something we’ve committed to – we sell ourselves. We'll take this idea further in Emotions and Buying discussed further below.

In marketing, getting prospects to make an initial commitment is an important key to sales success. Prospects are much more likely to agree to larger future commitments to maintain consistency with their original decision.

Here’s how it works:

  • Once someone has made a commitment, his or her own desire to honor that obligation will ensure it is fulfilled. The marketer arranges for the commitment to be made, and the prospect’s own psychology does the rest.

  • The most powerful type of commitments are active, public, and freely given. Written commitments are especially powerful. That’s why companies are always offering those essay contests where you write about why you love their product in order to be entered into a prize drawing.

  • A commitment has the power to change our self-image so we are open to larger requests in the future that are consistent with the commitment

  • Once prospects have made a commitment, they tend to create their own new reasons to support their decision.

We have been doing a lot of experimentation in this area. It’s actually quite easy to get a programmer to write small scripts that revolve around the theme of commitment. For example, your programmer can write an automated script that is interactive and says something like: “Yes! I want to be informed about the Easy Way to do XYZ!”.

Then, that commitment is reinforced in automated emails and other content. It’s best when you can devise a way to have the commitment shown in a public way – perhaps on your web site or other place.

A small initial commitment can be used as the prelude to a larger second commitment. This is known as the foot-in-the-door technique.

The purpose of the small commitment is to get prospects to think of themselves as customers by first buying something very small. For example, we’ve sold very good value products for only $1 and then the moment the sale is made the customer gets diverted to another sales page and then another – all the time using the commitment and scarcity persuasion principles.

We once designed a sales process that took the customer to three separate sales pages and then to a viral “tell-a-friend” page - after an initial $1 purchase!

It works! But we don’t do this stuff anymore because we’ve found that customers don’t particularly like this type of business practice! They’ll BUY – but they don’t feel good about the purchase or they’ll feel they have been taken for a ride.

There are many ethical and effective ways in which you can apply the commitment principle.

For example, you can offer an excellent value product for say $1 but then follow it up – not with a quick sale, but with MORE good information and solicitous concern for the prospects needs.

Persuasion Psychology > Persuasion as Mental Shortcuts > Favor Reciprocation > Commitment and Consistency > Social Proof >


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Please leave a comment:

Brian commented on 02-Jun-2013 01:02 PM4 out of 5 stars
Great article! Commitment and consistency is very powerful when done right, once someone gets you to take one step in a one direction it is difficult to turn back if they’ve got you to identified yourself with an the action well enough. Caldini calls a variation of this principle the ”foot in the door technique” where one small request leads to another, then another small request, and so on until it leads you to the desired deed, be it a sale, favour etc similar to your sales page example. Salesmen are pretty good this!
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