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The ever-changing world of marketing is frequently challenged by one common question: how can we deliver our message in a persuasive and non-manipulative way? Smart marketers care about more than convincing people to buy their company's products; they try to keep customers' best interests at heart. The secret to the art of persuasion is not to trick people into doing what you want them to do but to provide them with tangible and intangible incentives for acting on your message.

As a panel manager on the Market Panels team, I face a comparable challenge. We're not just trying to persuade people to join a panel: we want to provide intrinsic motivations for appropriate panelists from the right demographics to participate honestly in our surveys.

Robert B. Gialdini's Influence provides terrific inspiration for anyone in the persuasion business, whether you're trying to recruit respondents or motivate purchase decisions. Here are 3 of the 6 unique persuasion principles the book outlines:

1) Social Proof: Build credibility around your message by providing social evidence to the person you are trying to persuade. If I asked you to complete a survey on community panels and told you that most of your colleagues had already participated in the survey, you would be more willing to also participate because everyone else already has. One phrase that I commonly use is, "X number of people have completed this survey, make your opinion count!" Another is, "Survey Results influence decisions, have your voice heard!" This way people will not think about doing the survey in isolation but they will feel as if they are part of a larger group, contributing as part of the larger community.

2) Authority: Everyone has role models they look up to and highly respect. The human drive to be like these successful "superior beings" can also be used as a persuasion tool. When sending out e-blasts for different recruitment campaigns, rather than using pre-determined templates, we started experimenting with this principle of "authority." For example, by starting a survey with the Steve Jobs quote, "My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better," and then saying "Help us to make our customers better by filling out this survey." Now by participating in the survey, the potential panelist will be able to associate them self with Steve Jobs.

3) Scarcity: People have a tendency to panic when they know that they have limited resources or a short amount of time to complete something. Instead of leaving that survey to later to complete, people will be "encouraged" to complete it now because they are driven by time-lines and priorities. Creating a sense of urgency is another tactic we use to persuade people to take immediate action. When communications are deployed, we use call-to-actions such as "act now" or include the "Close date" above the fold in the invite communication to attract specific groups.

Experimenting with these principles can inspire new approaches and persuasion challenges. Observing how a variety of demographics respond to different persuasion tactics allows us to see which techniques are most effective. We are in the planning stages of implementing a segmentation study to determine which of our members respond better to these various persuasion techniques, all with the greater intention of increasing response rates. Tracking the success of these approaches as a basis for refining our recruitment and communication strategies can support the evolution of any persuasion or marketing toolkit.

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