I’m guessing you’ve seen the term “growth hacking” floating around here and all over.

After all, it is one of the biggest buzzwords going on out there…


Look, “growth hacking” is great and it (sometimes) works.

But the fact of the matter is…

…A lot of the ”hacks” are just the same old tips and tricks you see all over the place.

They’re repackaged to look a little bit more interesting.

(Can you guess I’m not a huge fan of the phrase? As a practice, it’s “legit”, just a bit cheesy.)

That’s not to say I don’t think “growth hacks” work. They do.

I just prefer them framed in a different way. And besides, growth is a process.

(And true growth comes from your growth marketing process.)

A big part of that process is not relying on what others are saying works, but…

…Figuring out what makes your buyers “click”.

For that, you need an understanding of their psychology and emotions.

You, and everyone else, have “cognitive biases”.

More on that in a minute, but in this post we’ll talk about “persuasion hacks.”

It’s what I find to be one of the most powerful and important parts of marketing, getting deep into what your ideal customer is thinking and feeling.

No, like really thinking and feeling.

If you can NOT get into their heads, understanding their emotions, desires, and fears, well then you’ve already dug yourself a hole before you’ve even started.

I’m going to share some of the most useful persuasion hacks available.

These hacks are going to help you understand exactly how you can tap into your ideal customers brains.

Let’s take a look.

Persuasion Hack #1: The Focusing Effect

To put it simply, the focusing effect is the tendency of people to place too much importance on just one aspect of an event.

So what exactly does that mean for your brand? Quite a bit actually.

Consider how most brands provide information to customers. A huge list of benefits and features. They think that by giving potential customers as much information as possible it will tip the scales in their favor.

Not so fast.

In psychology we learn that people will typically tend to focus on just one thing about a product or service, rather than a list. Plus, that one thing is generally what drives them to buy.

So, next time you are framing persuasion, instead of focusing on random facts and features, hone in on the one thing that is going to most substantially improve your potential customers quality of life.

Persuasion Hack #2: Primacy Effect

The primacy effect deals directly with the memory of people.

When they are given a sequence of information (numbers, names, features, etc.) the information at the end of the sequence were easiest to remember, with the items at the beginning the next remembered. The items in the middle of the list, were least likely to be recalled.

So how can you apply this to your marketing?

Think about how you present information to potential customers. Highlight the features that you know will be the most helpful or important to consumers at the beginning or end of your presentation.

Another application can be used in pricing. Typically, when presenting three pricing tiers the middle one will be your best seller. However, if you have more than three tiers of pricing, the first or last price will typically be the top sellers.

Understand how placement does matter when it comes to both features and pricing and plan your pitch accordingly.

Persuasion Hack #3: Neglect of Probability

Ah human nature. It shines through when it comes to the neglect of probability, tendency of people to disregard probability when making decisions under uncertainty and letting emotions take over.

As we’ve learned, it’s very easy for people to default to the worst case scenario when faced with uncertainty, even if the probability of the truly bad actually happening is often minuscule.

Now, while this might be somewhat understandable in real life, when it comes to your marketing, the last thing you want is to present your potential customers with uncertainty.

So, pay special attention to it, especially in the key decision making points of your conversion funnel. What might seem like an obvious next step to you, could actually cause your potential customer to convince themselves giving you their email will result in an inbox full of spam.

We know that actually is not going to happen, but do your part to remove any uncertainty from the process, make every step of your funnel extremely clear.

Persuasion Hack #4: Observer-Expectancy Effect

Did you know that your own cognitive biases are actually unconsciously influencing your own expectations?

It’s called the Observer expectancy effect, it highlights how even the most cautious observer can actually manipulate a study or misinterpret data in order to find expected results.

That doesn’t help much in science, now does it? No one wants data or results to be skewed.

Which makes it even more important to pay attention to when it comes to your marketing.

Remember, we’re digging into the psychology of consumers here, and understanding that means also realizing that every single one of them will come in with their own biases.

In short, they see and do what they want to see and do.

So your job isn’t to convince them to do otherwise, but instead, reinforce their interests, biases, and proclivities in the sales funnel.

You’re going to get much further with that approach.

Persuasion Hack #5: Post Purchase Rationalization

Ever buy something and then immediately regret it?

And then start convincing yourself it was actually a good idea to buy it in the first place?

Congratulations, you have just experienced the post-purchase rationalization (also known as buyer’s Stockholm syndrome). This experience can go a long way in derailing a purchase, and as we’ve learned before bringing uncertainty into anything is not a good idea when it comes to marketing.

Here’s how to approach it.

First, understand it’s natural. Second, be prepared to deal with it. This is where the brands that have a great post-purchase system in place shine.

They ask buyers to share their purchases on social media, they send confirmation and follow up emails. In short, they remind the buyer that in fact they did make a good decision with their purchase.

When marketers can get involved in pushing that post-purchase rationalization towards the “good” side, it provides for happier and more satisfied customers long term.

Persuasion Hack #6: Reactance

The reactance theory highlights the urge of people to do the opposite of what someone else wants you to do out of a need to fight against a perceived constraint on your freedom of choice.

Now, while you might have thought you hit your peak “rebelling against authority” during your teenage years, that’s not quite the case.

People like to feel as if they have a choice, even if those choices are few and far between.

Any effort on the marketing side to limit those choices by persuading too heavily, can actually cause an adverse reaction.

The solution is not quite so simple. First, you always want to understand that your users need to feel like they have a choice, they don’t want to feel like they are being railroaded into the choice you want them to take.

Next, consider what you can do in terms of segmenting your customers. Depending where they are in your conversion funnel, you can really hone in on the choices you offer and gently guide your customers in a way that makes them feel like they are making the selections.  

Persuasion Hack #7: Rhyme As Reason Effect

When I got into psychology, it was fascinating how seemingly inconsequential things can deeply affect our mind and thinking.

One of my favorites has to the the rhyme as reason effect. The premise? Statements that rhyme are seen as more truthful.

Think of all the phrases you probably have uttered yourself and believe to be true “birds of a feather flock together,” “wealth makes health,” and so on. Even the infamous OJ Simpson trial found lawyer Johnnie Cochran claiming “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” to varying success.

So, now it probably makes sense why some of those old advertising jingles and slogans (no matter how cheesy they might be) are seen as a powerful marketing tool.

The moral of the story? Figure out what you can do for your brand that will be short and memorable, be it a tagline or a slogan. If it rhymes, even better.

Persuasion Hack #8: Impact Bias

Impact bias is “our tendency to overestimate our emotional reaction to future events. Research shows that most of the time we don’t feel as bad as we expect to when things go wrong.”

Turns out the old adage things aren’t as bad as they seem turns out to be true after all!

The good news is we can apply this to marketing by flipping it on it’s head.

Instead of focusing on the negative, instead go for the positive. Realize that with impact bias, consumers can typically have positive feelings associated with your product or services over the long run.

So, emphasize the positive in your product or service, don’t let consumers rationalize it away to neutral. If you can highlight how your product or service can improve their well being and personal satisfaction over the long run, it will go a long way.

Persuasion Hack #9: In-group Bias

Ingroup bias is the tendency for people to give special or preferential treatment to others who they perceive to be members of their own group. This is also commonly known as ingroup favoritism as well.

This one can cause a problem for marketers. While you want to be sure to understand that people generally buy from those they like, it can be too easy to appeal too much to one group to the exclusion of others.

That’s why it’s so important to have your ideal buyer persona ready to go in these situations. When you can move beyond limiting factors like race or gender and instead focus in on the common psychology you have a much better chance of avoiding ingroup bias.

To do this, feature your target audience in your campaigns. Look for their testimonials and highlight those, rather than someone who seems unlike them or untouchable such as a celebrity spokesperson.

When you do this, you remove the feeling of exclusion, while at the same time highlighting that the people who buy your product or service are just like them.

Persuasion Hack #10: Zero Risk Bias

Zero risk bias happens when people hold the value of reducing a small risk to zero over a greater reduction in a larger risk. Again, this plays right into the human aversion of uncertainty.

People are more willing to sacrifice more for a zero risk even when the overall benefit is much smaller than they would get simply reducing a far larger and more threatening risk.

Again, when we think of risk in terms of marketing, it’s best to focus in right on conversion optimization and the conversion funnel.

When you can create a funnel process that works on reducing the risk to as close to zero as possible, potential consumers are going to be far more likely to act in your favor.

Remember, people end up thinking most often in terms of proportion, so you want to highlight the proportional gains a potential consumer will get in order to keep them interested and moving down the funnel.

Persuasion Hack #11: Medium Maximization

The medium maximization theory holds that people are so focused on immediate outcomes, they tend to ignore or downplay the final outcomes related to that medium.

Let’s look it at in terms of the most popular medium: money. While money “has value” it doesn’t really provide for anything until you actually spend it, then you trade that money for something that produces a desired outcome.

So, using money to pay for a vacation can produce the desired outcome of happiness. Therein the problem lies though, people are usually so focused on the medium that they begin to associate that with the outcome before they actually even spend it.

Instead, marketers need to get people to focus less on the medium and more on the outcome that medium can provide. Using things like loyalty or reward points can be an example for brands who can get customers to refocus on the real outcome for their actions.

Persuasion Hack #12: Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect is another form of groupthink. Essentially, it highlights the concept that as the popularity or belief of something (a theory, person, etc.) spreads through a group of people, others will start to follow suit, even if they have evidence to the contrary.

This one is pretty powerful.

The fact of the matter is, people typically prefer to conform, they don’t like to stand out, so it can be quite easy to get swept up in the bandwagon effect. Look to sports teams for the easiest example, as soon as team starts winning championships, their fan base swells.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting for marketing.

Markers can use this to their advantage, look to tactics like reviews and ratings (Amazon, anyone?) to bolster the bandwagon effect and have more consumers jump on board.

Not to mention, that’s where social media really comes into play. In today’s environment, social media is a perfect vehicle for creating a viral feeling for bandwagon-ing so be sure your brand is embracing it.

Persuasion Hack #13: Curse of Knowledge

How many times have you watched a movie and they have the scene where the genius starts explaining something (generally at a very high level) and the ‘regular’ guys responds, “In English, please.”

Welcome to the curse of knowledge. This cognitive bias showcases how it can be very difficult for better informed people to understand the perspective of those who are less informed.

I see a ton of this in marketing. Usually when it comes to the tech space.

One of the biggest complaints people who are web developers, for instance, get is that their customers can’t understand what they are talking about. This is the curse of knowledge.

Brands need to keep this in mind when explaining their products or services. You want to be able to explain your product or service in layman’s terms, realizing that if your customer knew how to do what you offer, they wouldn’t be hiring you anyway.

Instead frame how you can solve their problem in terms they understand.

Persuasion Hack #14: Duration Neglect

Duration neglect happens when the duration of an event is not factored into the valuation of the event. Duration neglect can’t be understood without looking at the peak-end rule as well. This states that what sticks in our mind most in memories of events is the peak of the experience and the end, not actually the duration.

So what does this really mean?

That people will actually take an experience of momentary displeasure and have more negative connotations with it than an experience that was slightly less negative but actually took longer.

Again, as marketers we want to look at the conversion funnel for this.

When your funnel is made to be an annoying, frustrating, even painful process for potential customers, those who actually complete it are going to remember it as a far more painful experience, even if the process itself was short lived.

So as you approach each step, look for potential pain and sticking points in the process and remove them, especially as your potential customers move further along the funnel.

Persuasion Hack #15: Hyperbolic Discounting

As much as it might go against their best interests, people have a tendency to prefer an immediate payoff today rather than a larger payoff in the future. So, if you’d rather have $1 right now vs. $2 next week, that’s hyperbolic discounting

People love the payoff of time over the actual higher value of money. What we want, we want right now.

As a marketer you might be thinking this is awesome, you can offer a $25 off coupon today and a $100 off coupon in a year and everyone will take the money now. Well, not so fast, the key is the time limit here.

As the time distance gets bigger, it actually matters less.

So how can you really apply this?

Glad you asked. Focus on how you can capitalize on the now. Give smaller rewards away today over bigger rewards weeks or months from now, this especially works with pricing models.

Frame your pricing in a way that it showcases consumers are saving a bit now, even if they are actually saving more later.

There you have it. Fifteen different persuasion hacks you can start using in your marketing to increase conversions and grow your brand.

Use these to dramatically improve your leads and sales by gaining a deep understanding of the psychology of your customers.

Let’s continue stacking these…

Persuasion Hack #16: The IKEA Effect

What it is: People have a tendency to place a disproportionately high value on products/services that they are part of creating, often regardless of outcome (like IKEA furniture).

How you use it: Make them both work towards buying your product/service, and use collaborative discoveries and closes. When they work towards something, they’re more likely to follow-through and make a purchase (or convert).

Persuasion Hack #17: The Zeigarnik Effect

What it is: Incomplete or interrupted tasks are remembered better than completed ones.

How you use it: Help people anticipate how much time and energy they’ll need to follow through with what you want them to do – often just by saying “Step 1 of 3” or “This takes 2 minutes, max”. The less interruptions they experience, the more likely they are to act and continue to act. This is great for forms, funnels and checkout flows, for example.

Persuasion Hack #18: The Ambiguity Effect

What it is: Tendency to avoid options or actions that are missing information. This makes the outcome and probability seem “unknown.”

How you use it: Make outcomes and next steps crystal clear at key conversion points. If people don’t understand your product/service or action, they will not choose it.

Persuasion Hack #19: The Anchoring Effect

What it is: The habit of relying on “anchors,” on one trait or piece of information when deciding (usually the first piece of information that we gain on that subject).

How you use it: Usually, the first price someone sees will affect their purchase decision. You can extend this beyond purchase by anchoring the value in something tangible and then giving it away for less. We can also use this can also for positioning your products/services.

Persuasion Hack #20: The Attention Bias

What it is: The tendency of our perception to be affected by our recurring thoughts.

How you use it: The more often a lead sees your message, Unique Selling Proposition, ads, etc. the more likely she is to respond, take action and purchase. Make sure your messaging is consistent, that you have plenty of CTA’s (that look the same and same copy) and use retargeting.

Persuasion Hack #21: The Choice-Support Bias

What it is: The tendency to remember one’s choices as better than they actually were.

How you use it: When your customer takes your desired action and makes a choice, congratulate and praise them. Plant messaging throughout your funnels and emails, with confirming and affirming copy.

Persuasion Hack #22: The Clustering Illusion

What it is: Overestimating the importance of small runs, streaks, or clusters in large samples of random data (seeing “phantom patterns”).

How you use it: Focus on presenting your product/service in segments and chunks that puts everything in the best light. This can be as granular as how you present information on a landing page and the length of your emails.

Persuasion Hack #23: The Contrast Effect

What it is: Enhancing or reducing your perception stimuli by contrasting one thing to another recently observed object.

How you use it: You know your product/services need to stand-out as much as possible, but try to do so with surprise, shock value and differentiation. Making it more clear and memorable will help you sell more, just by being different in contrast to something else. Don’t just compare, aim for creating your own category.

Persuasion Hack #24: The Decoy Effect

What it is: Preferences for either option A or B changes in favor of option B when option C is presented, which is similar to option B but in no way better.

How you use it: You have different packages of the same product/service, right? Add a third option (in the middle) that makes the option you don’t want people to buy less desirable. For example, Package A includes Widget A for $100, Package B includes Widget A + B for $175 (the decoy) and Package C includes Widget C for $175.

Persuasion Hack #25: The Empathy Gap

What it is: The tendency to underestimate the influence or strength of feelings, in either oneself or others.

How you use it: Emotions sell better than anything. We are hardwired to respond more and stronger to emotions than logic. Your persuasion is only as strong as the emotional angle and appeal your product/service has. Figure out the emotional angle to every part of your product/service and make sure you spread it across your marketing materials.

Persuasion Hack #26: Functional Status Quo

What it is: If your product challenges traditional use of a product or service, you’ll have a much tougher time marketing it.

How you use it: Whatever people are used to doing, don’t try to change that behavior. It’s more profitable to insert your products/services in the normal behavior of people. Small behavioral adjustments could happen overtime, but you’ll run out of money before you turn a profit. Your marketing needs to be in the streams of behavior and psychology to yield results.

Persuasion Hack #27: Pseudo-certainty

What it is: The tendency to make risk-averse choices if the expected outcome is positive, but make risk-seeking choices to avoid negative outcomes.

How you use it: Selling by using positive emotions? Avoid even the tiniest hint of risk. Selling by using negative emotions, such as anger, pain and fear? You need to heighten the risk factor of not buying your product/service.