How to Persuade People to Act – The Small Big [Book Summary]

Want to know a secret on how to influence people? How about 50 of them?

I stumbled upon Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein and Robert Cialdini’s book The small BIG: small changes that spark big influence while researching topics that address the intersection of sales, marketing and psychology.

The book is broken into 52 short and easy-to-digest chapters and is full of tips that can help readers influence and persuade others.

Join Team Cialdini in this three-part video book summary to learn the key takeaways from The Small Big.

Book Summary - Part 1


Book Summary - Part 2


Book Summary - Part 3

50 psychological small "nudges" to influence people were nicely summarized by Paul Marsden below:
  1. Nudge people to buy/pay using social proof by telling them about the large number of people who have already bought/paid (UK tax authority HMRC used this to boost payment from late-payers from 57% to 86%) 
  2. Nudge people to adopt a new product (go against the crowd/convention) using negative competitor-user imagery by pairing crowd/convention behavior with unpopular/undesirable people/groups 
  3. Nudge people to buy by talking about the costs or benefits of deviating from the norm (e.g. if buying is the/their norm, then highlight the costs of not buying (deviating from norm), but if buying is not the norm, highlight the benefits of buying (deviating from the norm) 
  4. Nudge people to buy a new product (and thereby violate a social norm) using active social proof by showing others actively buying (or in the case of pro-social behavior, if the social norm is to drop litter, show others picking up litter) 
  5. Nudge people to pay attention by using their first name; first name cues our attention (cocktail party phenomenon – from the background din of chatter, you notice when someone uses your name) 
  6. Nudge people towards buying by focusing both on how they have similar traits to other buyers and that they are dissimilar to non-buyers (focus on uncommon commonalities) 
  7. Nudge people to spot marketing opportunities by pairing them with a fresh set of eyes (familiarity leads to opportunity-blindness) 
  8. Nudge people to buy by first securing an active (and public) pre-sales commitment (e.g. sign up for information – for instance missed appointments dropped by 25% when patients filled in an appointment card themselves) 
  9. Nudge people indirectly in small steps, by first encouraging them to engage (publicly if possible) in a low-cost activity consistent with buying, and then using further cues to trigger purchase. 
  10. Nudge people to buy ‘sinful/guilty’ products by providing them with a way to offset the guilt and ‘license’ the behavior (e.g. placing recycling bins in a room will encourage wasteful behavior) 
  11. Nudge people using stories that illustrate the positive ’significance’ of purchase on others – rather than personal benefit. 
  12. Nudge people by linking the desired behavior (e.g. buying) to that of someone they know, whilst linking non-compliance (not buying) to losing (not losing is often a greater motivator than winning) 
  13. Nudge people to buy with ‘implementation intentions’ by getting them to predict purchase as likely – and encouraging them to specify the details (when, where etc.) 
  14. Nudge people to buy with ‘future lock-in’ by inviting them to commit to buying in the future (e.g. subscriptions) 
  15. Nudge people to buy now because they owe it to their future selves (moral responsibility to one’s future self) 
  16. Nudge people to buy by framing the benefits of purchase as an attainable challenge. We are motivated by challenges, but only when we see them as attainable (5 a day fresh produce recommendation would work better if it was framed as a more attainable 4-6) 
  17. Nudge people to buy by first framing their options as a choice between two purchases, and then pointing out what they stand to lose if they don’t choose the option you want them to take (AKA ‘Enhanced Active Choice’) 
  18. Nudge people with deadlines – an offer of just a few days will yield more purchases than a more flexible offer with a long expiry date 
  19. Nudge people to stay waiting in line/on hold rather than quit using distraction techniques – like Disney queues, give them something entertaining to distract their attention and feeling they are wasting/losing time 
  20. Nudge people to buy using ‘preference for potential’ – the way we find future potential to be more compelling than past track record (people preferred a Facebook clip suggesting an artist could become the Next Big Thing, over the same clip suggesting the artist was currently The Next Big Thing’ 
  21. Nudge people to buy by asking them to voice any concerns first, and leaving your sales pitch to last (and use a checklist to cover off your points) 
  22. Nudge people to buy by creating a good ‘first impression’ appear authoritative but also like your customers (sharing same values, passions etc.) 
  23. Nudge people to buy by encouraging them to respond positively in some way to your pitch (we act on how we respond rather than what we see or hear (‘cognitive response model’) 
  24. Nudge people to buy pointing out an irrelevant weakness as well as strengths (you’ll seem more objective) 
  25. Nudge people to buy by visually and physically positioning the product you want to sell as the middle option by placing it center-stage (in the middle around other options) 
  26. Nudge people to buy by selling in an environment that is associated with the benefits of purchase (e.g. behind the wheel of a car for car sales) 
  27. Nudge people to buy using ’home advantage’ – selling on your property, not someone else’s, gives you a psychological confidence-boosting advantage. 
  28. Nudge people to buy with absolute confidence – open, expansive, and confident sales are most persuasive 
  29. Nudge people to buy using ‘love’ – the association buying = loving is a powerful sales message 
  30. Nudge people to buy by selling to their personal expectations and preferences, not those of a ‘typical’ customer 
  31. Nudge people to buy by doing them a favor first, whilst setting up an expectation for later exchange (reciprocation) – ‘arrange for exchange’ (e.g. When someone thanks you, say ‘You’re welcome, I’m sure you’d do the same for me’) 
  32. Nudge people to buy with a ‘thank you’. Research shows that expressing gratitude (e.g. for a past purchase/payment) can double the effectiveness of a new sales message 
  33. Nudge people to buy by offering an unexpected gift at an unexpected time. Give first, sell later works best when you surprise people (too many free trials/samples have changed expectation – your gift needs to stand out) 
  34. Nudge people to buy by simply asking them to buy – we underestimate the likelihood people will buy by simply, explicitly and politely asking them. 
  35. Nudge people to buy by making the first move – by striking first with an offer, you will ‘perceptually anchor’ your customer to your initial terms 
  36. Nudge people to buy with precise pricing; $191.50 feels a more legitimate properly costed-up price than rounded prices such as $200. 
  37. Nudge people to buy using the .99¢ trick – there may only be 1¢ difference between $4.99 and $5.00 but our perceptions are anchored to the first number we read – there is a dollar of perceptual difference between $4.99 and $5.00 
  38. Nudge people to buy using ‘perceptual contrast’ (comparison effect) that positions what you want to sell next to a far more expensive option. 
  39. Nudge people to buy by simplifying the offer down to a single killer feature – a bundle of features/arguments is less compelling that a single standout feature/argument (although adding an additional custom or personalized benefit can further enhance persuasion) 
  40. Nudge people to buy through ‘unit-asking’ show them how much just one use/one unit is worth to boost the impression of value 
  41. Nudge people by personalizing the specific benefit to who’s buying or benefiting; ‘identify and individualize’ to sell 
  42. Nudge people to buy by pointing out what customers could do with the money they save buying from you rather than a more expensive competitor – we often forget ‘opportunity costs’ 
  43. Nudge people to buy by framing their progress – if they’ve just started out, show ‘progress made’ (e.g. 20% done), but when they’re past 50%, show progress remaining (e.g. 20% remaining) 
  44. Nudge people to buy by minimizing decision bumps – be ‘rigid’ in your offer, reduce choice and options, and offer structured path to purchase (cf. jam test) 
  45. Nudge people to buy using FOMO – fear of missing out – by pointing out what they’ll lose if they don’t buy 
  46. Nudge people to buy by giving people physical space to choose (like wider aisles, bigger rooms…) – space gives confidence in our ability to make a good choice 
  47. Nudge people by pointing out downsides of not buying or of buying an alternative. Contrary to popular belief, negative arguments and information can be more memorable and persuasive than positives ones 
  48. Nudge people to buy by showing your product not be problem-free – but ‘problem-freed’; if something does go wrong, you’re there to take care of it 
  49. Nudge people to buy with ‘just-in’ information; it’s more compelling. If that’s not possible, make the source of information as specific (who, when, where) as possible – as specificity lends to credibility 
  50. Nudge people to buy with smiles and laughter – making someone smile and laugh induces trust.

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