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Liking: the fifth principle of persuasion

Liking: the fifth principle of persuasion

This is our fifth article on the principles of persuasion.


  1. Can the principle of reciprocity improve your customer communications?
  2. Can scarcity make your communications more compelling?
  3. Can a dash of authority make your communications more persuasive?
  4. Using the consistency principle of persuasion in customer communications


You are more likely to buy from someone you like.

That’s hardly surprising.

But it’s an idea that many marketers forget – and frequently fail to take advantage of. The challenge for anyone selling anything is to get people to like them – something that’s more challenging when the potential customer is far away, or behind a screen.

Liking is the fifth principle of persuasion that Robert Cialdini identified.

But what do we mean by ‘liking’?

The science suggests there are three crucial factors at work.

We like people who:

  • Are similar to us
  • Pay us compliments
  • Cooperate with us.

The liking principle in practice

This principle has been demonstrated in numerous studies. One famous example involved studying negotiations between MBA students. Some groups were told that “time is money. Get straight down to business.” Roughly 55% of students in this group came to an agreement.

Other groups were encouraged to take a different approach. They were instructed to share some personal information about each other, and to try to find common ground before negotiating. These participants were more successful: 90% reached agreement and their deals were worth 18% more to both parties.

This shows how people are more inclined to work with people that they understand, recognise and like. Taking a little time to get to know your customers and stakeholders can clearly make a big difference to business outcomes.

How can you build fondness through customer communications?

Getting people to like you is much easier in person, because you can pay compliments, share personal information and demonstrate a spirit of cooperation more easily. In person, you can respond to the person in front of you, smile, and adapt your approach to the customer’s attitude and style.

Online and over the phone, these adaptations are more difficult, and there may be more pressure to work quickly and efficiently, without taking time for pleasantries.

In written communications, the pressure to focus on clarity and concision may be more pronounced, leaving fewer opportunities for niceties.

However, creative organisations can find ways to add little touches to bills, statements and policy documents so that customers feel connected to likeable people – not just a faceless corporation.

Name names. Who is sending customer communications? Are your customer service contacts always named? Are letters signed?

Smiling, friendly people. If your communications include pictures, make sure the people are always smiling, friendly and approachable.

Conversational copy. If you want customers to like you, don’t write like you’re sending them a tax demand. Write as you would speak. Keep it simple. Use short words. Be direct. Say what you mean – even if you’ve got a difficult message to share.

Create connections. This is tricky to get right, but you may be able to find to identify common ground with your customers. Do you share any interests? Or experiences? You might comment on extraordinary weather, or sporting successes. These little touches remind people that there are human beings behind the letters, texts and emails, and they also demonstrate that you’re not just sending out the same message to everyone, every day.


Customer communications management (CCM) from DocCentrics

At DocCentrics, we help companies adopt a powerful customer communication management (CCM) platform. Inspire software from Quadient (formerly GMC Software) gives you a single solution for managing all of your customer communications. From one screen you can create, edit and deliver communications to thousands of customers across all devices and channels. Contact DocCentrics if you want to digitise your customer communications and enhance the customer experience.