People’s ability to understand the factors that affect their behaviours is surprisingly poor. Professor Robert Chaldini put us all under the microscope and brought those factors to our attention in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” His fifth principle of influence is, in my opinion, the most powerful when it comes to first time patient acquisition.

As we move through our everyday lives we have thousands and thousands of tiny decisions to make all the time. Following people in authority is a way in which our brain has evolved to make those decisions more efficiently. In order to be more influential in your marketing, it pays to be seen as an authority, and it is very easy to create that perception.

People want to follow the lead of real experts. Business titles, smart clothing, and even driving an expensive, high-performing automobile are proven factors in lending credibility to any individual. Giving the ‘perception’ of authority actually increases the likelihood that others will comply with requests – even if that authority is illegitimate.

Stanley Milgram, Psychologist, Yale University, conducted a 1974 experiment where ordinary people were asked to shock ‘victims’ when they answered questions incorrectly. Those in charge were dressed in white lab coats to give the appearance of high authority. The participants were told that the shocks they gave increased 15 volts in intensity each time the person answered incorrectly.

In fact, the shocks were completely imaginary. Respondents were acting.

As participants continued to shock their victims, the respondents feigned increasing discomfort until they let out agonized screams and demanded to be released. Astoundingly, about two-thirds of participants ignored these cries of pain and inflicted the full dose of 450 volts.

“According to Milgram, the real culprit in the experiments was the [participants’] inability to defy the wishes of the boss, the lab-coated researcher who urged and, if necessary, directed them to perform their duties, despite the emotional and physical mayhem they were causing.”

When prospective patients are unsure of what to do they will either look to people around them (social proof) or for people with authority in order to make a decision. Given the incredible influence of ‘perceived’ authority it would be wise therefore to incorporate testimonials from legitimate, recognised authorities from the medical aesthetic world in your marketing.

Even better, demonstrate your own authority in the field of aesthetics by educating your patients. Public speaking, article writing, workshops, open days, seminars and online video are all opportunities to show your patients you know what you’re talking about. The more people see you on the stage, in the press, under the spotlight, on the web or in the flesh – the more confident they will feel to put their trust in you.

In the sixth and final part of this series, we explore an extremely powerful principle of influence that must be used very sensitively…