Patients and Persuasion

How Cialdini’s Science of Persuasion Model Applies to Healthcare Whether it’s enticing a consumer to try out your product, selling a service directly to another business or convincing a customer to come back and repurchase, marketers are always persuading. Marketers are persuading by sharing how their business has the latest technology or by simply speaking highly of their brand to their family and friends. Marketers are persuading without even knowing that they are. When it comes to strategizing a marketing plan, it’s essential for marketers to understand and evaluate how the act of persuading may influence their marketing tactics.

Researchers have been studying the factors of influence for many years, and psychology professor Robert Cialdini came up with a model he likes to call ‘Cialdini’s Science of Persuasion’. To my readers who are avid healthcare junkies, keep reading to find out why I found his model particularly interesting and how it made me rethink and view how I use persuasion in my day-to-day job. For those who aren’t healthcare enthusiasts, keep reading and as you do, I challenge you to come up with ways in which these persuasion elements may influence your business or brand.

Cialdini’s Science of Persuasion: Healthcare Edition

What leads us to take on an extra shift to cover for a co-worker? What leads us to buy those not-so-cheap pair of shoes that we really didn’t (initially) think we needed? What leads us to say yes? Well, Robert Caldini likes to think that there is a science to how we are persuaded and these are shortcuts he feels guide human behavior:

Reciprocity, or feeling obliged to give when you receive, is not as uncommon in healthcare as many may think. See, reciprocity is not just about what you give, but how you give something. If a nurse at a hospital provides outstanding, compassionate care to a patient, that patient or a family member may feel the need to give back to that nurse by recognizing them, leaving a positive review mentioning that nurse or even agreeing to a patient testimonial. By this nurse’s actions, she was practicing persuasion without even knowing it.

Scarcity, or the feeling of wanting what you don’t or can’t have, is the next shortcut on Cialdini’s list. Let’s say my hospital is the first in the area to add a new robot to its surgery team. Physicians who are employed at other hospitals may want to leave and join my hospital because they fear missing out the opportunity to provide minimally invasive care. Having this innovative robot may influence the physicians to join our practice, which is good because they’ll bring their patients and referrals to us.

Authority or credibility is a form of persuasion that is very common in healthcare. It’s simple, if a physician is credible, skilled and able, patients are automatically persuaded to seek care from him. 

Consistency or commitment is a factor of persuasion as people expect brands to be consistent in what they do. If a cancer patient needs to have several radiation or chemotherapy sessions, they will demand and deserve consistency in the quality of care they receive each time they come to that appointment. This will persuade the patient to continue to seek treatment at your facility.

Liking a brand is another aspect of persuasion. Although most people don’t necessarily like to go to a hospital, if they like the treatment they receive, the communication between the teams and the culture or overall atmosphere of the hospital, they are more likely to come back the next time they need medical care.

Consensus or social proof is when people tend to follow or do what they think others do. In healthcare, if there is a hospital that stands out with a very high, positive rating, people will follow what others feel and go to that hospital. On the other hand, if your hospital has a horrible reputation, people will avoid it at all costs.

Unity is being able to relate with your audience. In healthcare, it’s essential to treat your patients like family. At the end of the day, we are all human and we all know that patients don’t necessarily want to come to the hospital. Making them understand that we know how they feel and identify with them is a way of persuading them to think positively about your hospital.

As you can see, there is a science behind why people do what they do. As marketers, it’s our job to take these elements of persuasion and apply them to our marketing tactics each and every day.

Comment below as I’d love to hear what examples you came up with for how these shortcuts apply to your brand or business!

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