Content marketing sets up the right context for the sale. The reason is that the method builds on well-established principles that make people ...

Why content marketing works

Content marketing sets up the right context for the sale. The method works because it builds on well-established principles that make people want to buy. But what are these principles and how can you make them work for your company?

Professor Robert Cialidini has studied marketing and influence for decades. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he describes six different principles.

When I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find that content marketing is founded on these fundamental truths about human behaviour. Without for that matter misleading or manipulating the recipient, because that never works in the long term. The truth eventually comes out.

The principles explain why content marketing is, and always will be, a powerful method to set up the right sales environment. This article shows you how.

1. Reciprocity

Content marketing is all about providing value first. Your readers feel a certain kind of gratitude when they consume your content (especially if you’ve managed to solve their problem), which creates goodwill over the long haul. The aim is to provide free content that improves their lives in some way.

This goodwill, built up over time, makes the audience more likely to choose you over your competitors.

2. Commitment and consistency

Content marketing shows how important commitment and consistency is. We rarely like to break our own promises since it makes us look and feel bad. By publishing content regularly, you prove that you can keep your promises.

The result? Your readers start to show commitment and consistency, too. By taking small steps, they subscribe to your newsletter, share a blog post, and even visit a seminar.

3. Authority

Content marketing is the most effective way to establish your authority in the marketplace. One major factor is that you seek to solve customer’s problems and challenges. You teach your topic rather than just talking about yourself.

Let other companies brag about their excellence. Instead, become a teacher who shares their experiences and knowledge with their audience. To educate the customer is the most underappreciated ”sales trick” there is. And that is exactly what successful content marketing is about.

4. Liking

Life is, whether we like it or not, a type of popularity contest. Who would you rather give your money to – a company that you like, or one that you loathe? The answer is simple. The company that understands you, cares about you, and gives you valuable advice will always win the business over a company that you dislike (for whatever reason).

Content marketing leads to liking. The more your recipients consume the content, the more they like you.

5. Scarcity

If we can’t have it, we want it even more. Exclusivity and scarcity is a principle that marketers have used for a long time. And it certainly works for content marketing as well. A limited amount of seats at the conference, a limited print edition of that special book, a webinar that is only aired online, at this particular hour…

You get the point.

(A word of caution: Never fake scarcity. It shines through and damages trust.)

6. Social proof

We’re social creatures who like to follow the crowd. We read what others read. We watch what other people watch. That blog post that got 1478 shares? Or that testimonial that tells the story of the customer’s own doubts? Those are examples of social proof.

Social proof increases the credibility of the message, while also contributing to its shareability. (Unfortunately, many fake news that go viral have ”social proof”, but that’s another discussion about source criticism and filter bubbles.)

Bonus principle: Unity

Cialdini’s latest book Pre-suasion discusses unity as another principle. This is how he defines it:

”The experience of Unity is not about simple similarities (although those can work too, but to a lesser degree, via the liking principle). It’s about shared identities.”

His research shows, once again, why content marketing works so well. Content (read: stories) creates a sense of belonging that unites people. The more we can identify with a company’s values, the more influenced we become. Simply put, we want to be a part of the journey. That’s powerful marketing.


There is a reason Seth Godin has said that ”content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.” It builds on old principles that set up the right sales environment, where people don’t feel cheated and manipulated, but rather inspired and educated. They both can and want to do business with a company that helps them.

Content marketing is the best (only?) way to convince people in a time where internet and the smart phone dominate our daily life. Through your content, potential clients can learn who you are and start to trust you.

It feels good for them. It feels good for you. It feels good for everybody. And that is why content marketing works.

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