Be the Authority

Demonstrating authority to customers often means they will trust you more with their business.

Psychology has recognized that when the same information is presented by someone with a position of authority and by someone without a position of authority, the information is more likely to be believed when presented by someone in a position of authority.  For example, Stanley Milgram, in his landmark study of obedience, was able to use authority to persuade multiple test subjects to engage in what they thought were the administration of dangerous electric shocks to others.  See Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, (Harper & Roe, 1974).  What does this human trait of relying on others in authority have to do with marketing?

Authority is a tool that can be used to persuade people in advertising, just as it is in any other field.  For professionals that offer intangible services, such as lawyers and accountants, demonstrating that they are the authority on a particular topic, whether it be men’s rights in custody disputes or valuation of closely-held corporations, means that potential customers will trust them more with their business than they would others.  This is why it is increasingly important for professionals to not only seek formal authority, such as industry awards, but also to seek informal marketing authority.  Professionals need to focus on creating content that demonstrates they are an authority not only because they are knowledgeable, but also because their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts put them on the front page of a Google search.  Professionals need to ensure they are being linked to by others writing about their field.  Finally, professionals need to create content that gives off those subtle, subconscious clues that they are authorities in their field.  

If you’d like to know more about how authority works for persuasion, here’s a link to a fantastic 2001 Harvard Business Review article by Robert Cialdini, entitled Harnessing the Science of Persuasion. Cialdini, author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is one of the leading experts on the subject, and is regularly taught to interrogators and crisis negotiators in the military intelligence community.