Competition is a Big Driver in Persuasion

Have ever you found yourself driving down the road, lost in thought or just enjoying some music, keeping a safe distance between you and the next car when all of a sudden someone comes barreling up the lane next to you and obviously wants to get over? When that happens, do you sometimes find yourself unconsciously speeding up? Maybe you’ve done so with conscious thought.

Or how about when traffic is restricted due to road construction. You’ve waited patiently as cars inch along and next thing you know, someone goes as far to the front as they can get then they expect someone to let them in. Have you found yourself not being the one to let them in because you think, “If I had to wait, they can wait, too!”

These are just some of the many familiar situations you can find yourself in where competition begins to affect your thinking and behavior. No need to feel bad if you do speed up a bit or don’t always let someone over because it’s evolutionary. You see, you’re simply responding to the principle of scarcity – we want more of what we can’t have, and we react negatively to what we might lose. That loss could be as simple as our place in line on the highway.

When it comes to scarcity, competition ramps up the effectiveness of this principle of influence. When you saw the person coming up on the highway you were in competition with them for the spot in line and their desire to get ahead of you made you more determined not to lose. Think about something as simple as a sale.

“Sale Ends Sunday” is a form of scarcity. You can take your time getting to the store because you know you have until closing time Sunday to get in on the deal. But what if the ad says, “Sale – While Supplies Last”? Now you realize waiting until Saturday or Sunday might mean you lose out because other people may get to the store Friday. They don’t want to miss out on the great deal and neither do you, so you head to the store Friday afternoon also. Scarcity has changed your behavior but competition even more so!

Another example might have occurred when you were dating. Isn’t it the case that you value your partner more when you realize someone else is also vying for his or her attention? You might have been considering putting an end to the relationship but the entrance of someone else can sometimes cause you to rethink the situation.

When it comes to effectively using the principle of scarcity, limited time offers will motivate behavior but offers that involve competition will be far more effective. With that in mind, you need to think about ways to ethically invoke competition in order to get people to want your product or service even more.

Perhaps the best picture of competition for products happens every year the day after Thanksgiving. That day has become known as Black Friday. Limited time deals cause people to wait in line starting at midnight in some cases! You may have seen reports of people fighting and being trampled on in the news as customers rush into stores for great deals on limited quantity items. Seemingly normal, rational people begin to act like animals fighting over the remains of a carcass before it’s all gone! That’s how scarcity works on the mind because competition is a big driver in persuasion.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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