A drawing of a face in profile in the center of the image with four icons around it representing psychological triggers

Digital Marketing

What psychological triggers are and how to use them

Learn to use Mental Triggers to influence people’s decision-making process.


12/07/2021 | By

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Have you ever noticed how our daily activities are carried out automatically? Take eating, for example. Nobody thinks before chewing, we just chew.

This happens because the human brain is so perfect that some actions are automated in such a way we get to focus on situations that require more complex solutions, otherwise, we’d be mentally exhausted.

The same goes for your buying decision process, there are signs our subconscious memorized that make us choose one product over the other.

If you notice how people around you behave, you’ll see we’re all driven by similar wishes. In order to influence and understand your potential customers, you need to know to identify these psychological triggers and understand how to use them in your marketing strategy.

We’re not talking about manipulating or hypnotizing people to convincing them to make a purchase. All you need is to give your audience what they want. In today’s post, we’ll teach you 16 psychological triggers to be used to turn visitors into leads and leads into customers.

Have a nice reading!

What are psychological triggers?

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To understand what psychological triggers are, you need to understand how your brain makes daily choices.

Do you think all your decisions are 100% conscious? The truth is that even before you make a conscious decision, your unconscious mind already knows what you’re going to do.

That’s because when your brain receives information, it quickly filters and processes things. This information has external agents, stimuli that provoke a different emotional reaction in each person.

These reactions can generate various sensations, such as joy, anxiety, enthusiasm, discouragement, motivation and many others that can be positive or negative, depending on the input.

Since you only have a certain amount of energy, the mind ends up making many decisions without them reaching the conscious mind. It’s a way to save energy while still making choices based on your experiences and preferences.

It’s kind of like putting things on autopilot to save time and energy. This means that by the time we’re aware that we are choosing something, we’ve actually already chosen.

If you jot down some notes while reading this article or cross your arms, these are mostly automated decisions. That’s the way you operate every day and every moment!

The stimuli that are interpreted by your unconscious mind are psychological triggers. Beyond being a strategy in digital marketing, they were studied in psychology and proven by science.

That’s why making use of psychological triggers helps you understand how the minds of potential customers work.

How do mental triggers work in digital marketing and sales?

In the world of digital marketing, psychological triggers can be used to lead the audience to make a choice, which usually relates to sales! If the brain is stimulated to make certain decisions, buying a new product or service could be the most logical choice.

Neuromarketing has brought psychological triggers to the reality of sales professionals online and off. Based on science, it’s understood that persuasion can be triggered with some specific mechanisms.

Even though people think they are rational in their buying decisions, psychological triggers are the first stimuli to give an alert that an offer is worth it!

Let’s say you open a food-delivery app to order dinner. If you see two new pizza places, you’ll probably end up choosing the one with the best ratings, right?

Or you’re thinking about buying some new shoes and the next day you get a pop up with an exclusive sale for 24 hours. Tempting, isn’t it?

Psychological triggers work as persuasion and make those shoes look attractive enough not to be ignored. That’s the way marketing works, by leading potential buyers closer to purchasing.

Whether subscribing to a newsletter, putting your name on the waitlist for a course, buying a limited product, or eagerly waiting for the next episode of your favorite series to launch at midnight: every action was motivated by psychological triggers, even if you didn’t realize it.

While extremely important in marketing strategy, triggers should be properly used. If overused, they can be over the top.

You need to be responsible and never lie to your audience. Don’t use a stimulus if it’s not true. You’ll end up losing sales and credibility.

The “Why”

Even though most our decisions are based on emotions, we’re always searching for reasons to justify why we’re doing things the way we’re doing them and want to know want we’ll gain from those actions.

So, whenever you’re promoting a product, make it clear to the user why they should buy it and the benefit they’ll have from the purchase. By doing so, you’re leading the person from point A (an unwanted situation) towards point Z (the solution to the problem).

Ex: Are you tired of missing out on important information as the day goes by? Improve your focus skill with our online meditation course.

In the example above, we presented a problem (the person was missing out on information as the day goes by), the solution (online meditation course) and the benefit (improving the focus).


People hold in high regard the opinion of people they consider to be better at something, whether because of hierarchy or because they truly recognize that person knows more about the subject.

An example that proves this theory is when you’re searching for a course with no ads, do you prefer watching a course with Gordon Ramsay or your fresh out of culinary institute neighbor?

Therefore, if you want to attract more customers, you need to place yourself as an authority in your market niche.

To do so, you’ll need to leave sales strategies aside at first and focus on actions that can add value to your audience.

Write a blog and keep it updated, offering useful material for free. On that account, you show you know a lot about the subject and establish a trusting relationship with your potential customers by proving to them you’re not only interested in making a sale.

With this relationship, you’ll have more time to educate your lead about the product and, eventually, propose a sale. Which means that building authority is a strategy that takes time but when executed properly, it can bring significant revenue to your business.

Another way to use the psychological trigger of authority is to ask for a big name to recommend your product. In this case, make sure to select digital influencers who are well-known by the audience you intend to reach.

Ex: Learn how Jennifer Selter keeps fit.


The scarcity psychological trigger creates value to an item through its limitation, which is the case of gold, which is one of the most valuable metals in the market. This happens because our subconscious usually associates the difficulty of purchasing an object with how valuable it is.

If the lead doesn’t feel safe to make the purchase, they may feel motivated to act if they think there won’t be another opportunity to do so.

Amazon and Booking often use this trigger. Notice that when you’re making a purchase on both these platforms, you can see how many unities they have left and, in some cases, the number of people browsing the page at that moment. This kind of information contributes to the visitor need to complete the purchase.

But for this psychological trigger to work, the scarcity needs to be real. If your audience notices you use this trigger very often, it loses its effectiveness as a sales argument.

Ex.: There are only 20 more spots left for our classical violin course.

Avoid the pain

The human behavior is moved by the need to avoid pain or by the desire to feel pleasure. Even when we’re doing something that seems to be painful, we do so because we associate that feeling with pleasure.

This is the case of people who practice extreme sports and are willing to constantly run risks only for the satisfaction of finishing a run or performing a one-of-a-kind stunt.

Talking about products marketing, it’s even more common for people to avoid the pain, that’s why sentences such as “Buy this product and save 100 dollars a year on maintenance” weigh in on the buying decision because they show users they’re saving money.

It’s worth mentioning this trigger works better if you know your ideal customer really well and understand the problems of their everyday life. Take advantage to read our complete post on how to create a buyer persona.

Ex.: Sign up for our service and never go grocery shopping again.


Whenever someone does us a favor, our natural trend is to pay them back, right? That’s why it’s essential to add value to the customer before thinking about the possible profit that lead may generate you.

Many entrepreneurs still have questions understanding the purchase journey because they’re concerned with immediate return on investment. However, if you go through all the stages of the sales funnel and qualify your leads, your sales will naturally escalate, and what’s best they will keep it that way.

If your free content adds value to your customer, they’ll fell more likely to give back by buying your product.

Product: Course on people management

Ex.: Download our free guide and learn how to create a career plan for your employees.

Show you care

This next psychological trigger walks hand in hand with reciprocity.

Everyone likes to feel valued for what they are or for something they’ve done. Showing you care about your buyers’ opinion and their experience with your product is one of the best ways to turning them into loyal customers.

A few examples of actions you can put into practice to show your customer how much you care are: making their purchase process easier, having an intuitive page with a responsive design, and keeping an open communication channel with your audience.

Ex.: If you have questions about our product, be sure to get in touch with our customer support service at any time.


It has been neurologically proven that exposure to something new and unknown increases the level of dopamine in the brain, which is directly related to your concentration and motivation levels.

Besides stimulating the interest, the psychological trigger of novelty leads people to action, once they want to be the first to try out the new product.

That’s why big names in the market, such as Microsoft and Apple invest so much in launches because even when the new version has few novelties, the audience is paying attention due to the mere fact it is something never before seen in the market.

Ex.: Get to know the new feature that allows you to watch lessons offline.


Curiosity doesn’t only inspire action, it also lights up parts of your brain associated with pleasure. Therefore, using psychological triggers that arouse your audience’s curiosity helps to keep them interested in what you say and do.

Curiosity is the trigger that will make people look for more information about your product, watch your videos, open your emails, and subscribe to a newsletter.

If your content is useful and helps them solve a problem, it’s more likely they’ll share it with others, which contributes to spiking the traffic on your page, thus creating a positive cycle for your business.

Ex.: Soon, we’ll launch an additional module to our Spanish course, with a method never before seen in the market.

Social Proof

Whenever we’re buying something, we tend to look for more information about the product, especially what other buyers thought about it. This process is even more thorough when we’re shopping online, since it’s natural for people to doubt this kind of purchase.

Questions about your product’s quality, delivery, customer support, among others can be easily solved if there’s a space on your page to feature other buyers’ reviews.

Besides customers’ testimonials, you can feature the number of products’ already sold, followers on social media, and comments as social proof.

But having good engagement isn’t always enough to validate your product, so, keep your eyes open for forums and complaint websites such as Rip Off Report because one bad review can turn on an alert sign on your buyer’s brain.

If you solve the problem in a friendly way, you’ll have the chance to win back that customer and still make a good impression with other users who are researching about your brand.

Ex.: Get to know the course that has helped over 500 thousand people learn Spanish.


Sometimes, we don’t even need a product but adding a time factor motivates us to perform the action at that exact moment. Who hasn’t experienced that?

One good example is Booking.com, whenever you’re searching hotels for a trip, there’s always a below-the-value offer that’s good just for the day.

Urgency works like the psychological trigger of scarcity. However, in this case, the price of the product isn’t attached to its limitation but to the deadline imposed to the buyer to make the decision.

Ex.: Use our discount coupon and pay less for trips made until 6 P.M. today.


The way the seller presents the product influences how the user sees it. If you trust what you’re selling, the chance of someone engaging with your offer increases.

But we’re not talking about using absurd descriptions such as “the best product in the world” nor miracle promises that have nothing to do with what your product deliveries because doing so can have the opposite effect. Just make sure to give accurate information and to prove, preferably by using numbers, the results leads have got by using the product.

The refund deadline also helps increase the reliability of the transactions. It may seem weird but people feel safer to make the purchase if they know they can ask for their money back if they have results they don’t consider to be less than satisfactory.

Ex.: If you don’t see results in two weeks, we ensure your money back.


Users identify with people who share the same fears and pains. The psychological trigger of affinity, when put together with the social proof, motivates people to buy, after all, if a person who had the same problem solved it after purchasing a product, it means it really works, right?

Another way of using the affinity trigger to increment your sales is by putting yourself in your buyer’s shoes.

When you get closer to your potential buyer and shows you understand what they’re feeling, you establish a trusting relationship that can lead to a purchase.

Ex.: Before starting to exercise, I also had trouble sleeping.


Storytelling is nothing more than the ability to tell stories. If you’re from the digital marketing community, you know this resource has been used to persuade people to buy products.

But why is this psychological trigger so powerful? Most people believe that the choices we make depend on a rational analysis. However, our decisions are based on our emotions, especially the ones concerning our purchase habits.

Telling stories light up the parts of the brain associated with sight, sound, taste, and movement, which may influence a person to choose one product over the other although both promise solving the same problem.

Ex.: Meet Maria, who dropped 150 pounds after using our guide to a healthy eating.


Have you ever thought about why people wait in line for a show that’ll happen in two months? This is the idea of the anticipation trigger, which is nothing more than making people excited about something.

To do so, you can promote webinars, release teasers, share materials, send email marketing, countdown on social media, and other actions that make your user thrilled and checking your pages for updates.

Ex.: In less than two weeks, you’ll get to know the financial management course that’ll help you organize your bills before the year starts. Meanwhile, take advantage to read our content on expenses planning and start planning right now.

Sense of community

The human being is naturally sociable. From the beginning of our species, we organized ourselves into groups and used the other and the need to belong to a group to develop our personalities.

If your potential customers feel that your product can help them become a part of a community, they’ll be more likely to click the buy button.

Strava is a brand that promotes this sense of community. Its slogan “the social network for athletes” suggests there’s a group people want to be a part of and to be even more exclusive, they need to pay to have access to this service.

Whenever you’re selling to a customer, make sure you make them feel a part of a community. This attitude adds value to your product and contributes to creating unconditional fans of your brand.

Ex.: Join thousands of people around the world who have learned to dance the Zumba at home.


When researching for his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger noticed that too much controversy can drive possible buyers away. However, just the right measure of controversy can make them become more interested in the subject.

This happens because polemic topics lead to heated discussions and, the more people are talking about you, the higher the reach of your brand. Avoid talking about politics, race, religion and other sensitive matters, especially if these topics have nothing to do with your product.

Ex.: Learn about the method to lose, once and for all, the extra weight without the need to spend hours at the gym.

Get to know more psychological triggers

You’ve seen a little bit about the main mental triggers. Do you want to find out more?

Download our free and complete ebook with all the 23 mental triggers, tips on how to use them and examples!

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Where and when to use psychological triggers

Psychological triggers are not limited to only making the final sale. The sale needs to feel natural, and throwing in a psychological trigger at the last minute can have the opposite effect on potential customers.

It is essential to know the possibilities of using these stimuli to reach the right audience at the right time.

A better way to apply psychological triggers is to use them across multiple formats at different moments.

Using blogs, social media, websites, podcasts, text, videos, or audio to lead people to your sales page, psychological triggers are the ideal tool to guide them down this path.

Digital products such as ebooks, infographics, and webinars can also be great places to use triggers. In fact, they’re amazing options for your pre-launch, so take the time to intelligently promote your brand and products using these materials. 

The CTA (Call to Action) also needs to push your audience in the right direction. For example: “This sale closes in 2 hours.” In this example, the CTA is connected to an urgent trigger.

Your sales page should also use triggers to get better results.

Adding social proof, urgency, scarcity, authority, safety, and novelty on your page boosts your chances of getting new customers. The important thing is to know how to add the right amount and combination of psychological triggers wisely.

In e-commerce, generating shortages by notifying users of the number of products in stock or generating urgency by placing a timer that informs users when a sale ends.

As you can see, your entire marketing strategy should contain different types of psychological triggers, but it’s crucial to analyze their uses and modify them when necessary.

Understand that this is work that has no end. It’s a good idea to always apply some sort of psychological trigger, but not all of them at the same time.

Try to understand which triggers you should use in your business daily. Do this in a balanced way so that it doesn’t sound too aggressive. See which triggers you need to use to gain more traction during launches and how to work triggers into your different sales channels.

Use psychological triggers wisely

If you still don’t make use of psychological triggers in your promotion, you should know you’re missing out on a great opportunity to convince your audience and make more sales.

However, to have the desired effects, more than using the right triggers at the right time, you should deliver something that adds value to your client. If you don’t, it will seem like you’re just manipulating them into buying your product, which, in the long run, harms the image of your business.

The secret is learning when to attract and when to convert your leads. And you should always offer them valuable content, regardless of the stage they’re in. We hope this and other texts on the blog help you with this task!

If you still don’t know which is the best approach to use with your audience, take advantage to read the post how to invest in paid ads without wasting money.