We may not realize it when it’s happening, but most of us can figure out when we’ve been manipulated. It isn’t just personal relationships where this happens. Businesses manipulate customers as well. In fact, you may be engaging in manipulative business practices as well.

How does this happen? Sometimes it’s done quite on purpose. However, in many cases manipulation is the result of marketing principles that have been misapplied. Have you ever purchased something, and then later on felt resentful? Maybe you realized that you paid too much or simply bought something you didn’t really need? Perhaps you liked the product you bought but walked away with a distinct distrust of the person who sold it to you.

Marketing Vs. Manipulation

This is where things can get confusing. The truth is, many of the same techniques used for legitimate marketing can also be used to manipulate customers. The differences lie in how your customers feel about you after the interaction takes place and how they feel about the transaction takes place.

Successful marketing doesn’t just result in a sale. It builds relationships with customers and fosters a sense of trust. Manipulated customers are rarely repeat customers.

How do you make sure you are wooing your customers, not manipulating them? Here are a few tips.

Check Your Reputation

Customers rarely complain directly to you. However, they will communicate their dissatisfaction elsewhere. Product review sites, community forums, social media, even consumer advocacy websites all provide spaces for your customers and potential customers to discuss your brand.


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Pay close attention to what’s being said. Do customers report being misled or manipulated? Is your social media marketing being interpreted as misleading and emotionally manipulative? Remember that the things you discover may not reflect your intentions. But frankly, your intentions don’t matter. What matters is customers’ experience and perceptions.

Use Data to Track Customer Retention

Customers may be manipulated into making a purchase. However, unless you’ve created a monopoly, they may not return. This is where data can help.

Use Google analytics and other tools to track return visits to your website as well as social media engagement. Then, use customer data to track sales. If customers are not returning after making an initial purchase, one reason for this may be that your sales and marketing is leaving a bad taste in their mouths.

Prioritize Relationships Over One Time Sales

If you aren’t happy with what you’ve read about your company online, and you aren’t earning repeat business or engagement, all is not lost. It’s time to start prioritizing relationship building over sales and promotion.

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How important is this? 87% of customers in a survey indicated that it was important to them to establish a relationships with the brands they patronize. Here are a few ways to focus on relationship building:

  • Interact with your audience on social media
  • Share your company’s history and values
  • Support causes that your audience cares about
  • Personalize engagement as much as you can
  • Thank customers when they make a purchase
  • Remember your customers’ interests and concerns


Remember that it’s difficult for customers to feel manipulated if you have taken time to engage with them. Make a sincere effort to build relationships in order to create long term client/customer relationships.

Share Content Your Audience Needs

When it comes to marketing to your audience, it is important to provide them with the content that they need. For example, if you target a customer who is just beginning to show an interest in your brand with lots of promotional content, they may feel pressured and manipulated. On the other hand, that content could be just what someone wants if they are getting closer to making a purchasing decision.

Add Value to Your Products And Services

Sometimes, it only takes a small touch to be sure that customers love you as opposed to being manipulated by you. One way to do this is to add on little things to your products and services. Some ideas might include:

  • A coupon towards a future purchase
  • Access to a helpful whitepaper or other content
  • A special gift
  • An upgrade to a better product or service

Anytime you can make a product or service even better, you are going to create a sense of goodwill.

Take an Ethical Approach to Using Psychological Triggers

Marketers often use psychological triggers as a way to influence customers. For example, the practice of pricing psychology makes pricing more appealing by applying certain tricks. For instance, pricing something at $19.99 can make it appear to be a better value than pricing it at $20.00. Another tactic is create fear of missing out by suggesting that a deal has a limited time or you only have so much product in stock.

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Using these tactics isn’t necessarily wrong. The key is taking an ethical approach. These methods should never be used to lie to a customer or pressure them into buying something they don’t need. Also, don’t combine too many of these methods together. Otherwise, you risk coming off as insincere.

Train Sales Staff Carefully

You may have created a marketing strategy that is designed to make customers feel valued and respected. Unfortunately, that doesn’t do much good if they find themselves in front of salespeople who engage in aggressive or manipulative tactics. This is why training is key.

It’s imperative that your sales staff understands your marketing goals, that they can apply them, and that you have their buy-in. Another thing to consider is your compensation structure. If your customers feel manipulated by your salespeople, you should be sure that your compensation methods aren’t having a negative impact.

Conclusion: Make The Customer The Winner

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Remember that every touchpoint customers have with their brand impacts whether or not they feel manipulated or as if they have been treated with respect. In order to ensure they feel the latter, your goal during every interaction must be making the customer the winner.  


Amanda Sparks, pro writer and editor at Essay Supply, lifestyle writer at Huffington Post. I am fancy doing perfect things for this perfect world, and help people make their life easier with my lifestyle tips. 

Amanda Sparks, pro writer, and editor at Essay Supply, lifestyle writer at Huffington Post. I am an experienced blogger and psychology researcher, with proficiency in behavioral and influential marketing.

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