Aside from fonts, images and layout, there are seven mental triggers that guarantee a more successful website design and user-friendly experience. These mental triggers (when used correctly) develop trust, authority, authenticity and a sense of belonging. Together, they help establish your brand in a sea of competitors.

This week I’m breaking down these triggers so you can put them into practice on your own site and start developing greater authority, a lower bounce rate and higher engagement from visitors.


When building a successful website, there are seven principles that create engagement, make sales and get people interested in what you are selling. These are:

  • social validation
  • reciprocity
  • scarcity
  • variety of choices
  • personas
  • similarity
  • stories

As a visitor we may not understand how these practices combine to create a sense of flow, but our unconscious brain is making decisions in split seconds as to whether or not we should return to a site and if it is to be trusted. Designers and marketers understand all too well this concept and how to create the optimum online environment to keep you clicking, and even Forbes notes that good web design is exponentially more powerful than content when it comes to the concept of mistrust.

“Your web experiences are highly influenced by unconscious thoughts and actions that are controlled by various parts of your brain. ”


So while design and content are large factors in success, the addition of these seven mental triggers completes the puzzle for any brand looking to make a name for itself.

Putting The 7 Mental Triggers to Practice

It is important to note before we begin that each of these practices, when used ethically, can engage and build brand loyalty and trust with consumers. I do not recommend lying, as it has shown in the past that brands who do so create greater mistrust and have a harder time financially bouncing back (e.g. it’s easier to be trustworthy than re-build trust.)


Reviews, ratings and testimonials are all perfect examples of social validation on a website. Adding testimonials to your sales page, displaying your product’s rating (and encouraging customers to rate), as well as adding a review section (think Amazon) are all great ways to show potential customers your legitimacy. Not only are ratings beneficial for the customer but they also help the customer decide if they relate to existing customers. If so, they are more likely to buy or inquire. If not, they may not feel what you are offering is for them.

So what do you do if you have bad ratings or no ratings at all? First, determine where you need to improve and allocate the resources to do so immediately. Then – and only then – can you start building a new review database. Having no social validation is somewhat easier: reach out to past clients and ask for their opinion with the incentive of adding them to your website. Or send out a survey to your email list asking them to review a product or service they recently purchased. Automating this process makes earning reviews that much easier, so consider a system that does the follow-up work for you.


Offering a free guide, consultation call or other collateral related to your customer’s pain point is what media psychologists call ‘reciprocity in action.’ By offering something for free your customer will feel entitled to give something in return. This is a well-known psychological trigger used often in website design.

The key here is to create something of immense value and that speaks directly to the pain points of your customers so they actually use whatever it is you’ve given them. Nowadays marketers have started to slack off in creating free collateral and consumers have taken notice. That explains why so many are hesitant to give out their email address or why unsubscribe rates are increasing. If the value doesn’t match whatever is given in return, engagement and sales decrease.


Ethically executed (you can learn more about empowerment marketing here), scarcity triggers are legitimate ways to build interest and sales on your website. If your service or product is near selling out, it’s completely appropriate to say so. Instigating this trigger produces an effect in potential customers that builds on social validation (e.g. “other people like me want this”) and variety of choices (see below).

Creating scarcity can be done in the following ways:

  • Create a limited amount of the product or slots for your service
  • Give your enrollment period a deadline or countdown
  • Let your potential customers know how many spots are remaining


The order of which you arrange your products/services greatly impacts which products are more often sold. Items at the beginning are often clicked on first, with less popular or more expensive services toward the end. This may be intentional: your marketing funnel may be arranged so your customers step into your sales funnel at a particular price point or service level.

On the other hand, your website may have only one product or service to sell or you arrange your items based on most popular versus least. Many business owners prefer less customization rather than more, offering only one color option or a smaller variety of sizes. This particular mental trigger varies widely and depends primarily on your type of business and ultimate sales goals.


Also known as brand archetypes, personas effectively distinguish one brand from another in a competitive marketplace. They take into account what’s being sold, who the target market is and the story the brand conveys.

TOMS Shoes, Nike, Disney, Chanel…all the major brands use personas to stand-out. Success for each never came from sticking to sameness; success came after they developed personas and stuck to them throughout their marketing process.


A potential customer will scan your website, sales page or products and ask themselves, “Does this company hold similar values as me? Do they look like me? Do they look like I want to look like? Do they speak like me? Do they live like me (or how I want to live in the future)?”

Though a potential customer may not consciously think these questions, they subconsciously tally each answer within a matter of seconds as they interact with your brand or business. And even more important, each question relates specifically to them. Customers want to know if your clients are like them. They want to know if your brand enhances their image, intelligence or values.

The best way to use similarity on your website is to use the keywords, language and pain points your ideal customer uses. More than an avatar exercise, taking a deep dive into their psyches is essential for an ideal customer to immediately align with your brand upon landing at your website or sales page. (This is a great resource to get started)


Stories are at the heart of successful branding. A business thrives on a good story and the people who buy from you love to hear one. So why do so many businesses struggle to tell brand stories that help them stand-out and make a difference?

For starters, many people don’t know where to start. They have a story to tell but don’t know how to share it effectively. On the other hand, some businesses struggle telling a compelling story, one that stands for something in fear that they will lose sales instead of gain them.

If you’re struggling to tell a story, start here. Otherwise, take your story and start weaving it into every website page, social media channel and professional conversation you have. Thread elements of your story, your values and the company’s mission into every email, phone call or written word. This creates consistency and emotionally triggers your ideal customers, leading to brand loyalty in the long-term.

Using a combination of the seven mental triggers is recommended, using all of them is not required. Looking at your own website, which of these triggers could you include, expand upon or build into your website’s design?


It's time to stand out and make the money,
meaning and impact you know you are capable of.

Download the Brand Story Blueprint to get started with story today!

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