Infomercials have been around for decades and are responsible for selling billions of dollars of merchandise, some of which immediately caused buyers remorse. Recently by changing just three words a copywriter set the record for sales of one product. Before I reveal the three words let me explain a little about the man who is the acknowledged master of influence and persuasion.
Dr. Robert Cialdini first came to be known as the persuasion expert when he wrote Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, now in its fifth edition, many years ago. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner, was so impressed he gave Cialdini one share of Berkshire Hathaway stock for his service to mankind. That may not seem like much until you realize that one share is worth $90,000.
Influence focused on the six principles of influence, which are:
Reciprocation – a favor is always returned.
Commitment and consistency – If people commit, verbally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment.
Social proof – People will do things or buy things they see other people doing or buying.
Authority – People tend to obey or follow authority figures.
Liking – People are easily persuaded by other people they like. People buy from people they like.
Scarcity – Perceived scarcity will generate demand.
Finally, after all these years Cialdini has joined coauthors Goldstein and Martin to publish a follow up: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.
Yes builds upon the earlier classic using the six principles. Each of the 50 chapters begins with a premise; explains the methods used to prove it, and then its application in the real world. All this is done in an average of 4 pages.
Ok here’s the explanation of the three magic words that created the sales record.
Think how often you have heard the call to action: “Operators are waiting, please call now.” What do you see in your minds eye when you hear that phrase? I see a bunch of bored women sitting at a row of tables waiting for the phone to ring. This tells me that there is no urgency to call because not that many people want the product. The phrase was changed to “if operators are busy, please call again.” Now due to the principle of social proof everybody will be calling and if I want mine I better call before the lines are jammed. This also plays into the principle of scarcity that warns me there may not be enough of the product for me to get mine. I better hurry.
Here are a few other chapters and how it relates to our industry.
Chapter 16 “How can a simple question drastically increase support for you and your ideas?” Many restaurants suffer from no shows and so do many cleaning companies. Instead of telling customers “please call if you have to cancel” it was changed to “will you please call if you have to cancel?” Everyone says yes to this question and they feel they must be consistent with their commitment. Changing the question dropped the no show rate from 30% to 10%. In our business this could be used in other areas such as “will you recommend us to your friends and family?”
Chapter 22 “How can we show off what we know without being labeled a showoff?” The study concerned a group of doctors complaining that they couldn’t convince their patients to follow the exercise recommendations. When the authors looked at the examination rooms they noticed the walls were blank. They recommended the doctor’s place their framed diplomas and medical degrees on the walls. The patients began complying because what else do you have to do while waiting in the exam room but read their diplomas and certificates.
The lesson for us is to wear our IICRC patches on our uniforms and place our logos on our vans and in our advertising. This follows the rule of authority.
Chapter 38 “How can rhyme make your influence climb?” We can think of many advertising slogans that use rhyming. Even advertising that hasn’t been heard in 40 years still sticks in my mind. Fill in the blank Winston tastes good like a cigarette _____.
Researchers explained that rhyming phrases are characterized by greater processing fluency. Because people associate easier information fluency, the rhyming statements are actually judged as more accurate. I have seen this work in our industry with a California cleaner named Dennis Bryan. His slogan is “Want faster dryin’ call Dennis Bryan.”
Chapter 41 “What can a box of crayons teach us about persuasion?” When I was a kid with my whopping box of 8 crayons we had the basics, red, blue, yellow, brown etc. Today the boxes have exotic colors such as Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown or Laser Lemon. If you want to get a little closer to home when was the last time you went to a carpet store and saw a carpet named beige?
The researchers test proved that names that fall into the unexpected descriptive category (e.g. Kermit green) or the ambiguous category
(millennium orange) create a sense of mystery and intrigue that leads potential customers to consider the positive aspects of your goods and services.
Once again in the cleaning industry this can play a role in package pricing. Instead of calling it silver, gold and platinum packages use names such as healthy home cleaning, mother-in-law is coming cleaning, or kids are finally back in school cleaning package.
I have given you examples from five different chapters. With 45 other chapters you should be able to come up with other persuasive ideas for your business.
Amazon.com has both Influence and Yes! on sale with free shipping. If I can’t persuade you to take advantage of this offer I need to reread the book.