Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The "Foot in the Door" Technique

Nobody questions the value of getting "a foot in the door." We all strive at one point or another to get a foot in the door with an employer, an institution of higher learning, or even a romantic relationship.



As a marketer, however, your interest in getting a foot in the door is more likely with your customers and a hopeful precursor to a big sale! A salesman who gets a foot in the door by getting customers to agree to a small initial request will undoubtedly find greater success with larger requests (think major sales $$!) down the line.



Freedman and Fraser's Compliance Experiment



One of the first studies to scientifically investigate the "foot in the door" phenomenon was the 1966 compliance experiment by Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C. Fraser. This experiment took place in two independent phases that used different approaches and test subjects. Because these studies were conducted on weekdays during the more conservative 1960s, the vast majority of test subjects were housewives.



The first Freedman and Fraser study divided 156 subjects into two basic groups. Both of these groups were telephoned by researchers who pretended to be from the consumer goods industry. One of the groups was contacted only once with a relatively large request. The other group was contacted twice, first with an initial small request and then with the much larger second request. In this case, the small request was to simply answer a few questions about kitchen products while the larger request, which came three days after the small request, was to allow someone to come into the home and catalog the contents of all their cabinets.



The second study essentially followed the same template as the first, but used the posting of a small and discrete window sign as its small request and the installation of a large and unattractive yard billboard as its large request.



The Effectiveness of the "Foot in the Door" Technique



The results of the Freedman and Fraser experiment were quite revealing. In the kitchen products study, subjects who agreed to the small first request were more than twice as likely to comply with the large second request. The results of second study backed up those of the first with significantly more people agreeing to place an eyesore of a billboard in their yard after previously agreeing to place a small sign in the window of their home or automobile. Perhaps most surprising, it did not even seem to matter that the promotional social message of the small sign (keeping California clean) was entirely different from that of the gaudy billboard (driving safely).



Modern Marketing Implications



The use of the phrase "a foot in the door" usually conjures images of the old fashioned door-to-door salesman who manages to wedge his wingtips against the doorjamb of your entryway after you answer your doorbell. And we all know that after he gets his foot in the door (or gets you to agree to a small initial request), he will undoubtedly try to make his way into your house (or get you to agree to a much larger second request).



But how does this sales technique work in the modern marketing landscape? In short, it's all about calls-to-action (CTAs).



Call Them into Action



If you are distributing printed material that ends with a CTA, you may want to consider how far to push your customer base with your initial request. Don't scare away a potential sale by asking too much too soon.



You can wait a bit for that big sale if it means building a comfortable and lasting rapport with your customers. Consider closing your marketing materials with a modest request or CTA and gain compliance for a big future payday!


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Leadership Ethics Lesson Courtesy of a Leeson

Although ethical behavior in business is often touted, it can be hard to attain in practice. That's because ethical behavior has to be practiced by every individual, every day. It's not the sort of thing that can be decided upon and implemented en masse. Leaders are often under particular pressure to be practical over ethical. The reasoning is often because hard decisions require frequent compromise, and ethics often come across as black-and-white perspectives that don't match the reality facing a decision-maker.



A Virtue You Can't Afford to Ignore



However, ignoring ethics can be a dangerous path. Nick Leeson provides a very vivid example of this. His name is well known in financial circles as the man who single-handedly put the Singapore financial markets into a panic and brought down one of Britain's most famous banks.



Leeson got his start early in banking as a clerk in 1985. At first, Leeson seemed to be a success. However, he began quickly playing outside the rules, and because he was bringing in big profits, Barings Bank ignored the risks.



By 1992, trades started going bad. Leeson packed the losses into a technical account originally designed as a dummy account for accounting errors. No one noticed, so he continued on his unethical path of hiding losses repeatedly. The tipping point came in January 1995 when Leeson placed a big trade between the Singapore and Japanese markets. Not expecting a major earthquake in Japan to throw both markets into a tailspin, Leeson realized the gig was up and went into hiding. Barings Bank folded a few weeks later owing ?827 million in losses, and eventually, Leeson went to prison.



Actions Speak Louder Than Words



Interestingly, following good ethics not only avoids situations like Leeson's, but it also works as a defense for a business leader. The adage, "actions speak louder than words" is true for ethics as well. Ethical behavior not only keeps employees behaving on the right side of the law, but it also gives managers and leaders incentive to work for more than just the bottom line. Ethics can incorporate greater goodwill for the community a business operates in, safety protection of employees and customers, market protection from unscrupulous players, and far better interaction with the government and regulators. All of which, in turn, help a company see a larger bottom line.



No question, the ethical path isn't always the easiest. However, leaders of companies and organizations need to remember that good ethics involve more than just an individual perspective; by the very nature of their role, top managers affect all of the organization and set an example for staff to follow and the community to model after. Good ethics can be far more than just a set of rules; it can be a powerful marketing/communication tool positively setting a business apart in the market from competitors and creating the long-term foundation for customer retention.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Learning to Listen: The Hard Way

In the 70s, Italian aid worker Ernesto Serelli learned to listen to clients the hard way. His amusing tale of how he "helped" a village in Africa grow tomatoes, only to see the harvest consumed in a single night by the local hippos, is a powerful and popular TED talk. While you won't want to miss this dynamic speaker, some key takeaways are outlined below:



Hippos and Tomatoes



Italian aid worker Ernesto Serelli tells the tale of one of his first experiences working in famine-plagued Africa in the 1970s. Bustling with good intentions and plenty of energy, he and his team arrived in the village they were to help and promptly began planting familiar varieties of vegetables in the fertile soil.



The local residents watched the process and despite efforts to engage and teach, did not take the aid workers agriculture lessons seriously or commit to growing. As the plants blossomed and bore amazing fruit, the workers celebrated the harvest and looked forward to showing the native people how much agriculture could do for them.



The night before the harvest, a herd of hippos swept ashore and ate every plant that had been so lovingly cultivated. The locals then revealed to the aid team that hippos had always eaten the crops planted in the verdant, riverside soil. When asked why they had not given the aid team this information weeks before, the answer was "No one asked us."



By rushing ahead and putting a plan in motion that they thought would solve the villager's problem instead of asking questions and discovering what had been tried in the past, the well-meaning aid workers totally missed the point. They also wasted weeks of time and plenty of resources that could have been dedicated elsewhere.



The Power of Listening



You may not be helping a hungry village in Africa, but the lesson of asking your prospect or clients the right questions to truly meet their needs applies to every interaction you have. Learning to listen is an important component for anyone in business. Fail to ask the right questions, and you could face a disaster.



Take the time to remember the hippos and tomatoes next time you speak with a new client about their needs, and make sure you take the time to ask the right questions before you charge ahead.



This TED Talk is an enduring favorite and an excellent reminder of why we need to stop and listen to what our clients are saying and why we need to take the time to understand what they've tried and what they need.