Tag Archives: persuasion

A “Felt Need” Is What Makes Us Buy

A “felt need” is what differentiates a vitamin from an aspirin: when we crave something (relief from pain), a product that satisfies that desire becomes a must-have rather than a nice-to-have. Realising this and re-framing a product in terms of this craving is an important step in ensuring a product’s success, say Dan and Chip Heath, authors of the excellent Switch and Made to Stick.

Becoming aware of this idea is what led to the success of Netflix and NetApp… as well as the demise of countless other companies. In a brief article describing how re-framing a nice-to-have product as a must-have is all about discovering and exploiting a specific “felt need”, the Heaths look at Ray Bards failed attempt at getting his “vitamin” book published and how realizing this idea of a felt need led him to become a successful publisher.

If entrepreneurs want to succeed […] they’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. […]

That aspirin quality is what Bard now looks for in a book. He says that successful books address a deep “felt need” — that is, readers hunger for the answers the book provides. Classic examples would be diet books, personal-finance books, and books that promise you mega success if you’ll just radiate positive energy to the universe, indicating your receptivity to mega success. Bard has become a talented diviner of felt need. Fully half of the books that he publishes become best sellers. […]

You’ve heard the old saying “If you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Don’t bet on it. The world’s felt need isn’t for a better mousetrap. It’s for a dead mouse. […]

When engineers or marketers or entrepreneurs get too close to their products, it’s easy to mistake a vitamin for an aspirin. If your team is flirting with delusion, a little love might point you in the right direction.

Persuasive Infomercial Sales Techniques

I don’t take infomercials very seriously, mainly due to how hilarious and absurd they are. However I’ve now been won over and can see their potential for certain product–market combinations. How did this miraculous change come about? Through a surprisingly enjoyable interview between Andrew Warner and the master of the infomercial, Tim Hawthorne.

From his many years of experience (he created the fourth ever infomercial, developing over 300 since then; has worked with some well-respected companies such as Apple, Nikon, 3M and Braun; and is responsible for about a billion dollars in client sales), Hawthorne talks extensively and insightfuly on the many infomercial sales techniques that his data show are the most persuasive. Two items that I particularly liked:

The most persuasive deal types:

Buy one get one free, or get the second one at half price. So you’re getting an immediate discount. Buy one and get a second one super size, so you’re actually doubling or tripling the order. Buy one and the second is actually going to be double the size. Drop a payment. Let’s say that your offer is three payments of $19.95, that’s your initial offer. But wait, if you call now, if you order now, we’ll actually make one payment for you. So it’s only two payments of $19.95. So that’s drop a payment. […]

I think one of the most powerful bonuses or premiums that you can offer is free shipping. A lot of people don’t understand the power of this. For some reason, if I’m going to pay $99.95 and there’s an additional $9.95 or $14.95 or $19.95 for shipping, that additional amount which is very important to many vendors, if you can sacrifice that, it has an amazing impact on people.

Words and phrases that trigger action:

“Free” is still, I think, and will always be considered the most powerful word in selling. After that we would probably think of words such as now, you or your, easy, easily, guarantee, break-through, revolutionary, fast, quick, instant, magic, new, special, exclusive, limited time, risk free, only, save, money back, money back guarantee, call now, and in terms of a classic phrase, “but wait, there’s more”.

Everybody kinds of kicks around that particular phrase and it’s used often. One of the reasons it’s used so often is that it’s so effective.

When Uncertainty Increases Persuasiveness

Common wisdom would suggest that the more certain a person is on a subject, the more persuasive and credible we perceive them to be. However a study looking looking at how certainty affects persuasiveness and perceived credibility found that the opposite is true:

Experts are more persuasive when they seem tentative about their conclusions […] but the opposite is true of novices, who grow more persuasive with increasing certainty.

This result held across the three experiments described in the paper (pdf, doi), but it’s worth noting that this only applies in situations where there is no objective truth — such as in consumer situations (the experiments used restaurant reviews, and I imagine product reviews would give similar results):

Earlier research […] had made the case that expressing certainty generally increases people’s persuasive power, because it boosts their perceived credibility. [However] those studies concerned topics such as witnesses testifying in court or stock market advisers giving stock recommendations where there is an objective truth or correct answer. In those instances […] people might rely on a person’s certainty as an indicator of his or her credibility. “In more subjective domains like consumer contexts, though, […] expressing certainty appears to have a more dynamic effect, giving a message more or less impact depending on who is expressing it.”

via Marginal Revolution / NYT

A Primer on Behaviour Change

Three necessary elements must be present for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability, Trigger — and understanding this is fundamental to understanding how to change behaviour. That’s according to B.J. Fogg and his team at the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, as described by their Behaviour Model.

To make behaviour change easier the team identified the fifteen ways that behaviour can be changed, described each with precision, and related them to a specific “psychology”. Together this information became the Behaviour Grid:

Behaviour Grid

To use the behaviour grid and to see the detailed information and advice for each behaviour type, follow the necessary steps in the useful Behaviour Wizard tool or view the grid directly.

The Statistics of Wikipedia’s Fundraising Campaign

Yesterday, 15th January 2011, Wikipedia celebrated its tenth birthday. Just over two weeks before, Wikipedia was also celebrating the close of its 2010 fundraising campaign where over sixteen million dollars was raised from over half a million donors in just fifty days.

The 2010 campaign was billed as being data-driven, with the Wikipedia volunteers “testing messages, banners, and landing pages & doing it all with an eye on integrity in data analysis”.

Naturally, all of the test data, analyses and findings are available, providing a fascinating overview of Wikipedia’s large-scale and effective campaign. Of particular interest:

If you’re ever involved in any form of fundraising (online or off), this dataset is essential reading–as will the planned “Fundraising Style Guide” that I hope will be released soon.

My favourite banner, which got eliminated toward the beginning of the campaign has to be:

One day people will look back and wonder what it was like not to know.

And if you’re interested in what Jimmy Wales had to say about his face been featured on almost every Wikipedia page for the duration of the campaign, BBC’s recent profile on the Wikipedia founder will satisfy your interest.

via @zambonini