365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #15-24

For this post I’ve put 10 ways to persuade and motivate altogether in one post!

15. Talk first – Research shows that people like to follow a leader and that the person who talks first when a group gets together becomes the leader.

16. Give a gift – When someone gives you a gift you feel indebted and will likely want to give something in return. If you want to increase the likelihood that someone will do something, give them a gift first, and then ask for what you want/need. Whether a website give away, free trial subscription or free eBook include an informative video – give away something of value before asking for people to sign up or make a purchase.

17. Ask for more than what you need/want – Research shows that people are more likely to say yes to your request if you ask for something larger than what you really want first. When your initial request is denied, come back with a smaller one (the one you really wanted). Not only will they be more likely to say yes, they will be more committed to following through if it is a second request.

18. Use nouns – When you use a noun it evokes group identity. People are more likely to take an action when they feel part of a group. For example, instead of having a button on your website that says “Donate Now,” phrase it as “Be A Donor.” Instead of “Join Now” use “Be A Member.”

19. Say how many other people are doing it – Research shows that we look to what other people are doing to decide what we should do. If we think a lot of people are doing something we are more likely to do it too. Especially if the situation is ambiguous or uncertain. Make reference to how many people have already taken the desired action. “Over 2,500 people have already downloaded the e-book.”

20. Model the behavior – Mirror neurons in our brain make us likely to imitate what others are doing. Show someone else taking the same action. For example, have a video that shows someone filling out the form on the website and pressing the “Sign Me Up” button.

21. Imitate others’ body gestures – In a face-to-face interaction imitate what other people are doing. If they sit back, you should sit back. If they put their hands on the table, put your hands on the table. Research shows that people that imitated the other person’s body language were rated as being more likable and were more persuasive.

22. Be passionate and excited about your idea – Emotions are contagious. If you are passionate and excited about your idea it will be conveyed through your voice and body language and others will become passionate and excited too.

23. Use strong emotions (positive or negative) – If you want something to go viral then use strong emotions. Messages or ideas that include strong emotions go viral more than messages without emotions. It doesn’t even matter if the emotion is positive or negative. Just showing strong emotions inspires people to act.

24. Synchronous behavior – If you want to bond a group have them do something together and preferably something rhythmic. When we engage in rhythmic behavior as a group (singing, drumming, dancing), the neurochemical oxytocin is released. Oxytocin makes us feel a sense of bonding with those around us.

What do you think? Have you used any of these 10?

For more information check out my books, or better yet, sign up for one of our in-person or online video courses.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #13–Talk to the unconscious

picture of an iceberg“We want them to type in their email and click on the “Join” button”, was the response from my client as I asked him what was the one action he wanted people to take on his landing page. Good. That was clear. But now the question was what else should be on the landing page to persuade people to click.

Like most of my clients the landing page was filled with lots of reasons why the visitor should click and join, but almost all of those reasons were “logical”, and most were about price. The people coming to the landing page didn’t have a relationship with this company yet — it was unlikely they would click and join based on a few weak logical arguments.

I started asking questions:

“What are your potential customers afraid of?”

“What makes them mad or frustrated?”

“Do they feel taken advantage of?”

“How could they feel like they were a hero?”

Silence. My client was ready to tell me all the features and benefits that his service would provide, but he didn’t really know about the emotional state of his potential customers.

That’s not uncommon. In my experience, many teams bringing new products and services to market know only the barest of information about their customers and potential customers, and rarely have done actual audience research on the unconscious needs, emotions, and feelings of their target audience.

Which means that their landing pages, marketing campaigns and advertising are hit and miss at best.

Research in psychology over the past several years shows us clearly that most mental processing occurs unconsciously. Most of the decisions we make are fueled by our unconscious. It is only after we’ve decided to act that we figure out a conscious, logical reason for why we did what we did. We use that conscious logical reason to explain our decisions and actions to ourselves and others, so it’s important to provide those logical reasons. But if you really want to persuade and motivate someone to take action you have to talk to the unconscious. The unconscious understands things like:

  • fear
  • loss
  • sex
  • food
  • love
  • belonging
  • being a hero
  • danger
  • challenge
  • mastery

The unconscious pays attention to words if they are short and evoke feelings. But it pays much more attention to pictures, music, and moving images (i.e. video).

If you want to persuade and motivate people to take action you need to know what they are afraid of, afraid of losing, how they feel they can “save” the day, and/or what will make them feel loved or part of the group. Then you need to use some of those ideas in your words, headlines, and have pictures, video, and music that matches. If you want to persuade and motivate people you have to talk to the unconscious.

What do you think? Do you know the unconscious factors and messages that persuade and motivate your target audience?

If you would like to learn more about the research on unconscious mental processing, I recommend:

Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy Wilson

or my book, How To Get People To Do Stuff

and consider attending my  seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #12 – Give them a warm beverage

drawing of a coffee cup with steam

You have an important meeting with a client first thing tomorrow morning. The main contact, Jeremy, is unhappy with some of the deliverables on the last project. He has been a little cold and distant with you on the phone and through email recently. This is the first time he is coming in to the office in a while, and you want to try and break the ice.

According to Joshua Ackerman you should take a somewhat literal interpretation of the idea of breaking the ice. You should try to warm him up by offering him a warm coffee or tea. Use a cup or mug where he can feel the heat through his hands, and, ideally, see if you can get him to hold the beverage while you talk to him.

According to Ackerman’s research this will not only thaw out his hands, but will also make him warm up towards you. When people hold a warm cup then they feel that the person or people they are interacting with have a warmer personality. It’s called “haptic sensations” or “embodied cognition”.

Conversely, DON’T offer Jeremy a cold can of soda or ice water. That will make him judge you as having a cold personality.

Here’s the research:

Ackerman, Joshua M., Christopher Nocera, and John Bargh. 2010. “Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions.” Science 328(5986): 1712–15. doi: 10.1126/science.1189993.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #11 Identify The Operating Self-Story

What's Your Story?

Someone knocks on your door. You recognize him as a kid from your neighborhood. He’s selling popcorn as a fundraiser for a club he belongs to at school. The club is trying to go to the state convention. How do you react?

It depends on the story, or persona, you have of yourself when it comes to topics such as school, fundraising, and your relationship to your neighborhood.

Here’s one story you might relate to:

“I’m a very busy person. When I’m at home I want to relax, not get bombarded with people at the door selling things. I don’t like it when people bother me at home with these fundraising schemes. The schools should pay for these trips and not make us buy this overpriced popcorn. This poor kid isn’t to blame, but I’m not going to buy the popcorn because it just perpetuates this behavior. Someone has got to act right on this. I’m the kind of person who does what is right on principle. I’m going to say no nicely, but firmly.”

Or maybe you can relate to this story:

“Oh, isn’t that great that the kids are going to the state convention. I remember when I went on a similar trip when I was in high school. It was really fun. Maybe not all that educational, but definitely fun! I’m the kind of person who encourages students to have lots of experiences outside of our own neighborhood. I am the kind of person who supports the school. I’ll buy some popcorn and help this kid out.”

Or maybe you can relate to this story:

“It kind of annoys me that there are always these kids selling things. But this is part of being a good neighbor. I’m part of the community. I am a good citizen of our neighborhood. I’ll buy the popcorn because that’s what a good community member would do.”

We all have stories we tell ourselves about who we are and why we do what we do. These stories are critical in our behavior. If you want people to change their behavior, one of the most powerful things you can do is get them to first change their self-story. This, in turn, will lead to behavior change. In subsequent posts I’ll explain how this works in more detail.

The first step is to understand what is the current operating self-story. Once you’ve identified that, then you are ready to help the person craft and different story that will lead to different behavior.

What do you think? Are you aware of your own self-stories that affect your behavior? What about the self stories and behavior of people whose behavior you want to change? Friends? Family? Customers? Have you done your research so you know what the current operating self-story is?

The book on the power of stories to change behavior is Redirect, by Timothy Wilson.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #10 Pitch When People Feel Regret

Picture of woman with head in handsOf all the situations and feelings that motivate people to take action, regret is one of the most powerful. People don’t like to feel regret and will do a lot to avoid it. That’s not surprising, but you might be surprised to find out that the more opportunity people feel they have, the more regret they tend to feel about a situation. If people feel that they could have done something differently, the more regret they feel with their action or decision. If they feel that they had no choice in their decision or action, then they feel less regret.

Related to this is the idea of whether there is a clear corrective action that could have been taken. If people feel they had a choice, and if they feel they had a clear, corrective action, and yet they don’t take that action, that is when they feel the most regret.

For example, let’s say you’re choosing a restaurant for an upcoming special event. You have three great restaurants that are available on the date you want. You choose one of the three and negotiate the menu with the restaurant staff. At the last minute the restaurant calls and changes the menu you had planned. You resist initially, but eventually give up. You’re not at all happy with the food they provide during the event. You could have taken corrective action (insisted they stick with the menu), or picked a different restaurant to start with, or switched to one of the other restaurants. But you didn’t do any of those things. So you had opportunity and you had clear corrective actions. In this situation you’ll feel a lot of regret, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

If there’s only one restaurant available on the date you want to hold the event, and it only offers one set of menu choices, then you have little choice. Even though you might rate the food as good or as bad as in the first example, you’ll feel less regret, less disappointment, and less dissatisfaction.

Regret Inspires Action — Because people don’t like feeling regret, and because they feel the most regret about things they can fix, regret is actually a motivator for action. If people feel regret, then that’s when they are highly likely to take action. And people will often take an action to avoid regret before it happens.

What do you think? Are you willing point out to people the likelihood that if they don’t take the action you want them to take, or buy the product NOW that you want them to buy that they will regret the action later? If you “play the regret” card you are more likely to get them to take an action. Are you willing to do that or does that seem too manipulative?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #9 Give Feedback Without Praise

Picture of two sillouetted people talkingDuring this series on 365 Ways To Persuade and Motivate I’ve had a few posts about rewards and also some about the desire for mastery. One way to reward people is to give them praise (“Wow, you did a great job on that report”). And because we want to motivate people, and we think praise is a reward, we may tend to use it a lot. But if you are trying to stimulate someone’s internal desire for mastery, then using praise is actually counter-productive.

Rewards are a type of extrinsic motivation. The motivation is coming from outside the person. It’s external, hence “extrinsic”. Praise is extrinsic. But if you have decided to use the desire of mastery to motivate people, instead of using rewards, you are using intrinsic motivation. The motivation is coming from inside the person. And the interesting thing is that extrinsic praise tends to dampen intrinsic motivation coming from the desire for mastery.

In a previous post I talked about how important feedback is if you are trying to stimulate the desire for mastery. You need to give lots of feedback to people on how they are doing in order to keep that intrinsic motivation going. BUT it’s important to note that research by Mark Lepper shows that if you give a reward when people do something it dampens their desire to do it for intrinsic reasons.

Valerie Shute analyzed hundreds of research studies on the use of feedback, and she reports that the best feedback separates objective feedback from praise. This makes sense in thinking about Mark Lepper’s research too. People don’t need your praise to keep going,and switching to praise takes the focus off of intrinsic motivation and puts it on extrinsic motivation. This may actually decrease the desire for mastery.

Combining feedback on what the person did incorrectly and what needs to change with praise can be confusing to the person receiving the feedback. Here’s an example. Let’s say Jerome is teaching Kathleen how to be a barista in a coffee shop. He has her try making a cup of coffee. Then he gives her feedback: “You didn’t clean out the filter thoroughly enough. All the residue needs to be flushed out. Let’s give that another try.”

His feedback was objective and did not include praise. What if Jerome had said, “You didn’t clean out the filter thoroughly enough. All the residue needs to be flushed out. Great job, though, for your first time. You’re really getting the hang of it! Let’s give that another try.”

The second way combines feedback and praise. It might make Jerome feel better, but it probably confuses Kathleen. Did she do the cleaning correctly or not?

You are going to have to decide whether to use the desire for mastery to motivate a particular person in a particular situation, or a reward. The desire for mastery is more powerful, so if possible try that first. And don’t mix in rewards with desire for mastery techniques. If you are going for the desire for mastery then keep your feedback objective and free of praise.

What do you think? Have you tried different kinds of feedback?

Here are the Shute and Lepper references:

Shute, Valerie. 2007. Focus on Formative Feedback. http://www.ets.org/Media/ Research/pdf/RR-07-11.pdf.

Lepper, Mark, David Greene, and Richard Nisbett. 1973. “Undermining children’s intrinsic interest with extrinsic reward: A test of the ‘overjustification’ hypothesis.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 28(1): 129–37.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways to Persuade And Motivate: #8 Use The Right Reward

Picture of a rat in a skinner boxSince starting to write the last few blog posts on rewards I’ve had some questions on what is a reward. So I thought I’d take this blog to write about what makes a reward a reward and how to pick the “right” one.

When B.F. Skinner researched rewards he didn’t call them rewards. He called them “reinforcers”. In his research an effective reinforcer is anything that, when you give it, results in an increase in the desired behavior. Which means that what is an effective reward depends on what a particular person feels is an effective reward. The list of possible rewards or reinforcers is infinite. What is it that a person might want? Here are some common reinforcers:

  • Money
  • Discounts
  • Food
  • Sex
  • Attention
  • Praise
  • Love
  • Fun

And on and on. In order to pick an effective reward, ideally you know your audience and you know what they want. If you haven’t done that research, then you will be using trial and error to figure out what an effective reward is for your audience. I suggest you do some research ahead of time so you know what to use as a reward for your particular audience and situation.

What do you think? How do you go about picking what is the best reward?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #7 Give Rewards Unpredictably To Sustain A Behavior

picture of slot machines on a casino floorIn the last blog post I wrote about using a continuous reinforcement schedule when you want to establish a new behavior. And I hinted that you should change that schedule after the behavior is established.

One of the reward “schedules” that BF Skinner researched is called a variable ratio schedule. It’s called “variable” because you don’t reward the behavior every time. You vary how often the person gets a reward when they do the target behavior. And it’s called “ratio” because you give a reward based on the number of times a person has done the behavior (rather than, for example, rewarding someone based on time – for example giving a reward the first time the person does the behavior after 5 minutes has elapsed).

In a variable ratio schedule you may decide that you are going to reward the behavior, on average, every 5 times the person does the behavior, but you vary it, so sometimes you give the reward the third time they do the behavior, sometimes the 7th time, sometimes the 2nd time, etc. It averages out to every 5 times.

Let’s take the example of trying to get your employee to turn in expense reports on time. At first you would reward them every time they turn in the expense report on time (as we discussed in the previous blog post on continuous reinforcement).

Once the behavior is established, however, you would then switch to only rewarding them every 3 or 5 or 7 times on average. This is the variable ratio schedule.

Skinner found that variable ratio schedules have two benefits:

a)    they result in the most instances of the behavior than any of the other schedules (i.e., people  will keep handing in the expense report on time), and

b)   they result in behaviors that Skinner said were “hard to extinguish”, which is “psychology speak” for the idea that the behavior persists over time, even when rewards aren’t being given any more.

If you want to see another example of a variable ratio schedule, go to a casino. Slot machines are a very effective example of a variable ratio schedule. The casinos have studied the science of rewards and they use them to get people to play and keep playing.

Can you think of any more variable ratio schedule examples that you’ve experienced or tried?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.

365 Ways To Persuade And Motivate: #6 Reward Every Time To Establish A New Behavior

Picture that says reward pointsRewards are one of the most common ways that people think of to get other people to do stuff. In the talks that I give on the topic I tell people that rewards are actually one of the least effective ways to get people to do stuff! Rewards are one of the seven ways I cover in my book How To Get People To Do Stuff. And almost all of the other 6 are more powerful than using rewards.

But, having given that caveat, people are used to giving and receiving rewards. So if you are going to use rewards to motivate people, you’d better know the science behind rewards. There are effective ways to use rewards and ineffective ways.

in the 1950’s B.F. Skinner researched rewards — when to give them and how often to give them. He described reward “schedules” and the effect of using different schedules. For example, should you reward someone every time they do the behavior you are looking for? Or just sometimes?

In this post I want to tackle the question of what schedule to use if you are trying to establish a new behavior. In future posts I’ll cover what kind of reward schedule to use after the behavior is established.

Let’s say that you have an employee that doesn’t turn in his expense reports on time. You decide to try out using rewards to encourage him to get the expense reports in. Since he currently doesn’t ‘do this behavior, you are trying to establish a new behavior. In this situation the best thing to do is to reward him every time he turns his expense report in on time.

Or, in another example, let’s say that you want your customers to use a new feature  of your software that you provide as an online app. It’s new, so they aren’t used to using it. It hasn’t become part of their usual way of using your product. You should reward them (for example, with points, or a credit towards next month’s bill) every time that they use the feature.

These are examples of “continuous reinforcement schedules” — you reward every time the behavior occurs. In the next blog post I’ll explain what you should do after the new behavior is established. So stay tuned!

What do you think? Have you tried using rewards to get people to do stuff? Have you tried using a continuous reinforcement schedule to establish new behavior?

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.


365 Ways to Persuade And Motivate: #5 Point Out How People Are Connected

picture of a man jogging in placeWhen people feel connected to each other then they are more motivated to work together. Even pointing out how people are connected in small ways affects behavior.

Gregory Walton is a professor at Stanford who has studied the effects of belonging on behavior. In one of his experiments, Walton found that when college students believed they shared a birthday with another student, they were more motivated to complete a task with that student and performed better on the task. He found the same effect with four and five year olds.

In another study Walton put two people in a room. One was a study participant and the other was part of the experiment. Walton told the participant that they had the same birthday as the other person in the room. When the other person  jogged in place and raised his or her heart rate the participant’s heart rate went up too, even though he or she was not jogging in place, as long as Walton had established a connection (i.e., the same birthday). Walton concluded that it’s easy for people to take on the goals, motivations, emotions, and even physical reactions of people whom they feel even minimally connected to.

In other research Walton found that when people feel they are working with others as a team to reach a goal, they are more motivated to achieve the goal, even without any extrinsic reward, than if they are working alone. They work harder and longer at the task, become more absorbed and perform better.

You can persuade people to work harder and to work together if you have them interact with other people and point out to them two things: that they are connected to the other people and how they are connected.

What do you think? Have you found this to be true?

Here’s a reference for the Gregory Walton studies:

Walton, Gregory M., Geoffrey Cohen, David Cwir, and Steven Spencer. 2012. “Mere belonging: The power of social connections.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 102(3): 513–32. doi: 10.1037/a0025731.

To learn more check out our 1 day seminar on The Science of Persuasion.