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“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, what is it?”
“Do you prefer x or y?”
When you answer, off you go, down the rabbit hole.
The foot in the door phenomenon is amazing in its simplicity and effectiveness. You’re likely intimate with the foot-in-the-door technique that attempts to bring out the foot-in-the-door phenomenon.
“I’m just going to do a small job so Mr. James can see how well I work.”
“Sounds like a plan, once you get your foot-in-the-door, they’ll have no choice but to give you a full-time gig.”
How about when you pass by a perfume counter at the mall?
“Hey, do you have a second; I’d like to get your opinion on two scents?”
“Okay, what do you think of this one *sprays* and this one *sprays*?”
“I like the first one better.”
“Oh yea, why?”
And off you go, again, down the rabbit hole of the sales pitch. Or as I like to say, you’ve entered the seduction. You may or may not buy, but the salesperson has increased their chances of making you say yes.
It seems like a big leap right? Just because you gave your opinion doesn’t mean you’ll buy what they’re selling — right?
Well, I hate to say it, but the research proves you’re more likely to buy it. We’re much more likely to agree to a smaller request after having agreed to a smaller one.
I’ll show you some of the research and the applications of the foot-in-the-door-phenomenon in a second.
First, let me ask you, why do you think it happens? Why do you think this psychological phenomenon works so well?
Hint: It has to do with the consistency effect.
Just take a moment to chew on it before I tell you what happens when we fall for the foot-in-the-door technique.
The foot-in-the-door-phenomenon is the increased likelihood of humans to agree to larger requests after first agreeing to smaller ones.
For example, if you want your partner to cook dinner with you, get them to do it after you go shopping for the ingredients together.
The foot-in-the-door technique (FITD or FTID) occurs when you understand the foot-in-the-door phenomenon and deliberately use it to your advantage. Instead of asking your tribe to buy your super-duper cool $1000 gizmo, you ask if they’d like to try it first.
Buzzsumo and other SaaS companies do this often. Usually, it’s with no credit card required.
In a nutshell, the foot-in-the-door technique is getting beyond the first obstacle and setting up a continued interaction. It likely got its name from aggressive salesmen who would literally stick their foot in the doors of customers. That way, you couldn’t slam it and would have to hear their message.
Annoying? Damn straight. Effective? To an extent.
The applications go well beyond how you’re going to cook dinner tonight.
This one’s a little dubious, but it’ll likely work unless your friend really doesn’t have the money.
How about this one:
How many people do you think would sign up?
You can take advantage of the foot in the door phenomenon in — quite literally —every sphere of human endeavor. Love, sales, sportsmanship, friendship, and marketing — definitely marketing — are just a few of its applications.
In 1966, two researchers — Jonathan L. Freedman and Scott C. Fraser —from Stanford University determined how compliant we truly are. They wanted to find out if we’re more likely to agree to larger request after agreeing to a smaller request.
There were four groups of people selected to test the hypothesis. In the first group, people were asked for a small favor, carried it out, and were then asked for a larger one. For the second group, people were asked for a small favor, didn’t carry it out, and were then asked for a large one. In the third group, people interacted with the experimenter but no request was made — this was done to serve as a control. For the last group, people were only asked for a large favor.
In a field experiment, housewives were asked to allow a survey team of five or six men to come into their homes for 2 hours to classify the household products they used.
This large request was made under four different conditions: after an initial contact in which the subject had been asked to answer a few questions about the kinds of soaps she used, and the questions were actually asked (Performance condition) ; after an identical contact in which the questions were not actually asked (Agree-Only condition) ; after an initial contact in which no request was made (Familiarization condition) ; or after no initial contact (One-Contact condition).
The dependent measure was simply whether or not the subject agreed to the large request.
55% of people who originally agreed to and carried out the small favor (performance condition) agreed to the big favor. People in the one-contact condition group who agreed to a large favor were only 22%.
It’s interesting to note that just getting people to agree to do it (agree-only condition) was enough to increase the likelihood of them performing the larger task.
In another study, it was discovered that individuals are more likely to agree to the larger request if there is a reasonable time interval between the two.
Further reading about the foot-in-the-door phenomenon and the applications of the technique.
When Manipulation Backfires: The Effect of Time Delay and Requester on The Foot-In-The-Door Technique
The Effects of Monetary Incentives and Labeling on the Foot-In-The-Door Effect: Evidence for a Self-Perception Process
Why do you think it happens? Why do you think the foot-in-the-door technique works so well?
Many psychologists believe that when a person responds positively to a small request — a small commitment – their self-image changes slightly. It’s akin to buying with emotion and justifying with facts.
They’ve done something so they now feel a certain way about themselves to explain why they performed the action.
Because there’s been a shift in their self-perception, they become more pliant to another request that’s in line with the newly created self-image. They become the type of person that identifies with that or behave like that.
Humans like to be congruent.
The whole premise of what we’ve been saying is to start with a small request and work your way up to a larger request.
Here’s the cincher, to increase the likelihood of compliance, you’ve got to make your larger request congruent with the smaller one.
We like congruence.
That means you can’t jump off the deep end and ask someone to sign up to a mailing list about dogs then send offers about cats — or make money in your sleep offers.
This may be my favorite use of the FITD technique. As you’re well aware, permission marketing is more effective than any other type of marketing. Nothing can beat out a group of people who’ve raised their hands and said they want to hear from you regularly.
It’s not a wham-bam thank you ma’am scenario. It’s more of a wine and dine on the Riviera kind of scenario.
Make it count.
The first step is — of course — asking for the email address. Salient optin offers are very effective at getting people to sign up. Almost impossible to beat when they’re combined with the foot-in-the-door phenomenon.
An email optin that appears when you land on my website takes advantage of FITD and salience. The first step is to ask a question.
The next step — depending on what you answer — will show you a message. The most important part here isn’t the actual question that I ask. The important part is the fact that you answered instead of exiting. You’ve created a micro-commitment just like the housewives in the Freedman and Fraser Experiment.
The next step is, of course, getting the visitor to sign up.
Once you’ve gotten beyond the major hurdle of being in the inbox, the next step is to make that relationship a good one. Always building from one commitment to the next.
Remember the Riviera.
The slow build up makes it easier for you when you do intend to pitch them. In their mind, they’re the kind of person that responds positively to your requests.
Conversely, you can also flip the script. Instead of requesting permission, you make them request permission.
To sign up for our private community of entrepreneurs, you have to request an invite and give a decent reason. We don’t accept blank answers. We don’t accept lazy answers. No, you don’t have to write a five-page sermon, but you do have to be reasonable.
Google also did this for a while with project fi.
The request an invite works so well for a simple reason. The person that starts the interaction is showing you they’re highly engaged. They’re more likely to interact with your messages as you gradually up the level of commitment.
As you’re probably well aware by now, I’m big on email. If you get my newsletter then you’re the shit — virtual high five.
The welcome email is prime inbox real estate and you can go one of two ways, long or short. I opt for long. In it, I’ll let you know what you can expect from The Experiment, how often I’ll email you, and a little bit about me.
Those are well and good, but I ask a question. I ask what your biggest challenge is. The people who reply give insightful answers. It’s a treasure trove of market research, but more importantly, it builds meaningful engagement.
These are the people who open my emails, forward them, give me feedback, share my articles, and appreciate my work. They’re the ones who guide the work on this website.
Not random people on the internet.
It all started with me asking a question about them and they committed to the relationship by answering. It was a small commitment that opened the door for continued interaction.
This is how you escalate the commitment.
Ask for a favor just like the man on the hundred dollar bill. Benjamin Franklin had a problem with someone who just didn’t like him. The man — a rival legislator — happened to be very influential.
Ben got over this issue by asking for a small favor. He asked to borrow a rare book and after that, the legislator seemed to like him more. It all started with a favor. The premise here is the same as I describe with the foot in the door technique.
The self-image of the rival legislator changed when he lent Ben the book. He unconsciously justified his actions by telling himself that he’s the kind of person that does favors for Ben.
In emails, you can do the same thing. Depending on your relationship with your tribe, you can ask for a small favor in almost anything.
The only limit is your imagination.
OptinMonster sent a survey to their customers a few weeks before rolling out a series of changes. This is the email they sent me asking to help them decide what changes to add in the new feature set.
After they added the changes, OptinMonster upped the prices for their plans across the board. Luckily, I have the opportunity of upgrading to a larger plan before the changes take effect.
I’m more committed to OptinMonster because I helped them make a better product. Their foot is in my door. The next logical step was for me to upgrade my account to get the new features and the best deal available.
Longer surveys are another way to build a vested interest with your tribe. Ramit Sethi went off topic at one point and was trying to pitch a fitness program. I don’t know where the idea came from, but it felt — strange.
After the entire sales cycle, he sent out a survey. In it, he asked a few questions to help his team understand why we didn’t buy the course.
Anyone that answers the survey has a greater commitment because they did something to “help” Ramit. In the future, they’ll be more likely to help him again. The future may consist of another premium course, a webinar, or a joint donation to a worthy cause.
I can talk about webinars for days. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough bandwidth to host one right now.
Webinars or Google Hangouts are the closest you get to a large group of people at once. They’re more intimate, interactive, and enjoyable for everyone involved. The commitment required to pull off a successful one is also higher.
That’s one of the reasons the drop off rate is so much higher. The time has to be right, the message has to be on point, and the technology can’t fail you.
Joanna from CopyHackers does a great job of not only asking for the webinar signup but keeping you engaged throughout the entire process.
It’s no secret that webinars are a great way to launch or sell great products to your tribe.
Hangouts work much the same way except you don’t need to register. Bottom line, it’s a higher level of commitment and is usually the final nudge someone needs to buy something.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the world is no longer populated by salesmen selling expensive vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Now, we have people building awesome tribes all over the world. Tribes that create movements.
You could be one of the people who builds a thriving tribe faster than you thought possible. Use the foot in the door technique to help your tribe get to where they want to be.
Get them there with the escalating commitment that FITD brings. When you do it right, there won’t be any pressure from you. The pressure will come from them and it’ll be much more effective.
Let me know how you’re using the foot-in-the-door phenomenon in your blogs, business, social media in the comments and don’t forget to share.