How to Get People to Do Things For You

By | 08.12.2015

What do you open first when you get the mail?
The handwritten envelope or the computer generated envelope?
Of course you open the handwritten envelope first. After all, how many handwritten envelopes do you see each week? Not too many.
Because you receive fewer handwritten envelopes than you do computergenerated, whether you know it or not, you’re tying more value to thesepersonalised letters.
Understanding that personalised and individualised objects – or hints of personalisation – matter a great deal, especially when influencing others, is the topic of today’s essay.
A couple of years ago I started studying various personalised andindividualised objects. It turns out I wasn’t the only person who wasinterested in this influential gold mine.
Randy Garner of Sam Houston State University (Huntsville) did abrilliant series of studies on Post-it Notes and just how influentialthey are.
Garner knows that marketers and salespeople need people to act. You need people to do stuff you want them to donow. Getting people to comply with anything that requires effort isextremely valuable to you and me.
Write this down: go buy Post-it Notes…TODAY.
Here’s what Garner did.
He found out whether a Post-it Note, with nothing written on it, influences.

Does the Post-it Note really influence?

In Study 1, he sent surveys by mail to a group of 150 professors. They would receive the following:
Group 1 A survey with a Post-it Note attached asking for the return of the completed survey.
Group 2 A survey with the same handwritten message on the cover letter instead of an attached Post-it Note.
Group 3 A survey with cover letter, but no handwritten message.
What happened?
Group 1 Recipients returned in 76% of cases.
Group 2 48%
Group 3 36%
How would you like to double the results you get in pretty much anything you want?
For a number of reasons, the Post-it Note is a goldmine. Garner nailed it before anyone else.
But it goes beyond results; this is about understanding why thePost-it Note works so well. It represents many powerful behavioraltriggers all in one little object.

    1. It doesn’t match the environment. The brain hates it.
    2. It gets attention first because of #1.
    3. It is personalized. (Difference between Group 2 and Group 3.)
    4. It is personalized to the point of an afterthought. (Difference between 1 and 2.)
    5. Ultimately, it is one person communicating with another important person. Almost as if it’s a favor or special request.

Is there magic in a little Post-it Note?

Garner has found the goldmine, but wants to see if there is magic inthe Post-it Note that we might not be able to explain but regardlesswould be incredibly valuable.
In Study 2 a blank Post-it Note is attached to one of the groups.
Group 1 A survey with a Post-it Note message.
Group 2 A survey with a blank Post-it Note attached.
Group 3 A survey with no Post-it Note.
The results?
Group 1 (Roughly the same packaging as Group 1 in the first study) 69% returned.
Group 2 43% returned with a blank Post-Ii Note.
Group 3 34% returned with no Post-it Note.
There might be a little magic in the actual Post-it Note, but thereality is… probably not. This is about Identity. The person sending the survey is personally asking me in a special way (not just writing onthe survey) to help them out.
Dr Garner could easily have stopped here, but there’s more to this than ultimate compliance.

Does the Post-it Note influence speed of compliance?

In Survey 3, Garner wanted to find out how fast people would get back a follow-up survey if there was a Post-it Note attached. And, how muchinformation would the person being surveyed return with that Post-itNote there vs a group of people with no Post-it Note?
Group 1 64% returned the packet in a SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope).
Group 2 42% returned the packet. (Similar to Study 2 Group 3.)
Group 1 Returned their SASE and survey in an average of about 4 days.
Group 2 Returned their SASE and survey in an average of about 5 1/2 days.
And Group 1 sent significantly more comments and answered other open ended questions with more words than did Group 2.
That’s where most university research stops.
What makes Garner’s special is that he wants to demonstrate whetherthis only aids compliance in simpler requests, or if the effect carriesto more involved tasks.

Does a personalized Post-it Note create even more magic?

Garner sends 90 participants a long survey and 90 a short survey (one half the size).
Each group was subdivided into three smaller groups.
Group A Received a Post-it Note request.
Group B Received a personalized Post-it Note request with the person’s name on it as well as “thank you” and Garner’sinitials at the bottom of the sticky note.
Group C Received no Post-it Note.
What happened?
Post-it Note/Personalized Note/No Note
Long Version 40% / 67% / 13%
Short Version 70% / 77% / 33%
It appears that if the task is simple, the simple Post-it Noterequest needs no further personalisation. The effect is strong andsignificant in both experimental conditions.
But, when the task is more involved, the personalized note wassignificantly more effective than the simple standard Post-it Noterequest.

Use caution: Post-it Note influence is covert influence

In follow-up conversations, recipients often reported either notremembering the Post-it Note or that it wasn’t important to them.
Garner’s research is a landmark series of studies in influence.Subtle influence can cause compliance if you use the correct triggers.And to use the correct triggers means you have to think about whatmatters in influence.
Influence is power. Pure and simple. Be wise when you implement that power.

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