Understanding Authority: The Milgram Experiment

Back in the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment which was to become known as “The Milgram Experiment.”

Dr. Milgram wanted to find out why so many people in Nazi Germany followed the orders of Hitler’s regime with seemingly little questioning. He surmised that either the whole country was evil or that something else was at play. His experiment aimed at testing what that something else might be.

Dr. Milgram and his team devised a series of social psychology experiments. To get volunteers, they placed an ad looking for individuals who would be willing to administer a “learning test” to students.

When volunteers arrived at Dr. Milgram’s lab, they were greeted by what seemed to be an authority figure wearing an official-looking coat. Volunteers were instructed to sit at a table with a rather intimidating-looking shock-generating machine on it. The machine had switches labeled with terms like “slight shock,” “moderate shock,” “danger: severe shock,” and two others that simply read “XXX.”

Each volunteer was to take on the role of the “teacher” in the experiment. The teacher was to deliver a shock to the student each time a wrong answer was given. While volunteers believed they were delivering a real shock to students, the students were actually volunteer actors who were pretending to be shocked when the switch was pressed.

With each incorrect answer, the level of shock was to be increased correspondingly.

Results of the Milgram Experiment

Dr. Milgram used the experiment to measure the level of obedience among his volunteers. How far would the volunteer “teacher” be willing to go in obeying the shock application?

This question was posed to a group of Yale University students who predicted that no more than 3% of the participants would deliver the maximum shock.

In reality, 65% of the volunteers delivered the maximum shock. This study was replicated several times under different conditions, but each produced similar results.

So why would seemingly normal people be willing to subject another person to possible life-threatening harm? Is it because all people are evil? Dr. Milgram didn’t think so.

Appeal to Authority

The Milgram experiment seems to suggest that people place an immense amount of trust in authority figures. Even our own society seems to back up those claims.

A doctor tells us to take certain pills to cure an illness, and we obey without much questioning. A person steps on stage, appears on TV, or writes a book, and we immediately view them as an expert or authority, when in reality they may be far from it.

How This May Benefit You

The conclusion is clear. It’s wise to always think and question any command, even when it’s given by an authority. Yet, it’s easier to follow the crowd and obey rather than use our brain cells to think.

Most people prefer to follow rather than to lead. It’s uncomfortable to deviate from what everyone else is doing. It’s a part of human nature.

We can benefit from understanding this experiment in a different way. Knowing that the majority of people listen to authority figures, wouldn’t it be a benefit to be the authority figure in your field?

People like working with experts. They will often boast to their friends and colleagues that they have hired the leading firm to solve their problem.

Breaking from the pack and breaking the rules is not easy. It’s extremely hard to do the first time. But once you do it a few times and see the benefits, it becomes a much more natural process than following the crowd.

Be the authority figure for your field in your market, so you can set your own rules.

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Why You Need to Call Your Leads Right Away… or Don’t Even Bother

In today’s ultra-competitive business landscape, your company is likely spending a good deal of money to generate leads and prospects for your products and services. Hopefully, these efforts are generating quality leads for your business. But what happens once those leads do contact you?

You already know how important it is to follow up with your leads. But did you realize how important the “need for speed” really is?

Here are some eye-opening statistics to drive home the point:

  • Studies show that waiting more than five minutes to contact a lead after they have contacted you the first time results in a 46% lower qualification rate.
  • Waiting another five minutes results in a 23% lower conversion rate.
  • If you wait more than an hour to contact a lead, you’re seven times less likely to convert them to a sale.

In this instance, speed really does make a difference.

This study suggests that by simply calling a new prospect within a minute of lead generation, the likelihood of conversion increases by 391 percent. After two minutes, it drops to 160 percent. After three minutes, it goes down to 98 percent. After 30 minutes, it reduces to 62 percent. And after only one hour, the conversion rate drops to 36 percent. It goes down from there.

The key takeaways are:

  1. The “speed-to-call” is the single biggest factor in converting leads.
  2. Calling prospects six times leads to optimal conversion rates.
  3. Combining the recommended call strategy with an optimal email strategy can yield exceptional results.

Combining this strategy with an integrated print campaign leaves little doubt that the hottest leads will be reached in ways that very few of your competitors are implementing.

Consumers may start with price-shopping, but a sense of loyalty drives a large portion of them back to the vendor who reached them first. The company that educates and shows responsive customer service is able to build a bond that can overcome price sensitivities.

Being the first company to respond to a lead conveys the impression that you’re more interested in doing business with them than your competitors are. It can also lead to a longer and more memorable conversation.

The speed in reaching a hot prospect is one major part of the success equation. The next part is to focus on the conversation itself rather than trying for a quick close or sale. Listen first, ask questions, and then provide the answers the prospect is looking for. It sounds simple enough, but such subtleties are often overlooked.

Being systematic, consistent, and persistent will be the winning formula in this race. You’re competing hard to generate quality leads, new inquiries, and new prospects. But that’s only the beginning. By putting systems in place to contact incoming leads as quickly as possible and to follow up with them fast, you’ll save precious resources and make customer acquisition a much simpler process.

Does Your Advertising Have a Goal?

You know all about the importance of setting personal and business goals, but what about setting goals for your advertising? Such goals are also important to the success of your sales and marketing efforts.

The three traditional goals of advertising are to inform, persuade, and remind. However, you should add one more goal to that list, especially if you run a small or medium-sized business. That goal is to break even on the cost of running your ad. If the ad makes money immediately, that’s a bonus.

Why just break even?

Your strategy should be to create an ongoing relationship, not just a one-time transaction. You want to build a base — a growing list of customers who come back to buy over and over again. Long-term growth and stability are the keys, not just one-time, short-term gains.

“The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” – Henry Ford

Advertising your business is important. Advertising your business on a consistent basis is even more important. Your business has to get noticed. It needs traffic, and that traffic needs to buy.

Instead of thinking about advertising your business as an expense, think about it as an investment. It’s an investment with the goal of breaking even quickly while generating ROI for years to come.

Here are eight reasons you need to advertise consistently with a purpose and goal in mind.

  1. Get Noticed — At any given time and in any market, only 2 to 4% of consumers are ready to buy what you sell. It’s nearly impossible to predict when this group is going to actually make the purchase. They’ll buy from the company that comes to the top of their mind when they’re ready. The company that’s most consistent in being seen and getting noticed will win the business most of the time.
  2. Remind Them — People tend to forget quickly. Busy lives and long to-do lists can make anyone forget about your business. Just because you sent one postcard doesn’t mean a prospect will remember your business when it’s time to buy. In the advertising race, the tortoise beats the hare.
  3. Your Competition — Your competitors won’t quit advertising anytime soon. You shouldn’t either.
  4. Shifting Quicksand — Your market is constantly changing. You have to be nimble and adjust with it. Change up your ad copy and design. Test it, measure it, and tweak your ads until you achieve your desired return on investment.
  5. Momentum — Advertising consistently not only informs your audience that you mean business but also serves notice to your competitors that you’re in it for the long haul. Advertising boosts the morale of your own staff as well, signaling the vitality of your brand.
  6. Current Customers — You know your competitors are nipping at your heels, trying to steal away your customers. Don’t take your current customers for granted in your ad campaigns. Remind them on a regular basis the unique value you bring to the table and deliver for them. Don’t assume they know already.
  7. Past Customers — One of the fastest ways to boost sales is to reactivate past clients. Most customers leave a business because they feel unwanted and neglected. Tell them you’re sorry and that you want them back. Give them an incentive to come back again. Many will come back. This time, don’t neglect them. Communicate regularly and tell them that you appreciate their business. Advertising is not just for boosting sales; it also works for retaining customers. It’s much cheaper to retain a customer than to find a new one. Advertising to current and past customers is an investment that makes lots of cents!
  8. Competitive Advantage — Nothing helps you maintain a lead over your competitors like consistent advertising. Whether you’re there now or you’ll get there soon, once you have the lead, keep the foot on the pedal, so the competition has little chance of catching up.

You must have both strategic and monetary goals in mind when advertising your business. When done with a purpose and vision, your ad campaigns will produce real ROI and real customers who will pay you back for years to come. To start and build momentum, advertise consistently. You’ll end up creating your own economy.

An Important Business Lesson from an 8-Year-Old Girl

There’s something undeniably different about this time of year — an almost palatable sense of wonder, excitement, joy, and possibility not always seen in our everyday routine.

Amid the hustle and bustle of shopping, planning, and reconnecting with family and friends, we often find ourselves thinking back to seasons past — and forward to the future with renewed energy and hope.

For a few weeks each December, we’re willing to suspend disbelief and imagine the possibility of what we cannot see.

New York Sun writer Francis Church shared his thoughts on this very subject more than a century ago. “The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see,” Church wrote. “Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Church addressed his commentary to Virginia O’Hanlon, an eight-year-old girl who had posed a very simple question: Is there a Santa Claus?

While intended to quell the fears of a questioning child, Church’s words could just as easily apply to each of us in business today.

Like young Virginia, we, too, find ourselves in doubt sometimes — unsure whether we should trust the instincts that have taken us this far. In Virginia’s case, those doubts were fueled by “little friends” who told her Santa Claus was not real. For us, those “friends” often manifest themselves internally as a quiet, yet nagging voice that assures us we’ll find safety in convention and by taking the road more traveled.

And so, like Virginia, we need an occasional reminder that seeking the unseeable and trusting the unknowable can lead to places many would consider unattainable.

Community Care Marketing

If your business is looking for a creative way to increase name recognition and drive business, while at the same time giving back to your community and contributing to the common good, here are a few rewarding ideas to try:

  • Distribute exclusive coupons for customers who bring a canned food donation to support the local food shelf.
  • Post flyers at local organizations and sponsor a unique donation drive, such as “coats for kids” or “toys for tots.”
  • Team with a local shelter, hospital, or church to organize a giving tree, and encourage customers to take a tag and donate items to those in need.
  • Find ways to encourage customers to participate in your goodwill efforts. For example, you could run a campaign such as “10 percent of all sales in December will be donated to XYZ charity.”
  • Create name recognition by volunteering as a team at local non-profit organizations and by sponsoring local charitable events.

The holidays may be right around the corner, but it’s never too late to make an impact in your community. You can easily use a mix of print media (posters, flyers, postcards, statement stuffers, etc.), social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), email marketing, and word of mouth to spread the word quickly. Think the Christmas season is sneaking up too fast? Create a New Year’s campaign or a “giving hearts” campaign for Valentine’s Day. The options are endless.

And remember, while our hearts go out to others during the holiday season more than any other time, there are always those who are less fortunate than we are and will appreciate our help throughout the year. If you make community caring campaigns a regular part of your marketing, your contributions and goodwill will surely come full circle, benefiting your business and the people who work for you.

About Your Copy

Before we start, let’s get one thing clear. This post is not about the copies we make for you on our copy machines. It’s about the copy (text) that appears on your website and in your promotional materials. No matter what type of business you run, copy affects every part of your business. It’s the cornerstone of your marketing, and it affects the executive team, the HR department, and every aspect of the organization.

How?

To answer that question, let’s first take a look at what copy is and what it is not. Copywriting is the act of producing written text (copy). It’s not the same as “copyright,” which refers to one’s legal right to produce and publish content. Wikipedia explains copywriting as “writing copy (text) for the purpose of advertising or marketing. The copy is meant to persuade someone to buy a product or influence their beliefs.”

That second part is especially important because it’s the key differentiator between success and failure in copywriting. Weak copy will be thrown in the trash, while good copy will move the recipient to the desired action you want them to take. This applies not only to advertising and marketing but to any type of business and even personal communication.

Effective copywriting is sometimes referred to as “a salesman in print.” It can be seen in brochures, billboards, websites, emails, TV and radio ads, catalogs, and many other places where the goal is to move someone to a desired action. That action might be purchasing your product, engaging with your company, or picking up the phone to request more information. In short, copywriting is all about making the recipient move and act.

Copywriting dates all the way back to the nineteenth century, when the newspaper industry was beginning to boom. At that time, copywriting referred to the words written by journalist being copied from their desk into the newspaper. Times may have changed, but copywriting is as crucial now in helping to sell your products as it was then in helping to sell newspapers.

Good copywriting answers the problem of how to get more sales.

Two big buzzwords today are content marketing and inbound marketing. Both essentially refer to copywriting. While effective copywriting is part science and part art, the fact is that anyone can create copy that moves people to act. Well-crafted copywriting doesn’t need to be full of hype or written with bold typefaces and capitalization that beats people over the head.

There are three basic steps you can take to create compelling copy.

1. Know your audience. It should be a given that you know exactly who you’re creating the copy for. The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be to create powerful copy. A demographic profile can help you not only create your copy but also know who you will be sending that content to. The following are some examples of data you’ll find in a demographic profile:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Family Status
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Interests

2. Focus on them, not you. Everyone wants to be the center of attention. This applies in copywriting as well. The focus should be on the recipient, not how great you are. Your copy should answer the question: How will the products and services you offer benefit your customers and make their lives easier? Your copy must be able to answer the #1 question in every recipient’s head: “What’s in it for me?” In terms of copywriting, your product or service is far less important than its ability to fulfill your customers’ needs.

3. Always include a call to action. Always. No matter what marketing medium you use to send and communicate the copy, there should always be a call to action. Never assume that the recipient will know what you want them to do next. Tell them exactly what the next step should be. Should they call, fill out a form, or visit your showroom? Make it crystal clear.

It takes time, skill, practice, and patience to become a master copywriter. For businesses that want to produce effective copy that moves people to act, following these three simple steps can go a long way toward achieving that goal. Communication tools may be expanding and evolving, but one thing will never change: the need for good, effective copywriting. Bad content produced across multiple marketing channels will work just as poorly as it did across one.

Change the words used to communicate your uniqueness and to tell your story, and you will change your business.

Using the Law of Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

In social psychology, reciprocity refers to the natural human tendency to want to return a favor — to give back after someone has shown generosity to you. You’ve no doubt experienced such times in your own life, when you’ve felt such a sense of appreciation for a kindness done that you felt inclined to respond in kind. That’s what reciprocity is all about.

Giving to Give — and Build Relationships

Of course, there is another type of reciprocity — one born more from a sense of obligation than appreciation. But that first type (the one inspired by an act of generosity) offers a far more valuable return on the good deed done. Why? By inspiring feelings of goodwill, this type of reciprocity makes the recipient much more likely to return the favor willingly, rather than through a sense of duty. Why is this important to your overall business success? Because the person who reciprocates willingly will be much more likely to stick around to continue the relationship long-term.

Giving to Get — and Build the “Bottom Line”

The reciprocity that’s based on duty and obligation is less effective because it creates feelings of unease in the recipient — the same sort of feelings you get from owing a debt. This type of reciprocity makes people feel as if they are being pressured, or even coerced, into reciprocating.

When you give to get, it’s like tying a string to the gift and continually pulling it back toward you, rather than releasing your hold on it and giving it away free and clear. This type of reciprocity isn’t true reciprocity at all, since it doesn’t inspire the other person to want to return the favor. As a result, it will only create resistance in your prospect, a situation that’s usually counterproductive to your marketing efforts and your long-term business goals.

5 Ways to Use Reciprocity to Advance Your Business

Here are five suggestions for creating genuine, positive reciprocity in your prospects, customers, or clients:

1. Offer something for free — with no strings attached. Giving a small gift every now and then can be a great way to say thanks to your customers for their business and their loyalty. If you do this without asking for anything in return, you may be surprised at the goodwill you build over time. Gestures like these are never wasted, even though they may not seem to be making a difference. Sincere generosity increases your customers’ esteem for your business, which makes them eager to return.

2. Go the extra mile for your customer. Spend a little extra time helping a customer solve a problem. Take a moment to pass along some helpful information you come across that relates to your client’s business (B2B) or your customer’s interest, need, or profession (B2C). Doing something unexpectedly nice shows your customers you value them as individuals and not just as your key to profits.

3. Make things right whenever a customer is dissatisfied. This is another way to demonstrate how much you value your customers, making them enthusiastic about buying from you again despite their initial dissatisfaction. Their respect for you will grow in direct proportion to the amount of empathy, patience, professionalism, and generosity you show when such sensitive issues occur — particularly when they are upset and reacting with impatience themselves.

4. Treat both customers and prospects as if they matter. Courtesy, friendliness, and respect will go a long way toward creating loyal long-term customers who will become the best advertisement for your brand. By making your service as personalized as you can, you tell your customer, “You are important.”

5. Offer your website visitors helpful information at no charge. By attracting people to your website with the promise of value-added content, you’ll soon become the go-to source for the answers they need, and they’ll value you, as well.

Try the above five tips to start laying the groundwork for the reciprocity that’s sure to follow.