A friend of mine is a passionate Manchester City supporter. A while ago, when his team lost, I saw him wipe his face in the kitchen. I asked him how he had become a fan. He stopped crying and clearly focused. “I think it all started when I bought their sweater,” he finally said. I kept wondering: “So first you bought a sweater and then you became a fan?” He nodded.
This example perfectly illustrates the principle that I want to talk about in this article. Like all most interesting cognitive prejudices, it is well established in various demographies and psychographies. People have an almost obsessive desire to be consistent with their previous actions (or at least to appear that way).
This happens for three main reasons.
First, when you have made a choice, you know a personal and interpersonal pressure to adhere to that choice. You never have to think about the issue again. All information that you receive after the choice has been made will no longer change your mind. You even get more confidence in your choice once you’ve made it. For example, on the racetracks, people have much more confidence in the chance that their horse will win just after placing the bet than just before they place that bet.
Secondly, we don’t know ourselves very well. Sometimes we say or do something without thinking about it in advance. And then we assume: “Okay, I just bought a third coffee from Starbucks in one week. I really have to love coffee and Starbucks. ”It’s like forcing yourself to smile when you feel sad. It makes you less sad because your brain gets the information about your mood through the physiological action you have taken.
Third, we will sometimes decide about our identity (and therefore also our behavior) by looking at what others think about us. For example, housewives from New Haven, Connecticut, gave much more money to a charity after they were told that they were considered charitable people.
It is clear that this simplified decision-making and the stubbornness to abide by this decision is a gift for anyone who wants to influence someone’s behavior for good or bad. And so we can also do this as a company.
How is consistency used in marketing?
Many testimonials about products are not written out of pure love for the product – even though there are of course exceptions. Usually people hope they can get something out of it, for example a discount. But that doesn’t really matter: unless their opinion deviates considerably from what they have written, they will appreciate the product more after writing a testimony. Writing takes effort and will influence behavior more than speaking or thinking. People believe that what you write reflects your thoughts, so there is an urge to adjust your actions and thoughts to what is written.
For example, some sellers ask their customers to fill out their own order forms, because this extra effort can stimulate dedication to an order and reduce the number of cancellations. Customers who give written testimonials and say that they like a product or service are later almost always the best customers. Moreover, the readers will (at least partly) believe the testimony, even though they know it is not necessarily meant.
Agreements can be negotiated, but public agreements lead to more sustainable changes. The larger the audience, the stronger the sense of consistency and the less likely it is that a prospect or customer will change later. Remember that people not only want to be consistent, but also want to appear consistent.
Look for ways to make engagement public (when appropriate, of course). Have them write testimonials (for example, on social media). Let them fill in forms. Make them a member of a special group. Let them tell how your company could help them. Give them certificates and prizes. Publish their names in lists of honor. It doesn’t have to be public, but it must feel that way.
2. The foot-in-the-door technique
Sellers often start small and end up large. This appears to be very effective, as long as the important demand matches the smaller ones. Start by asking your prospect to agree to a simple request or a small transaction, or ask them to complete a short questionnaire. By having your prospect make a decision, take a position or take an action, you create a new psychological “involvement”.
Once you have that involvement, no matter how small, you have changed your prospect’s self-image just enough to apply the “rule of consistency”. Since the rule states that people strive to be / appear to be consistent, you can build on this new self-image and make more and more requests. Accepting a free sample can lead to the acceptance of a small transaction. A small transaction can lead to a larger transaction. And so on. This is called the “foot-in-the-door” technique.
Charities use this technique quite often. First they ask for a small amount to be donated, then they ask for a monthly contribution of that small amount and finally they ask for an increase in the amount that you regularly contribute.
3. Build on existing dedication
In addition to looking for new “commitment” you can also build on the commitments that your prospects have already entered into.
For example, if you sell audio books and you know that your prospects are buyers of (paper) books, then you have a ready-made commitment to further build. Your prospects read and regard themselves as readers. You cannot position your product as the opposite of reading – yes, that’s how readers view audio books – but as an extension of efficient reading. Tell them: “There is no alternative to real books. But as a smart reader you know that you must give priority to reading. Now you can enjoy a large number of books that you simply don’t have time for in your normal reading schedule, even when you don’t have time to go to the library. It is also more convenient to “stick” in your bag and then listen to the crowded train. ”
Let people take a position on what they honestly agree with now. Tune your product to the original sense of consistency of your prospect. “If you are someone who likes good wine, then this magazine has been written especially for you.” “No true wine connoisseur could ever live without the exclusive information in this magazine.”
4. Trust in consistency
Sometimes we have to influence the behavior of people in the long term. A possible way to do that is also by relying on consistency. We just need to motivate people enough so that they do the right thing once, and then they become a person in their head doing things like that – self-image will change, and consistency will ensure their future behavior.
Robert Cialdini, the man behind this theory, describes, for example, a gas-saving project in Iowa. The researcher first called on the residents of Iowa to heat their homes with natural gas. He gave them some tips for saving energy and asked them to try and save fuel in the future. They all agreed to try it, but as expected, no real savings had been achieved by the end of the winter. A combination of information and good intentions did not work.
Then the researcher tried something else. He also took a number of natural gas users in Iowa. They were contacted in the same way by the interviewer, received the same information and were asked to save gas. Moreover, the consenting residents would have their names published as “fuel-saving citizens” in newspaper articles. The effect was immediately noticeable – the savings were enormous in one month.
And then the residents were told that their names would not be announced anyway. The reason for the savings was now gone, but has that changed their behavior? On the contrary. For each of the remaining winter months, they saved even more fuel than at the time they thought they would be publicly praised for it. The change happened in their heads – they now saw themselves as citizens with a public and fuel-saving spirit and acted in accordance with what they did.
For each message you have to take into account the current state of the agreements with your prospect or customer.
Ask yourself the question:
- Is there a commitment that I have to make to sell this?
- Is there an existing commitment that I can use to my advantage?
- Is there a commitment that I have to break?
- What should be the perceived level of involvement with my first request? And my second one?
For marketers the fact that people strive for consistency is usually a gift. It facilitates brand loyalty and ensures that people say “yes” again after saying “yes” before. It is used everywhere by experienced sellers, from door to door sales to Apple. It is something to include in your strategy as a marketer and something to keep in mind as a consumer.
How are you going to apply consistency in practice? Or maybe you already do it?
Let it know in the comments!