“Thought is the Child of Action” in Interactive Marketing Websites

Increasing website conversion levels is an important goal of many digital marketing executives.  Could a phenomenon uncovered by social psychology research hold the key?

Years ago, Stanford University researchers Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser found solid evidence that an ancient maxim was true.  Under the right conditions, what a person chooses to do in a small way they will later do in a big way.  They called it “The Foot-In-the-Door Effect.”

The Power of Small Commitments to Move People to Action

Much of the power of interactive websites is in their interactivity.  These websites often ask visitors to make small commitments.  Those small commitments can have real power to change attitudes.  A great deal of scientific research demonstrates that most people will justify their actions by feeling greater interest in the thing to which they committed themselves.  This is particularly true of teenagers, as shown in one controlled marketing/social psychology experiment cited by Dr. Robert Cialdini, who has trained corporate leaders, the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States.

This study attempted to get teenage smokers to join a smoking-cessation program.  Teenagers were approached at the mall and told they could win a free Mrs. Field’s cookie if they filled out a survey.  Researchers invited those whose answers identified them as smokers to a small cordoned-off booth where they were asked for their name and phone number so a volunteer could call them in a few weeks to ask additional questions.  Half of the 146 people identified as smokers (the experimental group) were then asked to watch an animated video and write down their thoughts on the dangers of smoking.  Researchers just thanked the other half (the control group) and told them that someone would call.

Several weeks later, all who left their correct phone number received a call.  The caller asked for permission to send them smoking cessation materials and requested that they attend a downtown focus group on smoking.  The results were quite surprising.  Those who watched the video were considerably more likely than others to leave their correct name and phone number.

But once people gave their correct contact information it mattered little what else they had done.  They all responded in high numbers.  Some 54-56% of the teens reached agreed to receive the stop-smoking materials.  Further, 48-58% of teens reached agreed to attend the focus group. Some 43% agreed to both requests, even though they required parental permission.  The simple commitment of giving their correct name and phone number caused these teens to respond at a much higher rate than had ever been seen before in that area’s teenage smoking cessation campaigns.

Small Commitments Work in Commercial Ventures

Teenage smokers are not the only ones who respond to this approach.  A few years ago, Ohio’s Franklin University used it to attract adult students to their institution.  Franklin is an all-adult institution.  Adult learners are known as “the ultimate stealth students,” often visiting college websites when they have a minute to quietly learn about the education programs offered there.  Franklin was determined to capture these stealthy website visitors and start them down the path to enrollment in an MBA or degree completion program.

Their customized eBrochure Program did just that.  It increased prospect inquiries by 35% and achieved an astounding 48% conversion rate. This program and others like it have consistently gotten excellent results. One designed to attract prospective undergraduate students to a New England university attained conversion rates as high as 63.9%.

Could a similar program help your organization achieve your goals?  Contact the author for more information.

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