Dr. Steven Feinberg – who I’ve often quoted here – and I first figured out that the psychology of influence could dramatically impact outbound marketing campaigns close to ten years ago. I was running channel marketing at Plantronics and he was working with the senior staff there on organizational development – basically, getting lots of very serious people to play nicer together. He introduced this concept of “the psychology of influence” to me by way of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: Science and Practice.

I was certain that there was some mistake. There couldn’t be a fifty year body of work that codified how and why and when we say “yes” to requests hidden in the archives of some arcane academic journal.

How did this not get out? How did this never reach what I would have described as “the marketing mainstream”?

I thought I’d found a secret weapon.  And I was right.

We were launching a fairly complex C-level campaign aimed at CIO’s of Fortune 500 companies back in those days and I pulled him into the discussion. If the “psychology of influence” works on the micro level, as much of the research suggested, why wouldn’t it work on the macro level? We re-engineered the campaign using a series of principles outlined in both his and Dr. Cialdini’s research and saw a campaign that should have delivered a 5-8% response rate come in at 33%. Understand that the CIO’s of Fortune 500 companies are some of the most difficult to reach people in the world. They have layers and layers of protection to keep people like us out. If you can get 33% of any group of Fortune 500 CIO’s to do anything, you’ve discovered something rare and powerful.  The fact that this program launched in New York and New Jersey, shortly after 9/11, makes it that much more interesting.

We turned our attention later to a series of channel specific initiatives, applying these same principles to behavior modification. We saw program ROI’s climb from 500% to 1,000% to 1,500% within 90 days of each respective launch. And we saw the numbers stay at these new plateaus – they didn’t plunge as soon as the spiff came off the product of the day. We changed behaviors with subtle, minor adjustments to the programs.

Fast forward a few years to the fairly-close-to-present. I was building my consulting roster and he was still focused on organizational development. Over lunch we started talking about collaborating on “something” – maybe an article – and the conversation turned to the macro application of influence. Thus begat Decision Triggers.

Key takeaways:

  1. Application isn’t theory. Application is financial results, today. Needle-moving, instant impact ideas that do more than make you feel good. We’re in the business of application, not theory.
  2. Finally, a defendable framework for all that squishy subjective stuff. We’re all experts in everything, which makes defending your ad copy, program structure, web design and every other aspect of a marketer’s life that much harder. Applying a psychological framework to the ”subjective” side of marketing gives you the tools you need to say why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  3. The secret is in the application. Much like the difference between owning a bible and being a saint, there’s a difference between knowing what the word “reciprocity” means and knowing how to apply it skillfully in the heat of battle.

Take a look to the right and please feel free to sign up for our newsletter (our “email list” link to the right) – we’ll send one out once a month, so we’re not planning on being your new pen pal, don’t worry – in which we’ll do two things: we’ll give you the benefit of our learnings on how to apply these principles and we’ll follow each newsletter up with a “First Friday” call to take the discussion further. Our “First Friday” calls will be on the first Friday of each month at 8:30AM PST. Details will be up shortly on the Decision Triggers website, located here.

And feel free to download the full text of the stories that I’ve described above. They’re worth reading and can serve as playbooks for applying these principles on your own.

Good luck! Let’s talk later. Back to my usual blog post format shortly!