Hari Patience-Davies on why identifying what matters to your audience is key to getting them to do what you want.
It’s a question that people probably have been asking for as long as there have been people – how can I get other people to do what I want them to do?
Scientists and researchers have pondered this too and in 1966 Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser came up with a study that seemed to prove that one way to get people to say yes to a big thing later, is to get them to say yes to a small thing now. Their study involved trying to convince home-owners to put up “Drive Carefully” signs in their gardens. Less than 20% of people said yes to a large sign when first approached. But when the home owners were asked to only put up a small 3-inch sign, they were 76% more likely to agree to put up a large sign when asked later. This approach is known as the Foot In the Door, but the problem with FITD is people still have to agree to the small ask now in order to enable a large ask later.
An alternative approach might be to consider what is it that you want people to do, and what it is that’s in it for them if they do it.
Say that you want people to donate money to support a cause. It might help to find the ways in which that cause aligns with the potential donors’ interests. If the cause is about helping children, does the donor have children? If the cause is about saving the local environment, does the donor live in the area affected? What is it about the topic in question that connects to your audience?
Don’t think of it as people being self-interested, but rather that there is so much noise and so many demands on everyone’s attention that if you want to cut through that noise and get their attention on your ask, it needs to make an impact. And a good way for it to make an impact is if it means something to them.
Consider what you know about them – are you targeting an individual or a group? Do you know them personally or are they strangers to you? Do you know their preferences, or can you make an educated guess based on things you have in common or past behaviour? What is the the most helpful in terms of identifying what matters to them?
Knowing your audience is key to understanding your audience, and understanding your audience makes it easier to convince your audience to do whatever it is you want them to do.