THE BLOG
12/28/2012 05:32 pm ET | Updated Feb 27, 2013

Four Ways to Sway Others

Marshall wasn't aware that we were closely watching him as he strode into the pool table showroom, but he was the ninth unwitting participant in our experiment. He glanced at the sign "Our Three Most Popular Models" that hung above an ornately carved, antique pool table, flanked closely on either side by a bare-bones model and a lean, modern pool table. Frankly it would have been hard to avoid this scene. The sign was hanging from the ceiling at eye-level and the tables rested on the curved end extension of plush, royal purple carpet upon which he stepped after walking through the front door.

The store's re-opening was announced a month ahead of time with signs in the window, indicating that only 200 people would be allowed in the first day, and able to watch two renowned pro players in a game at the antique table. Passersby could view three flat screen TVs in the window, each showing video vignettes of local media personalities, politicians and civic leaders (all needing to grow their "audience) playing pool. The TV screen in the middle had a sign above it, "Playing on an Antique Pool Table is Priceless." The screen on the left featured people playing on the plain, lowest-cost model, with the sign, "Playing is fun for anyone" and the sign above the TV screen on the right, above the mid-priced model, read, "Cool playing and camaraderie never go out of style."

1. Offer just three simple choices

In a world of increasing complexity and choice, we can feel stressed when the best choice is not obvious, nor simple. We either don't make a choice or, if we do, it takes longer and we are less satisfied with our choice. So discovered Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice. Conversely, if you, as a seller, provide us with just three vividly clear choices we are more likely to buy something and be more satisfied with our choice. As well, the amount we spend, on average, will be higher.

Craft the three choices to nudge more people to buy and to spend more. Make one option almost a no brainer in minimal cost, so they get a "taste" of the opportunity to use your kind of products or services. The basic "bare-bones" pool table fit that category. Make the second option super-deluxe with all the bells and whistles you can provide, like the antique pool table. Price that third option in between the other two, like the modern pool table. My friend, a behavioral scientist who had no experience with pool tables except playing twice with her father-in-law, then keenly observing the avid players over the course of several family visits, made an unexpected decision. She bought a pool table store in her town.

Following her "three choices" approach, she generated an 18 percent increase in sales over the most lucrative month that the previous owner had ever enjoyed. As well, showing the videos of diverse and familiar local people playing pool, built buzz and provided a mental shortcut to motivate buying. That's because it is selling the situation, first and foremost: convivial home entertainment. In your shop or web site what situations can you let them picture enjoying when people buy your product or service?

Here are three other ways you may sway others to buy or take other action:

2. Get specific sooner

Specificity is the biggest gateway to credibility and memorability."We put our customers first." "We care about our people." Sound familiar? Lofty, often-used general statements about company values mean nothing to possible customers without specific proof. Imagine, instead, that a medical clinic used this headline in its outreach, "Now open weekends and evenings for your convenience." The specific example proves the general conclusion, not the reverse. Sadly, many times, we make these two big mistakes when trying to sway others.

3. Speak to their better nature

Even if we are not acting heroic or decent we instinctively want to demonstrate admirable traits. That's why one of the most successful anti-littering campaigns had this motto on highway signs that built on Texas pride, "Don't mess with Texas."

4. Enable others to earn bragging rights

Another way-to-sway nudge is nested within #6.: Give aptly impressive titles, such as ambassador, to adept, active individuals in your group - or to those who join your cause, accomplish something, or are the most helpful in the group as the group views them. For example, when the New Jersey Devils hockey team enlisted their super fans to help build online buzz about the team - and to respond to criticism, the team dubbed these avid fans "Devils Army Generals." They posted the generals' insights on games and players. In so doing these super fans gained a fan following which reinforced their motivation to stay involved and to be thoughtful commentators.

Springwise motivates people to submit tips by organizing a worldwide community of over 15,000 avid "Springspotters" who are vital to the success of their business model. We are spurred to submit examples as soon as we see them because the first to "spot" a trend gets the credit when it is announced to everyone, and wins points towards gifts that reflect the interests of those in this niche.

What are some of the successful ways to sway people to take action that you have seen?