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Mike 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 “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 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.

1. Offer “just” three simple choices

What were we doing?

Well, it seems that, in a world of bewildering choices, we get stumped. We either don’t make a choice or, if we do, it takes longer and we are less satisfied with our choice. So found Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice. Conversely – if we are presented with just three main choices, one that’s almost a no brainer in cost or other “effort”, another that is super-deluxe, and a middle option, something fascinating happens.  More people buy something and more people spend more. Plus they are more satisfied with their choice. The owner of five pool table stores enjoyed a 28% increase in sales just by creating that obvious, three choice “opening scene” in her stores.

Here are six other ways you can nudge others to take action.

2.  First speak to what most interests them

In the very first sentence out of your mouth, address their hot interest. Notice how rarely that happens.  Even when we want something from someone we tend to first describe our situation, product or cause, building up to the “ask.” By then they’ve gone on a mental vacation or, worse yet, resent you, even if they tend to do the same thing.

3. Specificity is the gateway to credibility and memorability

“We put our customers first.” “We care about our people.” Sound familiar? Advertising and other efforts to pull us in often tout lofty values or benefits – but without specific proof.  Imagine a medical clinic’s outreach campaign with this headline “Weekend and evening hours.” The specific example proves the general conclusion, not the reverse.  Sadly, most of us make two big mistakes when trying to persuade others.  We speak about our own interests first (see #2) and we talk in generalities.

4. Offer the most alluring alternative

We usually make choices by comparing options we see in the situation. Instead of attempting to make people feel guilty for taking the lazy route – the escalator – these inventive folks offered the fun option.  They turned the stairs into a set of piano keys so we could make music as we walked up the stairs.

5. 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.”

One sign of a nudge’s popular is that others imitate or create take-offs of it.

6. Get others to form groups around your business or cause

One downside of online dating is that you are venturing out on your own each time. That can feel lonely.

Instead, in India, Rohan Bhardwaj formed a group with two friends and, as the point person or “ambassador” of that group, went online at Ignighter and asked out two twentysomething women from New Delhi. They agreed to meet on a group date at a karaoke bar.

Since then, he has gone on a couple of more dates with that group.

The small, special interest groups that are encouraged to self-organize within the megachurch, Saddleback, not only strengthen and grow the congregation they also enable ideas to bubble up from many places and for leadership to gain a deeper, more timely sense of what most matters to the people the serve.

Groups of not more than seven, with a strongly-felt, sweet spot of shared interest, and some rules of engagement are most likely to flourish. Camaraderie and cohesion happens within the group. Groups stay fresh and innovative when they are loosely connected to each other. These networked small groups may all meet in person at regular intervals. As well, create an online community where members can arrange to visit each other’s groups, co-create a service or project, cross-consult, collectively buy items, or share “best practices.”

7. Enable others to earn bragging rights

Another nudge is nested within nudge #6.  Give aptly impressive titles, such as ambassador, to people 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 ardent fans “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 “Springspotters” – key 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.

And we get to meet in-person around our shared interest in new business trends.

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

Tell me here by commenting and by sharing via Twitter.

moving from me to we


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