Email Persuasion Series Part 2: Commitment and Consistency

By: Jack Reamer |
 April 20, 2015 |

Welcome to part 2 of the Email Persuasion Series! Today’s “Weapon of Influence” is Commitment and Consistency. Let’s dive in and see what it is and how you  can use it in your email marketing to bring in more sales.

“Human beings have a deep need to be seen as consistent.”

– Dr. Cialdini

If toy stores use commitment and consistency to bring in more sales, so can you

Fact: Toy sales drop after the holiday season. But toy companies know how to use commitment and consistency to bring parents back into the stores even after buying toys for the holiday season.

So how does Toys “R” Us use commitment and consistency to sell more toys?

Before we get into that, let’s go over what “Commitment and Consistency” is and why it puts consumers in a “buying frenzy.”

Once you publicly commit to something, then you’re more likely to go through and deliver on that commitment right?

Or in other words, when you say you’ll do something, you’re driven to make sure you follow through or stay consistent with that commitment.

Why? Because nobody wants to see themselves as a hypocrite. In fact, according to Dr. Caildini,

“The drive to be consistent constitutes a highly potent weapon of social influence, often causing us to act in ways that are clearly contrary to our own best interests.”

So how do toy companies sell more toys after christmas when everyone is shopped out?

They’ve tried spending more on advertising and slashing prices, but that didn’t work. Then they discovered this sales tactic that harnessed the power of Commitment and Consistency to keep sales through the roof all year long.

Step 1: Before the holiday season, toy stores run T.V. commercials (featuring a popular new toy) on children’s programs.

Step 2: Children ask their parents for the toy and “extract christmas promises.” (Commitment)

Step 3: After parents tell their children that they will give it to them, toy stores drastically under supply the stores with the toy that parents have promised.

Step 4: When parents are out doing their christmas shopping the toy store is “surprisingly” out of stock and they’re not sure when they’ll get more back in.

Step 5: So parents settle for buying their child another gift for Christmas.

Step 6: Then in January (after the holiday season) toy stores flood the shelves with this popular new toy and run the T.V. commercials again. The kids see the ad, jump up and down saying, “You promised you’d get me that toy!” Now the parent who’s committed to buying this toy, feels compelled to buy it to live up to their words. Even though they’ve already bought their kid a Christmas present.

Boom! Toy sales in January are back up thanks to the power of commitment and consistency.

This is the power of consistency. We want to be who we say we are. If we say something we do it.

So what’s the key? How do you get people to buy using the power of consistency? You get them to commit.

If I can get you to make a commitment (that is, to take a stand, to go on record) you will have set the stage for your automatic and ill-considered consistency with that earlier commitment. 

How to use Commitment and Consistency to send more profitable emails

There’s two easy ways your can inject your email marketing with Commitment and Consistency:

  1. Get commitment with your opt-in form
  2. Ask for a small sale first (foot-in-the-door technique)

Build your list by getting your site visitors to commit to something relatively small and usually free-of-charge, such as a sample guide or a white paper that they can gain access to after opting in. But add a “commitment checkbox” to get commitment and consistency to start working in your favor.

For example, Conversion Voodo helped a mortgage company increase their completed application conversion rate by more than 11% with the simple addition of a commitment checkbox:

Persuasion: Conversion Voodo example

This little checkbox increased conversions by 11%

Or you can add commitment and consistency into your list-building with a 2-part opt-in process.

Upworthy asks their visitors an easy question…

how to get more email opt ins

If you click Agree, you’re presented with an email opt-in call.

how to get more email opt ins

If you’re someone who agrees that, “It’s nice to be reminded of the good in the world” then you’ll likely sign up (and read) the emails that remind you of the good in the world.

If you don’t like the double opt-in process… Take a look at Upworthy’s single step opt-in and how it still gets users to agree before they opt-in.

Get someone to commit to something small at first. They will be more likely to commit to something larger afterwards.

Let’s look at an off-line example where the power of commitment and consistency gets people to take action.

Suppose you wanted to increase the number of people in your area who would agree to go door-to-door collecting donation for your favorite charity.

This is what psychologist Steven J. Sherman did. He simply called a sample of Bloomington Indiana residents as part of a survey he was taking and asked them to predict what they would say if asked to spend three hours collecting money for the American Cancer Society. Of course not wanting to seem uncharitable to the survey taker themselves, many of these people said that they would volunteer.

The effect? 700% increase in volunteers when a few days later, a rep from the American Cancer Society did call asking for neighborhood canvassers.

Foot-In-The-Door Technique

To get more sales with your email marketing, ask for a small sale first. Even if you don’t make much money on the transaction. Why? Because almost any small sale will do because the purpose of that small transaction is not profit. It is to get commitment from your subscribers.

It is far easier to sell products and services to existing customers than to someone you don’t have a relationship with.

When a subscriber makes a purchase, he is no longer a prospect, he is a customer. And customers are 10X easier to sell to.

When a researcher, posing a s volunteer worker, had gone door-to-door in a residential California neighborhood making a preposterous request of home owners.

The home owners were asked to install a public service billboard on their lawn. “Drive carefully” giant billboard. 62% more said yes after they first asked to place a small sticker in the window.

So when it comes to your email marketing, ask for small commitments first, then work your way towards larger commitments and sales. A progression of commitments you ask your email subscribers to take might look like this:

  • Follow us on social media
  • Join this free, 1 hour webinar
  • Sign up for a free consultation
  • Join our basic paid program
  • Upgrade to premium

Whatever you’re asking your subscribers to buy or do, just make sure you’re starting with easy, low-commitment requests and then build on that momentum to bring in more sales with the rule of commitment and consistency.