The proprietor of a Native American jewelry store in Arizona was having trouble selling her inventory of certain turquoise pieces. Despite the fact that the jewelry was of high quality, and it was the peak of the tourist season, the stuff wouldn’t sell.
The owner had priced the jewelry reasonably. She had placed it in a central display location. She’d even asked her staff to point it out to browsers.
Finally, the owner gave up. She was going to unload the pieces, even if it meant taking a loss. On her way out of town for a business trip, she dashed off a note to a member of her sales staff – “Everything in this display case times ½.”
So it was no surprise when the owner arrived back at her shop to find that all the turquoise jewelry had sold. What puzzled and pleased the proprietor was the fact that her staff person had misread her hastily-scrawled note (deciphering the “½” as a “2”), and doubled the price of each piece rather than cutting it in half.
This story kicks off Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: Science and Practice. Cialdini, a Regents Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, uses everything from the maternal instincts of turkeys, to the willingness of students to administer strong electric shocks to fellow human beings, in order to demonstrate the amazing power of influence. Cialdini refers to the tendency to mechanically react to one piece of information in a situation (rather than doing a thorough analysis) as “click, whirr” responding.
So what was going on with those Arizona tourists? Well, when you consider that most people aren’t really qualified to evaluate jewelry (especially of the turquoise variety), these well-to-do travelers were simply relying on a mental shortcut that had served them well throughout their lives – expensive equals good. This kind of shortcut is termed a judgmental heuristic, and we all depend on them to navigate through life each day without suffering from analysis paralysis.
Derived from our experiences, most of the time these shortcuts serve us well. Occasionally, they lead to mistakes (in this case, the tourists paid twice the reasonable value of the turquoise baubles). Understanding and catering to these psychological triggers, while following through with great value, is the key to good business.
Whether you’re trying to sell something or build traffic to your blog, connecting with people is the key. So from here I’ll continue with a series of posts entitled “Blog Triggers.” We’ll examine both psychological studies and time-tested tactics from powerhouse marketers in order to learn how to connect with people at a deep emotional level that prompts action.
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