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Want To Know How A Nudge Helps You Sell More?

Libertarian paternalism. That’s the fancy name for nudging. The science behind helping people make better decisions. Whether it be the famous example of a fly tattooed onto Schipol airport urinals to keep gents toilets cleaner, or the auto-enrolment into pension schemes providing precious extra retirement benefit, positive stories abound extolling the pleasures of this concept.

I listened to the head of Number Ten’s behavioural insight team – nicknamed the Nudge Unit – talk of the constant trialling they do.

Results were fascinating. He gave three examples of successful ideas. Each can have an allied selling message for us in the field.

More than a third of the UK’s homes have insufficient loft insulation. Rather than hand out environmental-based fines, offering a loft clearing service saw an increase in energy and cost saving insulation take-up of between 3- and 5-fold.

Plastering a fact on top of tax paperwork meant nearly everyone submits their forms before the deadline. That fact was ‘9 out of 10 people pay their taxes on time’.

Sweeping the streets when people are out and about to bear witness, rather than when traditionally done in the small or unsocial hours, drastically reduced littering.

Cass Sunstein, the American ex-law professor who coined this movement also contributed winners. Such as one of my favourites, the calorie labelling regulations for chain restaurants in the US. These heralded huge impact in both product reformulation and personal consumption reduction.

So how can these be adapted in our solution sales world?

The loft insulation is a classic wherever you sell services alongside your main product. Implementation, maintenance, consultancy, training. Each may have a barrier to purchase. Where is there a hassle clientside that may be holding you back? In my own career I remember the uplift to new BI module sales when we removed the trauma of dealing with messy product file data spat out by aloof erp systems. All happily done by willing trainee resource back at base.

The tax strapline is also a cracker where you want people to follow a significant herd. We love to know what our neighbour does and are happy to do likewise. The age-old header would have been ‘you better pay up by the end of the year else there’s a nasty fine coming your way’. I’ve longed bemoaned the usual marketeer trick here. “We sell one of these every minute”. All me-me-me. Much better to say something like, ‘ someone buys one of these every [whenever]’ followed by a phrase beginning with the word ‘to’ or ‘because’ which directly alludes to the glory they duly attain. Particularly useful where you have a good seller, promoted to those that have not yet seen its light.

Street cleaning in full view is a handy reminder to develop a live demonstration of absolutely any and every benefit you provide. Let the potential customer play with the toy too if possible.

Finally, calorie watching almost became an addiction for me the first time I encountered this when working in New York. Any product listing you show customers in a menu style (usually but thankfully not exclusively also with prices) is ripe for this treatment. What’s the key numerical joy that each item can bring? It needn’t be a definitive figure. A guideline range would do. Any costs or time savings would be neat. If you provide products to sell on, then their typical re-order frequency, overall stockturn or propensity to elicit add-on orders could feature.

There’s plenty of fuel for ideas in this field.


Footnote 1: mp3 stream/download from 30min BBC Radio 4 Analysis show 25 March 2013, also with transcript pdf.

Footnote 2: I realise I’ve blogged on Nudge a few times over the years. Including 2010, 2009 November and July & 2008 August and July. The nudge authors’ site itself as I blog here was last updated Oct 2011.

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