There’s one question—or version of it—I get a lot:
How can we get people to care?
Here’s the salesperson version: How can we get more qualified leads?
And Marketing’s version: How can we deliver more qualified leads?
Founders ask it, too: How can we convince investors to give us funding?
And even experts and thought leaders want to know: How can we get people to act on our ideas?
Well, good news! This weeks’ video helps you answer whatever version of that question you’re asking.
But the quick answer is… you can’t. You can’t make people care. But you can improve your probability of success with those who already do (at least a little bit).
First, though, you have to answer this question:
Is your audience ambivalent… or indifferent?
Here’s the video’s Red Thread:
- GOAL: Most messaging questions are the same question at heart— “How can I improve the probability of my message’s success?”
- PROBLEM: The first step? Figure out who in your audience is indifferent to your idea or the concepts behind it, and who is ambivalent. Indifferent people don’t, won’t, or can’t care about your idea or what it can do for them (and likely never will). If someone doesn’t care about climate change right now, they likely never will. Ambivalent people, on the other hand, care about two things that oppose each other. For example, someone may care about the changing climate, but they may also care about keeping their home comfortable and cool. That opposition leads to inaction.
- TRUTH: But action requires attachment (to an outcome, an identity, etc.). People act when they want something and don’t have it.
- CHANGE: So how can you surface your ambivalent audience members—the only ones for whom action is even a possibility? Activate your audience’s attachment. In other words, anchor your message in something they aren’t—or even can’t be—indifferent about. Something they’d agree they want.
- ACTION: The simplest way to do that is to frame your idea as an answer to a question your audience is currently asking (the GOAL). Even better if that question includes the tension they’re ambivalent about, something like, “How can I keep my home cool and comfortable without contributing to climate change?”
- GOAL REVISITED: When you anchor your message in what someone agrees they want, you remove the neutral position — you move them out of indifference, through their ambivalence, to a new course of action. Yours! With an audience that already cares, not only are you more likely to convert the convertible, you’re less likely to waste your time, money, and effort trying to make a difference with the indifferent.
How to apply it
My colleague over at TEDxCambridge and I often say to each other, “You can’t want it more than they do.” A few years ago, we learned that lesson the hard way. We had a speaker with a great story, and a great idea. But she wasn’t really passionate about telling that story, or spreading the idea. And you might imagine what happened: she never really invested in the process of giving a TEDx talk. She missed a bunch of deadlines. She never really internalized feedback about her script or performance. And while she gave it and people enjoyed it, it didn’t land with the power and effect we hoped it would have.
We wanted it more than she did.
I suspect all of us are guilty of that at some point. And I get it. You know your idea can help “everyone.”
But it can’t, not really. Because you can’t want it more than they do.
Obviously, you can, of course. That’s your prerogative. But when you want something more than someone else does, you’re in the position of having to convince them. And that’s not a position of strength. Nor is it a position that’s likely to work quickly.
And I don’t know about you, but I rarely have the luxury of time when it comes to motivating action in others.
That’s why I’m all for focusing on the people who already want what your idea is or does OR who already want something closely related to it. As I noted above, the fastest way to do that is to figure out what current audience question your idea is an answer to (the Goal chapter in my book is all about this, but you can also read the blog post version).
If it’s a question your audience would agree they want the answer to, then you’ve “removed the neutral position.” That’s a phrase I’m borrowing from market research, but you already know what it means in that context.
Think about the last time someone asked you to rate how you felt about a statement, say from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.” There were probably a finite number of options. If there were an odd number of options (five, for example), then sitting in the middle was likely an option for “neutral.”
“Removing the neutral position” simply means removing that “neutral” option from the choices you’re given. What’s left are only those options that reveal the level to which you care about something.
There was a study that examined the effects of removing the neutral position. First, they determined whether someone was indifferent or ambivalent about something. They did that by asking a simple yes/no “do you care about X?” kind of question. Indifferent people answered “no,” ambivalent people answered “yes.” After that, they then looked to see the effect on both groups of removing the neutral position from a follow-up, “to what extent do you agree” kind of question.
What they found was fascinating: for people who didn’t care about the topic (the indifferent), removing the neutral position made no difference in how they answered the rating question. They answered the same way whether “neutral” was an option or not.
But removing the neutral position had a big effect on ambivalent people—those who cared about the topic. Ambivalent people answered the question differently when the neutral position was removed. Removing the position revealed which side of their ambivalence was stronger! I just think that is SO interesting.
And I may be taking that insight further than it was ever intended, but that’s why I believe it’s so important to anchor your message in a question your idea answers. By stating that “want” out loud, you are essentially removing the neutral position for the ambivalent people in your audience.
You’re getting the people who actually want an answer to self-identify (“Yes, I do want to know the answer to that question!”). Not only that, because they’ve self-identified, they’re much more likely to lean in and be curious about your answer—your big idea.
And that makes them much more likely to take the action you’re hoping for.
I'm all for focusing on people who want what your idea is or does OR who already want something closely related to it. Click To Tweet
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How can you make people want your idea, your business, your product, your service? You can’t. But you can make those people who want even something related to your idea, much more likely to act as a result of your message. How do you do that? That’s what we’re talking about on today’s message in a minute. I’m your host, Tamsen Webster of Tamsenwebster.com.
So, when you’re trying to make your message more successful, it all starts with understanding who in your audience is indifferent to your idea and who is ambivalent. See, indifferent people don’t care about your idea, what it could do for them, what it could do for the world, and they probably never will. Ambivalent people do care, but they care about something that opposes the idea. So for instance, they care about climate change, but they also care about keeping their home cool and comfortable. That opposition creates inaction.
Now, that’s important because that action requires attachment to something. And so, that’s why to make your message more successful, you need to attach your idea to something your audience already cares about. You need to activate that attachment. How do you do that? Frame your idea as an answer to a question your audience is already asking, even better, if that question contains the thing that they’re ambivalent about like, “How can I keep my home cool and comfortable while also taking care of the environment?” Answer: your idea.
Not only will people be much more likely to act, you will also likely spend a lot less time trying to make a difference with the indifferent, which is a pretty impossible task. Read more about this whole process in my book, Find Your Red Thread: Make Your Big Ideas Irresistible, and much more about this particular video, over on my blog at Tamsenwebster.com/content.
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