One of my favorite TED talks of all time is Joe Smith’s How to Use a Paper Towel. If you’ve seen it, I’m willing to bet you’ve never looked at a paper towel the same way again. If you haven’t seen it, well, go ahead and watch it now. I’ll wait. It’s only 4-1/2 minutes.
There are a ton of lessons that single talk can teach:
- You can mess up (which he does in his first line!) and still deliver a great talk
- Why your Truth statement is required, even if it sounds minor (Smith presents his as: “The fold is important because it allows interstitial suspension. You don’t have to remember that part, but trust me.”)
- You can create a permanent change in 400 words… or less (The audience is responsible for about 17 of Smith’s!)
But for today, my favorite lesson is the power of making your “barrier to trial” low. In other words, how can you make trying your idea (or product or solution) so easy that people can’t not try it?
A lot of marketing and messaging faces the same issue: How can you get people to care about something they don’t care about right now?
And heck, forget the “care about” part. How can you get someone to buy something they don’t currently (know they) want?
Unfortunately, you can’t ever get over the “wanting” part. You always have to create some level of desire before someone will act. Usually, though, we focus on getting people to want the outcome so much they’ll do anything to achieve it. That usually means they have to ignore, at some level, how hard the action is to do.
A lot of very bad behaviors (and products) have been justified by telling people that’s the only way to get the rosy vision of an outcome you’ve promised.
I’m not a big believer in that. Twenty-five years in branding and message strategy — not to mention 13 years as a Weight Watchers (now WW) coach — has taught me that the best (and often most ethical) way to change someone’s behavior lies in upholding their beliefs, not challenging them. I even have a whole keynote on it! That why I suggest always anchoring your message in what your audience already wants.
And yet, and yet…
People didn’t walk into Smith’s talk wanting to learn how to use a paper towel, did they? That wasn’t a question they were already asking. They may not even have walked in caring about saving paper, nor about the implied impact on the environment. (Though given that Smith gave his talk at a university in Portland, OR, it was a pretty safe bet.)
So this is where your second option comes in. Sometimes you can focus on getting people to want to try the behavior, and then the outcome is a “bonus.”
The reason that works is a lesson I also learned back in my WW days: action precedes motivation. Yes, that seems all upside down, I know. But it’s rooted in physics, and in Newton’s First Law of Motion. You know the one: “a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.”
Often it’s the action, not the outcome, that generates the momentum (and motivation) to keep acting.
And that means sometimes you have to make the action, or at least trying it, super, super easy for your audience. How? Three ways immediately come to mind:
- Offer enough information about the action and how to do it that your audience feels confident they’ll be successful with it
- Offer an experience that shows your audience that the action is effective (and ideally, easy)
- Offer both. 😉
This is especially important if your idea is new or different. In fact, that’s the main lesson of this week’s episode of “What’s Missing From This Message?”: how giving people enough information, and perhaps even a trial experience, can make signing up for a new service easier.
Obviously this is the lesson behind all free trials, demos, and even the late, lamented free food samples at Costco: when you make it easy for your audience to see how something works, it becomes much easier for them to see how something could work for them.
That means you don’t have to sell them on the outcome. They’ll sell it to themselves.The best (and often most ethical) way to change someone's behavior lies in upholding their beliefs, not challenging them. Click To Tweet
Please note that many of the links are affiliate links, which means if you buy a thing I link to, I get a percentage of the cost, and then donate it to charity.
Sometimes showing us the subject of your message is the way to make it stronger. That’s what we’re talking about on this episode of what’s missing from this message. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com
I got an email recently from a fine gentleman by the name of Mark Harvey, who wanted to introduce me to his side project, something he calls Two On An Island. As he says, it’s a fun way to tell and save your love story. And he’s developing it along with his partner, as a way to help introduce romance back into your life. Now, his concern is, he said, is he didn’t want people to think that it’s something any more kind of salacious than that, but they really believe that romance is a way to reconnect with your partner and restore some of the balance in your work and in your life, more on the life part.
All right, so here is Mark’s site, Two On An Island, and as we just land here and take a look, here are some of the things I noticed. First, a nice clean navigation. Welcome, About, Sponsor, Islanders, Play. Interesting combination of words, so I’m curious. I see some great pictures of couples, Becoming Warriors, Mark and Carolyn, our Island Warriors, 2018, featured home experts. Then it scrolls down and says, Lovers, unleash your romantic superpowers and be the best version of your charming self. Play, Join. An interesting video here, quote from Marcus, “I’m always thinking about pleasing her. My love runs deep. Aldania, hope I’m pronouncing that correctly, is my only addiction. T-O-A-I, which I think is Two On An Island, it says it’s a practice of intentional loving. Easy and sincere romantic challenges. A quote here from Aldania, “One person doing it the right way can make such a difference in this world. Nothing is more viral than a good juicy love story.”
Question. What’s the secret to happy relationship? Answer. Seduce your sweetie at least once per week. And then we’ve got Explore, Home, Wellness, Feed. Join, Get the Guide, Play Romance, Share your Skills, Path to Love. Love inspires us, our short and sweet love stories. Play, Join, Your Love is your Island. Prologue, let’s be friends. So my first big impression is I do not know what this is, and if I hadn’t gotten the email from Mark, I wouldn’t know what this is. And one of the things that is a little bit confusing about that is there isn’t any statement right up top about either what problem does it solve or what question does it answer or what that answer is. And the information that is there is not clear enough generally for me to understand what’s going on. Now that said, I think there’s some interesting pieces here that can be moved around, can be developed, to make this message even stronger than it is right now, because there really is some great stuff to build on.
Now, first thing is, I think there’s something interesting here with this, Share your work-life balance tips. Now, one of the things that’s a little confusing, if you click on that, as it takes you to an Instagram page, and the same thing is true for most of these images that they link to Instagram. Now, most of the time, if you’re clicking on something on a site, you’re not expecting to go off the site and you’re usually not expecting to go to Instagram. So one of the things that would be useful is just either to keep the links all within the page or to make it clear that these are ways to connect to something on Instagram. But even then I would want to know why we’re connecting to something on Instagram.
Now, like I said, this lineup at top about Share your work-life balance tips, that’s intriguing to me because it starts to hint at what this could solve. And if you deep dig deeper into the site, we can start to see some of what Mark was telling me in his email, which is that one of the ways to kind of feel more balanced in your life is to reconnect in meaningful ways with your partner, and they believe that that’s through romance. So what I’d love to see is really a focus on that or on a very specific question or problem that I, as a potential audience or reader, user, or customer, et cetera, might have right up front. Is this a way to kind of feel reconnected to my partner? Is this a way to feel more reconnected to my work? All of the above? Tell me something about that before you give me pictures because I don’t know what the pictures mean.
So, I can infer a lot from the pictures. I see three happy couples, but I don’t understand necessarily what the words on top of them mean. What does it mean to become warriors? And is that a message that without knowing what that means, is it work against this Two On An Island, this heart impression that I’m getting so far? Mark and Carolyn, Island Warriors, it looks like they might be near an Island, it looks like they’re happy, kissing. Yay. And it looks like Lisha and Michael here are also pretty excited about stuff, but feature home experts. So where’s that coming in? I don’t understand that connection.
So the next message pier that we saw as we were scrolling down was Lovers, Unleash your romantic superpowers and be the best version of your charming self. So this is a great outcome statement, but what can be really powerful is making sure that I understand kind of two other pieces. One is, what is the problem that this is the answer to? So this is the benefit, great. I’m going to unleash my romantic super powers and be the best version of my charming self. What problem does that solve for me? Because it’s not clear that I’m looking for that out of the gate. The second thing that I want to know is, what is it, like what is this? What is Two On An Island? Is it an approach? Is it a series of engagements? What is it?
Now, we would hope that clicking on one of these two would tell us a little bit more. If you click on Play, it tells you, “You’ve selected play, to start our guidance series, your first challenge is to convince your mate to play Two On An Island with you.” And then there’s testimonials. But I still don’t know what Two On An Island is and I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this, and I don’t know what this means. So again, we need to know what it is. And sometimes we get so used to our own stuff that we forget to tell people, but this is one of those times that was really useful to say this is a guided series. A guided series of what? It’s a challenge. Okay, how do I do that? What are the tools? This is one of those things that I think all the way through this site, one of the things that would make this message stronger is giving us examples, not just testimonials where people told us it’s great, but give us examples. Like, what is this? What does it look like? Can you give us a sample? Can you give us sample question? Can you have us do something that lets us see what this is like? Just so that we get a better sense of it.
Here’s where we were before, was at Lovers, unleash your romantic superpowers and be the best version of your charming self, gives us two options. Play, which is where we went before, and that took us to something that told us, “Hey, this is what our first challenge is. And then, Join. If you click on, it takes you to a private Facebook group. So again, so the joint piece is another example of it’s flipping you out to a social platform that you’re not expecting. So one thing that would be super helpful is tell us, just in small texts underneath, what this is going to do. So Play would be, I would suggest something that says, Experience a taste of what Two On An Island is all about, and then make sure that when you click on that, you’re actually giving me something like that. And then Join would be, Meet others who have made this journey and get to know them, either like before a decision or whatever, will take you to Facebook, or something.
But let me know what these two things mean. Because here’s an important point; when you’re asking people to act, they need to have enough information to understand and agree and consider action worth it before they’re going to. And if there’s not enough information here for me to understand what this is about so that I can agree that this is going to be useful to me, and therefore if I don’t know where the links are going, and I don’t know whether it’s worth it, just means you might be losing people who otherwise might be super interested in what you’re trying to do. So what I think would help this site overall, even just so far, is giving us a little bit more information, a little bit more explanation, a few more examples, other ways to experience what’s going on so that I understand enough so that I can make those next steps mentally.
Now, one thing I do really like about this site is that it’s showing a lot. It’s showing us a lot of feeling, it’s showing us some of the connection that we might be looking for, it’s giving us, it’s showing us the perspective of the founders of this site. And a lot of this is really, really attractive. It’s one of those rare times where I want you to tell me a little bit more, because by telling me a little bit more, now all that you’re showing me is going to make sense, it’s going to anchor into something that I’m more sure that I want or want to try. So T-O-A-I, Tow On An Island is the practice of intentional loving, easy and sincere romantic challenges. Like what? What does that mean? What would be an example? So for an example, like do X, so that you could do Y, something like that would be super helpful.
Again, a lovely experiential kind of feeling here about what this is all about and what we might get. And then we’ve got here a Question and Answer. What’s the secret? Answer, seduce your sweetie at least once per week. Tell us what you mean by that. Because one of the things that Mark had said in the email that he sent was that he was concerned that people just thought that this was kind of about sex or even about porn. But that isn’t what he’s talking about. This is very much about romance and reconnection. And so, as much as I love the alliteration of seduce your sweetie at least once a week, tell us what you mean by that so that we’re clear enough that you’re starting to distinguish what you mean from what you don’t mean.
These four pieces, Explore, Home, Wellness, Feed, those also link to Instagram pages, so I’m going to save us that. Again, I’m not clear on what Explore, Home, Wellness and Feed are. If you dig further into the site, there’s like seven elements and these are, I believe four of them, but that’s another example of something that on the homepage I want to understand what does this help me achieve? What’s the normal thing that gets in our way? Where do we think the answer lies? Where does the answer lie? Where do you believe Two On An Island, where do you believe the answer lies? So, what then do we need to do, kind of that some version of seduce your sweetie once a week. Now, how do we do that? Okay, well, we’ve got these seven elements, these seven elements show up in these kinds of challenges, these challenges accomplish this thing so that I can go, “Oh, I get it, now give me an easy way to sample this so that I can figure out what that looks like.”
When you click on, Try It, it takes you to a page where you can sign up for something. It defines here a type of couple, so dating couples. So there’s a couple of other things if you click on it, it says married couples, and these are the kinds of separations and the kinds of analysis that I would want to have more on the homepage so that I can recognize myself. So you can say whether you’re dating, whether you’re married or whatever, here’s what this means. Or, you know, you’re interested, great. Are you dating? Go down this path? Are you married? Go down this path. Are you trying to reconnect? Go down this path. I think there’s a really intriguing idea here. I think a lot of people are looking for reconnection, not just with their partner, but with their life. And I think that’s a really interesting path that a lot of people would respond well to, to say, “Hey, you know what? The first step to reconnecting with every thing else is to reconnect with the person that I love and that I spend all this time with.” And if this site is a collection and a group of people who think the same thing and these approaches that To On An Island take are kind of simple, straightforward and effective ways to do that, I think they got something here, but we really need to make sure that we know what that is.
As I said before, what’s missing from this message are the examples and the explanation that give me the information I need to know whether or not this is a fit for me. And there’s really good intention here, but we need to bridge the gap between what the intention is and what the experience is of the people who are interacting with this site. A lot of the fixes of this are really simple. It really means back up and say to yourself, “If I knew nothing about this, what is it that would help me understand more? What would help me reconnect, understand? What are the questions I would naturally ask? If I landed on the page, what’s the first question I would ask? What is this? What problem does it solve? How could it help me? How does it work?”
So simply by brainstorming from the questions that people would likely ask when they land on your site, you can often figure out exactly what kind of information, and in what order, to put there. So thank you, Mark and Aldania for sharing Two On An Island with me. I hope it was helpful to understand how to take that idea that you have and turn it into the information that people need in order to act on this great idea. So if you’ve got an idea or a message you want me to take a look at, send it to me at RedThreadMe@TamsenWebster.com. Thanks so much for watching.
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