“Say yes, and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” – Tina Fey
Human brains are fascinating. The brain is the only object that can contemplate itself, it generates enough electricity to power a 25-watt light bulb and it’s always working covertly to make our lives easier. Thank you, brain.
One way our brains help us get through every day is by creating shortcuts—a default course of action in response to specific stimuli. These shortcuts are how we make most of our decisions, and they were developed over millennia as a way to conserve mental energy because there’s no possible way we can weigh the pros and cons of every decision we have to make throughout the day—what to eat, where to go for coffee in the morning, whether or not to be passive aggressive in that email…you get the picture.
These little shortcuts translate into hardwired behaviors. And, as Nancy Harhut, digital strategist and expert in the field of decision science, explains in her recent interview on the podcast Marketing Smarts, this is important information for business owners and marketers.
Social scientists and behavioral economists have found that certain stimuli, and particularly certain words, increase the likelihood that people will say “yes.” And by using these words, you can increase your e-blast open rates, read rates and click-through rates.
The first magical word is “because.” Because is what researchers call a “compliance trigger,” which sounds borderline crazy/dystopian, but really just means that it makes people more likely to say yes. Harvard University tested this word by conducting a study in which a person cut in line at a copy machine. When the person said something like, “Excuse me, do you mind if I cut in front of you?” they got a ‘yes’ 60% of the time. But when they said, “Excuse me, do you mind if I cut in front of you because I’m in a hurry,” they were told ‘yes’ 94% of the time. Like magic.
While it’s always good to give someone a reason why they should do what you ask, the word “because” is extra powerful because we’re used to it being followed by something positive or logical.
Another way to get people to say “yes” is by applying what’s known as the principle of scarcity. If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably seen things like “only 2 left” or “almost gone” on items in online stores, which in turn made you buy it right then and there because even though it’s not remotely in your budget you might never have the chance to buy it for the rest of your life and you’ll be damned if everyone else is going to have a puking emoji purse but you. That frantic and irrational triggering of your buy now response is the principle of scarcity at work.
If something’s readily available, we don’t have a strong urge to get it. But, if something is only available for a specific amount of time (urgency), or to a specific group of people (exclusivity), it activates a special drive in us that makes us want it badly (remember when we talked about exclusivity in our swag blog?).
The Email Institute ran a study that found you can get a 22% boost in your email opening rates by using the principle of scarcity in your subject lines. And if you’re B2B, you can get a 39% increase in your open rates. This means using words and phrases like, flash sale, today only, last chance, early bird special, final notice and only X number remaining.
Now get out there and use some ‘yes’ words—because why not? And if you want to learn more about other powerful words, or how to knock your testimonials out of the park, listen to Nancy Harhut’s full podcast here. Or, ya know, give us a shout.