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Size Matters: How a Small Ask in your Copywriting Can Lead to Big Results

sales person

Last week Victoria Beckham celebrated her 50th birthday with a celebrity filled party in a swanky members only club in London. Her guests arrived in Victoria Beckham dresses gifted to them by Victoria and left with Victoria Beckham party bags.


I mean, how could you say no when someone gives you a dress to wear to her party?


I know what you're thinking why didn't I attend and what has this to do with strategic communication?


Just to set the record straight - I didn't receive a VB designer dress (which is why I didn't attend ;) ) and the reason this is important to your communication all comes down to a sales technique known as the Foot in the Door Technique.


The foot-in-the-door technique is a way to get someone to agree to something by first having them agree to a smaller request.


It's a popular tactic used by politicians and frustrated parents alike. If you’ve ever had to convince your defiant toddler to go to bed by asking them if they would like a warm drink or a bedtime story then you’ve used the foot-in-the-door technique.


Likewise, it's being used on you - A shop owner offering you a sample of their ice cream that leads you to buy a whole tub or a work colleague asking if you could help proofread their report only to find yourself rewriting it all.


So what's going on:


In a 1966 study, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser approached homeowners in Palo Alto and asked if they would be willing to put up a large, ugly sign in their front yard that said, “Drive Carefully.”



Foot in the Door Study Drive Safely

Only 17% were willing to put up the sign.


A second group of homeowners was asked to place a 3-inch sign in their windows saying "Be a safe driver.”, nearly all of them agreed to this small request.


Two weeks later, those same homeowners were asked if they would be willing to put up the large, ugly sign.


Foot in the door Be Safe Drivers poster

This time, 76% of homeowners agreed.


The Foot in the Door method theorizes that if you want a person to do a large favour, then you need to start by asking them to do a small favour - because once a person agrees to a small request they find it harder to refuse a larger one.

Freedman and Fraser, explained, that the FITD is a method of “compliance without pressure.” a gentle persuasion that is non-intrusive. In fact, from a psychological perspective, the best FITD tactics have the customer actually persuading themselves.

How You Can Apply This: Because "No One Likes to Leave A Party without a Goody Bag" - Peter Whent

  1. Consider Your Small Requests


When using FITD in your marketing, it helps to first determine what is an appropriate “small request" for your customers.


This should be something that most of your visitors are willing to make. For example, would they rather give their email addresses, complete a survey, or comment on your social media post?


Next, determine how many small steps or micro-commitments your customer will need before you ask the bigger request.

2. Escalate Your Offer - How to scale to your big request.


For the FITD method to be successful the scale of each request must be proportionate.


The first request should be significant enough for a person to develop a self-perception that they are helping the other person, but not so large that they would refuse.


Each of these micro-commitments should guide your prospect towards your larger offer (macro-commitment) and be consistent with your core goal.


For example, It's a new year and most people are making goals to be healthier.

You post a social media post about vegetarian cooking and ask your audience to subscribe to your weekly email of 30 min Vegetarian recipes.


A few days later you send an email to your subscribers inviting them to join your free 30 day challenge to become vegetarian.


At the end of the challenge, you ask for feedback and in return send them a link with a discount to purchase your vegetarian cookbook


A few days later you announce the launch of your Vegetarian Cooking Course.

3. Get Your Potential Client To Self-Identify -

When we think of FITD, we often envision the person making the sale putting their foot in the door. However, many businesses start the process by having the potential customer make the first step

Businesses who use a quiz as their lead magnet such as Dating apps ask leading questions ie: What type of person you’re looking to date, their age range, eye color, and more – before asking you to sign up to see who is available

When it comes to your copywriting, Framing plays a large part in the success of your requests.

The Good Person Frame:

We all see ourselves as relatively good people and when answering questions, it’s easier to give yes answers if they’re framed in a way that makes us feel good as a person.


For example: Charities instead of asking if you’d like to donate $500 to help save stray cats, might first ask if you're a cat or dog person, if the recipient says cat they can ask if you own a cat, care about the well-being of cats etc all the while leading up to the bigger request of a donation. 

The Situation Framing:

Understanding your customer's journey allows you to tap into their buying trigger. Understanding why they need a solution to the problem lets you frame the first request to align with the conversation in their head.


For example: When selling web design, instead of asking the potential customer if they’d like a new website design, you could ask if they’d like to convert their website traffic into sales.


By starting with a smaller and less intimidating ask that leans into shared beliefs and values - any subsequent request will seem beneficial to them personally

A few business Models you can use: 


  • Freemium Models:

Companies with freemium models offer a free version of their service to get users in the door.


Once users find themselves enjoying the service's value, they're more likely to upgrade to a paid version for any additional features or benefits. Think Netflix, and Amazon, who entice you in with their full package and then take it away if you don't upgrade.

The razor and blades business model:

This business model involves selling one product at a small profit or even at a loss, in order to sell a complementary product for a significant profit with the secondary product being the primary source of recurring revenue. A good example of this is reusable razors and disposable blades and printers and print cartridges.


  • Online forms:

Your customer's first contact with your online signup forms should not be too tasking. Consider having fewer fields to fill out. Don't ask for their credit card details or their telephone number if you don't need them. These questions can be asked later once they've made a commitment.


Asking for something big right out of the gate will rarely work. Instead, ask for something small (and while you're building those relations try giving something of value back).

On a final note: Keep in mind as a customer it’s OK to say “No” to any request.


Just because you’ve said yes before doesn't mean you have to agree to subsequent or bigger requests.


Know your limits, what you can offer, and what you’re comfortable offering.

And consider any potential consequences whether positive or negative, before agreeing to any requests.

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