Allow me to give you 700,000 great reasons to use sticky notes. I work at State Auto Insurance which gives me a proving ground to see how influence and persuasion training works in “the real world.” After all, it’s one thing to read about psychological studies but it’s quite another to translate the findings into business practices that help the bottom line.
In Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, the authors (Cialdini, Goldstein, Martin) cite two studies on the use of yellow sticky notes to show how they engage people and can increase the response rate. In both studies, when a sticky note with a hand written message was attached to a survey cover letter, the response rate to the survey more than doubled when compared to just sending out the survey cover letter.
Most people would deny they took the survey because of the sticky note and short message written on it. However, quite often the psychological prihttp://www.amazon.com/Yes-Scientifically-Proven-Ways-Persuasive/dp/1416570969nciples of influence are triggered at the subconscious level and that’s a big reason people deny it – because they’re unaware of how the stimuli affected them.
Why does the sticky note with the short message work so well? Because of reciprocity; the principle of influence that alerts us to the reality that people feel obligated to give back when they sense someone has done something for them. Using a sticky note with a handwritten message takes extra time and personalizes the request. Consciously or unconsciously, recipients of the survey responded to that small act in a big way. After all, it’s hard to deny a doubling of the response rate in two separate studies.
You’re wondering where the 700,000 reasons are going to come in. Let me take you back a few years. Within days of returning from an extended Christmas break, I was called into a meeting because our company made a big error, a $700,000 mistake to be exact. Somehow we’d overpaid 150 insurance agencies in one of our operating states, doubling their commission income for the month! It would have been nice if we could have pushed a button and gotten the money back but we couldn’t. Part of the plan to try to get the money back as quickly as possible included a letter going out from our accounting department with clear instructions on exactly what each agency needed to do in order to remit the over payment.
Fortunately, the accounting person had been through my training where I shared the results of the sticky note studies. I reminded him about that and said, “If you don’t have time to put a note on each letter call me and I’ll come do it.” Because he was a good student he remembered the training session and assured me he would put a sticky note on each letter and sign them before mailing.
About two weeks later I called him to find out how the collection was going and he said, “I’m floored!” When I asked why, he proceeded to tell me 130 of the 150 agencies had already sent the money back. I was a bit surprised because if someone told me I owed them money due to an over payment, I’d send back what I owed right away. With that thought in mind I asked, “You mean they didn’t all send it back?” That got a laugh then he replied, “We’re talking about money here. A lot of times people will say, ‘It’s your problem, you fix it,’ or ‘Let’s work out a repayment schedule,’ because they’ve already spent the money.”
When we had lunch about two months later, he said 147 or the 150 agencies had repaid all the money. I’m not going to tell you they all paid it back so quickly just because of the sticky notes or even that twice as many did so, but I know for a fact more of them responded, and did so faster, because two separate psychological studies verify that for me.
In my Principles of Persuasion workshops I emphasize the reality that small changes can lead to big differences. The great news is so often what it takes to produce those big changes costs next to nothing. For my company it was a couple of packets of sticky notes and perhaps 15 extra minutes to sign them and stick them to letters. Do you still send things the old fashioned way where you need people to do something? If so, I encourage you to invest in some sticky notes and you’ll see better results because the science tells us so.