An Education in How to Apply Persuasion to a School Levy

Many years ago I wrote a blog post that was one of my best read. It even caught the attention of Jeffrey Gitomer and he ran it in his weekly Caffeine Ezine. The article was called 700,000 Great Reasons to Use Yellow Sticky Notes. It showed how we took a concept from the book Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive and implemented it to recover from a $700,000 mistake quickly.

The person I worked with to make that happen was our home office accounting manager Steve Ruble. Steve recently told me he was taking the concept of personalizing information into a school levy campaign in his town. He said if the levy failed there would be many more cuts than residents realized. Being a big school supporter and having children in the school system, Steve had a vested interest in making sure this didn’t happen. The odds were against the levy as none had passed since 2010.

Working with other supporters of the school levy they were able to identify 2,000 people who hadn’t voted in the last levy ballot. A frequently asked questions (FAQs) flier was delivered to these people. On the FAQ was a section highlighted in yellow that read, “Please Vote Yes.” Steve personally signed all 2,000, writing “Thank You” next to the highlighted section.

Now you might be thinking something as trivial as a personalized note would have no effect on your decision to vote, let alone to vote yes on the levy. You would not be alone in that thought, but much of persuasion happens at the subconscious level, meaning it impacts you without you actively thinking about it.

In the studies cited in Yes, both times signed sticky notes were used the response rate doubled. When a hand written note was used without a sticky note the response rate was still 33% higher. You can’t explain away those results in a controlled experiment.

Back to my friend Steve – he had seen the difference it makes to personalize requests to our agents when it came to money and he knew it worked. That’s why he made sure the Please Vote Yes was highlighted in yellow and that’s why he endured writer’s cramp to sign 2,000 FAQs!

Quite often elections come down to a few percentage points and in small towns that might mean a few hundred swing voters can make the difference.In Steve’s case the levy passed by a whopping 74% to 26% margin!

Did the personalization – an application of the principle of reciprocity – make all the difference? Perhaps not all the difference, but Steve knew it could be a big part of the difference they would need to pass the levy and he was wise enough not to let the opportunity slip by.

Whenever you want to persuade someone – to get them to do something they’re not doing at the moment – take a moment to personalize your request and your odds of hearing yes will be much better.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
influencePEOPLE 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence People, LLC. A dynamic keynote speaker, trainer, coach, and consultant, he specializes in applying the science of influence and persuasion in business and personal situations. He is one of only 20 individuals in the world who currently holds the Cialdini Method Certified Trainer® (CMCT®) designation. This specialization in the psychology of persuasion was earned directly from Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. – the most cited living social psychologist in the world when it comes to the science of ethical persuasion. Brian’s passion is helping people achieve greater professional success and enjoy more personal happiness. He does this by teaching people how to ethically move others to action through the science of persuasion.
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