Ever heard of the Pique Technique?
It involves making an unusual request to pique someone’s interest who would normally mindlessly refuse you. The odd request disrupts their pre-planned objection so that they are more likely to think positively about agreeing to the request.
Woah, I know that was a mouthful. But bear with me for a minute…
In 1994 researchers sent a few people out posing as panhandlers to make one of four requests of people:
- “Can you spare 17¢?” – An odd low request.
- “Can you spare 37¢?” – An odd high request.
- “Can you spare a quarter?” – Normal low request.
- “Can you spare any change?” – Normal high request.
Which question do you think was most effective?
The odd requests were 36% more likely to result in compliance than the normal requests AND more money was collected using the odd requests.
The odd requests caused people to think about the request itself. Wouldn’t you be thinking to yourself, “Why does this person need 17¢?” It also increased the likability of the panhandler.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Because as business owners we fall into the trap of making the same old requests using the same old language as everyone else.
And that makes it so much easier for people to say NO.
When people hear the same request over and over again, they create a subconscious script for rejecting that request.
Think about the last time a telemarketer called—you probably didn’t even listen to their full pitch before saying you’re not interested (or just hanging up the phone).
But when someone makes an odd request, all of a sudden you’re thinking about it.
How We Can Use the Pique Technique in Our Marketing Strategy
Here’s what this study means for our approach to marketing:
1. Make specific requests to make the decision easier.
When I taught high school, I quickly learned that broad instructions like, “Read this chapter and take notes” didn’t move many students to take notes. But when I got specific and said something more like, “Read this chapter, and take notes on the instances the characters discuss their hopes and dreams” all of a sudden students were more likely to complete their work (If you’re wondering, one subject I taught was freshman english and we always read Of Mice and Men).
We’re not all that different from my high school students. People need to be told specifically what action to take next: Where do I click? How do I find more information? What’s the best way to get in touch?
But remember they don’t need to take all the possible actions at once. They only need to take the next action.
So only ask people to take the next action.
This is why user experience design on a website is so critical. When a new visitor lands on your website, what’s the first action you want them to take?
2. Catch people’s attention by breaking from the expected.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel—and trying to do so generally results in unnecessary complexity. You usually only have to do ONE different-but-outstanding thing to be memorable.
So what’s one place in your system that you can do things differently than most other people in a way that will make people remember you?
What if instead of replying to an inquiry with your normal email, you replied with a short, personalized video response? Or what if you had a live chat on your website so you could respond to people in real time?
People expect you to provide good service or a quality product. They expect you’ll get back to them in a timely manner and that you sound professional.
That’s generally not enough to be memorable or remarkable.
So what can you do to be remarkable?
3. It’s okay to be yourself.
One striking thing from the study above was that the odd request was more endearing to people. It’s unclear exactly why that’s the case, but my guess is that the odd, more specific requests came across as more genuine.
People don’t want to be sold to, especially from someone who sounds like they’re working from a script. They want to connect with another person who can help them get to where they want to go. And giving your personality some room can help that connection happen.
There’s a fine line, of course. Odd is not the same thing as weird—weird isn’t as endearing. And notice that the request in the study still resulted in the desired action (getting people to give money).
There’s plenty of ways to get people’s attention. Be sure to do it in a way that will keep their attention and leads to the desired result.
So what do you think? What’s one way this week you can pique someone’s interest and get them thinking about what you have to say?
If you’re looking for a few ways to stand out in your market, you should check out this blog post on cutting through the noise.