The Question that Quadrupled Response Rates

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The Question that Quadrupled Response Rates

February 17, 2015

by Dan Richards

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Last week, my article Getting Prospects to Meet described how an advisor uses case studies on tax saving strategies to get in front of prospects.

Today, I will show how using a “fallback request” quadrupled participation in a Red Cross blood drive, and how this technique could increase your success when talking to existing and prospective clients.

Why fallback requests work

Arizona State Professor Robert Cialdini is a pioneer in researching the drivers of persuasion. In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini described two 1960s experiments; one aimed at getting more volunteers to chaperone a group of teenagers on a trip to the zoo and the other at increasing donors to a Red Cross blood drive. The underlying principle behind a fallback request is simple: If people say no to an initial, reasonable request, they are more likely to agree to a subsequent lesser demanding request. This is also known as the contrast principle.

Cialdini described how the Baltimore County Youth Counsellor Program tripled volunteers to chaperone a group of “juvenile delinquents” on a trip to the zoo in the 1960s by first asking for a pledge of two hours a week for two years. When respondents said that this was too big of a commitment to take on, the people making the request said that they understood but that there was a special trip to the zoo coming up. They asked if the respondent would be free to accompany these kids just this one time.

In the case of the Red Cross blood drive, using a fallback request increased the response rate to donate blood from 15% to 65%. Again, the first request was more ambitious. In this case, respondents were asked to sign up to give blood every six weeks for three years. Respondents declined, saying that they knew giving blood was important, but they weren’t able to make this commitment. The people making the request replied that this was absolutely understandable, but asked if they were in a position to give blood just once in an upcoming one day blood drive. What’s especially interesting is that not only did the agreement to participate in this one day blood drive go up after the more ambitious initial request was made, but the percentage of people who showed up after saying yes was significantly higher as well.

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