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2 Cents on 2 Bucks

2 cents-1Once Upon A Time:
As a kid I was fascinated by Nielsen, you know the TV ratings people.  I yearned to have my household chosen to be a Nielsen family.  I imagined how cool it would be to have one of those mysterious ratings boxes I heard so much about, but never actually saw, sitting atop the television.  This was back in the days of limited channels, no internet, and not many options with regard to electronic entertainment, so in my mind it was a big deal.  “If they just knew what I was watching every night, then maybe my favorite shows would have a chance of staying on television.”  Damn you Nielsen, why didn’t you ever pick me?  We could have saved The A Team for one more season.  We could have killed off Murder She Wrote before it started.  We could have been so great together.  But alas, it was never meant to be.

Show Me The Money:
Last week I opened my mailbox to discover a package from… Nielsen.  Was it the mysterious “black box” of tv ratings?  No, too flat.  What could it be?
It was a survey.  The good people of Nielsen were seeking information about me and my household.  10 short questions.  They stated that my feedback was very important.  Because of my childhood fascination with the company, the simple request would probably have been enough to seal the deal, but they went a step further to demonstrate their seriousness.  They gave me two bucks.  Two crispy one dollar bills, thanking me in advance for helping.  Why?  Because this company that has tracked human behavior for decades truly understands people and how they think.

We completed the survey and sent it in the following day.  What Nielsen did by sending me, and I assume others who received the survey, the two dollars up front was to ensure that they would get a phenomenal response rate for their efforts.  They tapped into the human behavioral principle known as reciprocation.  They proactively did something for me, assuming that I would then feel obligated to return the favor.  Isn’t this expensive?  Sure, but if they can increase the response rate enough to offset the money they spent on postage, the two dollars actually saves them money.

This is why you get a “free” gift for coming to that jewelry, juice, wine, candle, vitamin or soap party, and then end up buying $50.00 worth of stuff.  This is why those people at the airport give you a carnation first and then ask for a voluntary donation.  It is all about psychology.  They gave in order to get.

Nielsen could have tried to save money by offering me two dollars after I sent the survey to them in the form of a rebate, but that would not have had the desired effect.  In this scenario I would have been far more likely to look at the two dollars as cheap and not worth my time – this is the same two dollars that given up front produced a compelling urge to reciprocate their gesture.  It was all in the delivery.

My 2 cents:
Nope, I am still not a Nielsen family.  No black box for me just yet.   Seeing as how I don’t have cable or satellite television, I am not sure how useful I would be to them now anyway, although it would be fun to try to skew the ratings in favor of Nova, Austin City Limits, and Bill Moyers.  The dream lives on.  Regardless, I thought the survey was masterful marketing which made me admire the company more.  (Send me one of those mystery boxes and four bucks, and I will really love you Nielsen.)

Now, what about you?  Do you start by asking or giving?   Think about your approach to life and how the principle of Reciprocation might help you find new ways to succeed.   By giving a little up front, you might stand to gain a whole lot more in return.