A Behavioral Economics Trick That Anyone Can Use

There are two fairly well known behavorial economics “tricks” that I see all the time. These are basically ways to get someone to say “yes.”

  1. Foot in the Door: Get someone to agree to something small, and when they see how easy it was, it’s much easier to get them to agree to something big later. Example: Ask someone if you can put a small political campaign sign in their front yard, and then return a week later with a bigger sign and a decent chance they’ll say yes to it.
  2. Door in the Face: Ask someone for something big up front, knowing that they’ll probably say no. When they do, ask for something small instead, and they’re more likely to say yes to it.

I may have discovered a third such technique. I call it Install the Door.

Recently at work we signed up for a new type of fundraising software to use for fundraising events. Getting it installed was a huge pain–there were all these tutorials and papers to sign and more papers to acquire from the bank for accounting reasons. You pay per use for this software, so we paid to use it for a recent fundraising event.

It’s now a little more than a week after the event, and the software came up in a discussion with my accounting department. As I was reviewing some of the documents, I found myself thinking, “At least we don’t have to go through all this again next year.”

Basically, I found myself thinking that we should use the software again simply because we had already gone through the hassle of setting it up. It’s not like we’ll get any discounts because we’ve already set it up–we’ll still have to pay every time we use it. Yet I found myself wanting to use it again because I didn’t have to jump through all the hoops again.

Thus the Install the Door technique. If you’ve spent a ton of time installing the door, it’s a lot easier for you to walk through it again.

This goes well beyond this software. We see this all the time. I use Charter Cable, not because Charter is better than the alternatives, but because I’ve already gone through the hassle of setting it up. Dating websites use this too–you answer a long list of questions to sign up, so it’s a lot easier to get you to extend your membership later. You feel like you’re already invested so much time into creating your profile that it’s easy to hit a single button to continue.

Have you ever seen this technique? Do you think it’s effective?

5 thoughts on “A Behavioral Economics Trick That Anyone Can Use”

  1. I’ve seen it and I think the issue is, does the item/system/gizmo/whatchamacallit for which the door was installed have value beyond convenience?

    If it doesn’t then, well, aside from needing to create personal rapport, then you wasted both your time and their time.

    Thus, create the need first then install the door.

  2. I see this all the time in service relationship marketing. Make ongoing agreements either tough to set up (when competitors are no easier), or easy to set up but difficult to exit. The former describes most of financial services or any subscription service, the latter describes gym memberships, which are easy to set up but often costly to leave.

    Predictably, the competition then shifts to things like “transfer kits”, which were seen being rolled out during “Join a Credit Union Day” some years ago.

    • Gym memberships are a great example. Although I’m not a big fan of making things difficult to leave. I wonder if there is something to be said for easy to enter, easy to leave–because you feel like you have the freedom to leave at any time, you’re comfortable entering the agreement in the first place.


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