If you’re familiar with marketing, you know the principle of a benefit exchange: a reward offered in return for taking an action. A benefit exchange answers the question: What’s in it for me?
For example: If I buy Nikes, I’ll feel like an athlete. If I go to your meeting, I’ll get some face time with senior staff.
Benefit exchanges are useful for all kinds of situations. Like getting someone at work to agree to your proposal, encouraging people to change their habits or inspiring someone to donate to a cause.
But we often get the benefit exchange wrong. We don’t offer a strong enough reward – or a sufficiently clear call to action.
So here’s a mini-marketing refresh on strengthening the reward part of your benefit exchange. If you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, think about sharpening the “what’s in it for me?” answer with a better reward.
A compelling reward has five important attributes: It should be immediate, personal, reflective of your audience’s values, better than competing rewards, and credible.
Immediate: The best rewards are available to our audience right away. Few of us take action based on a reward that we expect to receive in the far future. It is human nature to seek instant satisfaction over distant gratification. So think about what your call to action will do for someone in the short term. Eating a hamburger satisfies our hunger, drinking beer makes the ball game more fun, and wearing cologne makes us feel sexier. Donating to charity makes us feel we made a difference for one person, today. How can you show an immediate result may be possible?
Personal: The reward needs to make people feel their life will be better as individuals or within their tight circles of friends, family and community. Take the attributes of what you want people to do and sell them as benefits. What will recycling or sidewalks or education policy do for your audience? At the end of the day, the personal connection, not the grand concept, grabs our attention.
Grounded in audience values: We can’t easily change what other people believe, but by plugging into their existing mind-set we unleash great power behind our message. Make sure the reward you are offering is something others seek – not just what you want. Those two things are rarely the same, but we often imagine they are!
Better than the competition: Think competitively about your reward. Is it better than what people get for doing nothing – or something else? Don’t forget there’s a reason people aren’t taking action. They may be deriving benefits from those behaviors. How can you make your reward better than what people get from maintaining the status quo?
Credible: Last, you need to make sure the claim of your benefit is believable. People need to believe they can get the reward. Show other people gaining the promised benefit or telling a good story can bolster your case. Make the promise change credible.
If people aren’t doing what you want, you may find out why by reviewing this list. Are you making your offer sufficiently irresistible? Or could you sweeten the reward in one of these areas? It’s worth the effort to consider, because a great benefit exchange makes it far easier (and faster) to get to yes.