Copywriting Toolbox: The ‘Foot in the Door’ Technique

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Most marketers are serious do-it-yourselfers. They’re learning constantly about all kinds of different facets of marketing and trying to put what they learn into practice all with just one pair of hands. Most internet marketing guides will tell you to begin outsourcing and managing as early as possible, to help grow your business at the fastest rate possible, but this kind of management role isn’t always feasible if you aren’t entering into your entrepreneurship journey with some startup capital.

Oftentimes, you’ll have to make something work all on your own, and copywriting is no different. There’s a reason that there’s an entire industry dedicated to having someone else write your web copy, sales letters, email series, and more – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a bang-up job yourself with a little bit of know-how. Today, we’re going to go over the “foot in the door” copywriting technique; it’s a classic copywriting move that can help you to increase responsiveness by easing into your propositions (purchases, sign ups, referrals, or whatever constitutes a successful conversion for your business).

The foot in the door principle is based upon the fact that people are naturally resistant to taking large steps out of the blue. This is, for example, why telephone salespeople have to work through such a large volume of number registries to keep sales at an acceptable level. That said, this resistance tends to lessen when the ‘ask’ becomes less and less of a hassle or monetary obligation for someone. Obviously, you would be more likely to try a new type of shampoo if it cost $5 per bottle than if it were $15.

Those studying (anecdotally) copywriting psychology posited that perhaps these smaller actions could be used to build trust, and thus, over time, increase the chances that someone would agree to a larger ask. As luck would have it, for you, they were right.

The first time I learned of the technique, it was written something like this: If someone came to your door and asked you to put a large political yard sign out endorsing a certain candidate, you would likely be resistant (even if it came from a party you identified with). But let’s say, instead, campaigners ask you to take just an “I support [candidate name]!” button. You’ll never wear it, but the ask is small and you agree; there doesn’t seem to be any harm in doing so. Let’s say that a week or two later, the same people come by and this time they are asking about the yard sign. You may have said no before, but you already agreed with them once, and the button spurred you into doing a bit of research on the candidate, and now maybe you’re more open to a public endorsement. Without a doubt, the second strategy will end up with more lawn signs in more yards.

No matter what your business is, you can use this same technique. In your own business, think of how you can get someone to agree to something small before you ask them for something big. In sales letters, you’ll notice that copywriters often pose questions with seemingly obvious answers.

“Do you want to cure your acne this week?”

“Do you agree that acne creates an unattractive, juvenile appearance?”

The purpose of these questions is to bait readers into mentally agreeing and nodding along; if they’ve already agreed with you on one thing, they’re more likely to agree with you on the next thing as well. In your own businesses, think about how you can use this technique to ‘soften’ any ask you have – you might just be surprised at how dramatically conversion rates change when correctly implementing it.

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