A sad, and unfortunately common question in most major cities, but one that misses a principle that you as a marketer are probably making as well.

If you’re trying to get leads from your website, what you ask for, how you ask for it and when you ask for it can all make a big difference.

To show you what I mean, let me tell you a story about professional beggars – or University researchers at they are sometimes known…

Researchers go begging

A US study in 2010 sent two groups of people out onto the streets of New York.

The first group stopped people in the street and asked them for change for the subway.

The second group stopped people and asked them for the time of day, then as a follow-up question asked them for change for the subway.

The second group collected money from over three times as many people as the first (48%, compared with 13% for the first group).

The second group also received significantly more generous donations.

So what’s happening here and how did asking for such an innocent bit of information as the time of day create such a huge difference in the reactions of people on the street?

Actions Create Consistency

The answer is in a powerful psychological trigger known as consistency.

Once someone has behaved in a certain way it’s much harder to get them to change their course of action, so our challenge is getting someone to behave in a way consistent with what we eventually want them to do, but without the risk of asking them to go all the way on a first encounter.

Since it’s discovery it’s been used by charities, health workers and marketers to get their target audience to at least face in the right direction before they start moving.

In the case of our begging researchers, the consistency was in being “helpful”. Once the researchers had set their subjects up as thinking of themselves as helpful people,  without the trauma of actually getting their wallets out, the follow-up of asking for money was far more successful.

So how do you apply this to your own marketing?

Are you begging for leads?

The sad fact is that too many websites are like the first group of researchers, going out begging for leads.

“Please pick up the phone” they beg.

“Please ask me for a quote, it’s FREE, actually I’ll let you keep my pen too”

A bit sad isn’t it.

Wouldn’t you rather be like the second team, who can get almost anyone to stop for them, and way more to hand over money?

Imagine if you could do that with your website or advertising. You could do that all day long without even needing to be there.

To see how we can copy our second research group, let’s look at what they did.

1) Ask a question.

Questions are powerful, they stop people in their tracks. Half the battle for beggars is to even get people to acknowledge them. As much as the consistency principle is powerful, this is a big contributor.

2) Ask for very little at the outset.

Giving someone the time costs nothing. In fact there’s a cliché about how much you’d have to dis-like someone to not “give them the time of day”.

Finding something you can get your prospect to do with the absolute minimum of effort is your first challenge.

I mean really a minimum of effort, like not even moving their eyeballs. Like seeing a pop-up.

Yes, yes, yes. I know you “hate” pop-ups but I bet you haven’t actually tested them on your website. Because if you had you’d love them.

Anyway, let’s not fight. We’ve hardly even met, so lets try something else.

The smallest commitment.

The smallest action on the web is a click.

In terms of asking for a commitment a click is the web equivalent of asking the time. Ask a question, get an answer with a click.

Just think about that for a moment. What is easier to get. A click or a phone call?

A click (in case you were still wondering) is waaaaay easier to get than a phone call, and it’s not an either / or decision. You can get a click, and then ask for a phone call, or an order, or just another click.

3) Gradually raise the stakes, using the commitment you already have.

Unlike an email signup form, or a call-back request, a click isn’t really giving you something, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Depending on the price and risks involved in what you’re selling you might have to do a lot of education from here, or you might be able to go for the kill right away.

An example of tiny commitments

Let’s have a look at a simple example with this working form below.

[thrive_leads id=’931′]

A question, then a click, then a form.

In fact a pretty dumb, rhetorical question. I’m sure anyone who clicks no is just doing it out of curiosity!

It’s not much different from the way most sites ask for email addresses, but this method has beaten the “form-only” version by over 20% in almost every test we’ve run so far.

Added to that, we’ve not yet asked for you to buy anything, we’re actually giving something away.

That’s something we’ll be teaching in our upcoming workshop. If you’re near Twickenham on September 17th, then you might want to get yourself along to see what other tips we have that can pull in and convert more sales and leads online.