The Small B!g: Small changes that spark big influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein and Robert B. Cialdini.
Recommended? Should be mandatory.
We were initially sceptical about The Small B!g. It seemed like just a moneymaker for co-authors Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini.
Not only was the title was annoying (that stupid !) the promise seemed ambitious. Can tiny differences in the way we speak, write, present, pitch or behave really yield such positive results for marketers and persuaders?
However its authors have rare pedigree. Cialdini is the author of Influence and Yes among other best-sellers which justified the pre-flight purchase. By the time of my arrival I was a smarter communicator. (Or it might have just been the high-altitude wine and crackers.)
If you are a marketer, fundraiser, public speaker, copywriter, salesperson of any variety you need to read this. It will make you richer, more successful, more influential. What’s more, it will make you reconsider how you communicate.
There are 52 pithy chapters in this upbeat book each highlighting a small change to business-as-usual that can yield great results. Chapters are short and sweet, referencing scientific experiments proving the hypothesis. Some readers, like us, might find the experiments less than scientific in nature.
Can two groups of 21-year-old sociology students really represent the population more broadly?
Indeed too much of the advice in The Small B!g is based on twee, artificial, campus-based social experiments. You know the deal – a researcher fed one group chocolate chip cookies and another group salty crackers before giving them all 20 hypothetical dollars to give away to random strangers before drawing a long bow and declaring that feeding people sweet foods makes the more philanthropic than savoury.
We are far from the only grumps to have had enough of ‘experiments’ that are supposed to inform the way we market and live. Many social experiments have recently come under criticism for not being replicable – one of the fundamentals of science but we digress…
Many of the findings in The Small B!g are counterintuitive. Why would any marketer chose not to highlight the full range of benefits on offer? According to the authors, science tells us that consumers devalue your offering when confronted with a litany of benefits. They subconsciously “average out” the benefits diminishing the perceived value of their favoured benefits by considering the lack of appeal of the least favoured benefit. Perhaps throwing in those extra steak knives isn’t so alluring after all.
There’s a lot to learn in the books 250 or so pages. Concepts such as the “peak-end effect”, “duration neglect” are worth knowing. There are chapters on creating greater customer loyalty, staff motivation, creative thinking and negotiation.
Every fundraiser should read chapter 40 titled: How can the small act of unit-asking make a big difference to your appeals? It’s one of the chapters that contains real world evidence.
If you face a challenge of getting people to turn up to their appointments (community health services, VET providers et al) turn straight to chapter 8: What small bigs can persuade people to keep their appointments with you?
If you’re tired of chasing people for overdue payments (tell us about it) you can learn from the often-told story of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs cunning copywriting approach which led to the collection of over $1 billion unpaid tax revenue. That’s just chapter 1.
We read an awful lot about leadership these days – most of it amounting to little more than a picture and a quote. This book can give people techniques that will help on a daily basis. It is very practical. Whether it lives up to its promise of small change / big impact remains to be seen.
The Small B!g certainly gave us pause for thought and will influence some of our upcoming copywriting and Facebook advertising.
The Small B!g shares a sensibility with another book we’ve reviewed here: Freakonomics. Put simply, the authors believe that people’s behaviour is not set in stone but instead can be influenced by the triggers you pull, buttons you push and incentives you offer.
The Freakonomics series, like this book, will have you excited at the possibilities that thoughtful adjustment to your words, presentations, work habits and interactions can make, whether that be on a personal or global scale.
And don’t forget our review of Talk Like Ted.