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The Case of the Wet Lemming or Who is Norm and Why is He Descriptive? - PPA Today

The Case of the Wet Lemming or Who is Norm and Why is He Descriptive?


Thumbnail image for photo (2).JPG"There is something seriously wrong with the teenage brain," states my 16-year-old son as we sit in my warm car in the pouring rain waiting for his bus.

"Agreed." I nod, watching his fellow high-schoolers trudge up to the top of the street in flimsy hoodies. Every single one of them is standing in utter misery without a coat, an umbrella, or common sense between them. The rain is beating down on them cold and relentless.

"They look like a bunch of wet lemmings," adds my son.

They do. Pathetic wet little rodents with plastered hair, every last one of them. Pride surges for my son for having the good sense not to join them in their damp collectiveness. (When you have a teenager it's important to celebrate the small things.)

But then again, if you follow my posts you know that my son is a six-foot-one, cowboy-hat-wearing original. Don't forget, we live in a New England suburb, and the cowboy hat is not commonplace in these parts.

Ironically, the brim of his hat, the source of so much amusement for his classmates, is wide enough to keep him dry as well as all the other kids at the bus stop if they were inclined to huddle under it.

They are inclined to do no such thing.

They are inclined to suffer the elements in inadequate outerwear and spend the rest of the day sitting in class in damp pants. Why? Because that's what they ALL do. To deviate would be to go outside of the social norm. Wearing a coat? Using an umbrella? Social suicide. Much like having your mom drive you to the bus stop or wearing a cowboy hat to school.

"How about Wayne? Isn't he your friend? Do you at least want to invite him into the car, he's getting soaked," I ask.

"I wouldn't ask Wayne to sit in our car if it was hailing grapefruit never mind pouring buckets. He tried to steal my girlfriend behind my back last week. Not cool bro. Not cool," says Jacques, shaking his chapeau'd head in Wayne's direction.

I watch the awkward wet lemmings and the one giant dry cowboy file onto the bus and am reminded of a really interesting article I just read about another kind of bucket pouring. The article is by Jenikah McDavitt, Maryland photographer, on her blog Psychology for Photographers. It is entitled, What the Ice Bucket Challenge Teaches Us About Marketing.

Before we dive into this fascinating subject I feel a disclaimer is needed. I did not personally participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge although I was nominated. Boo Hiss! I just didn't see the point in drawing attention to myself by dumping water on my head. It seemed kind of self-centered and frankly lemmingish to me. I did however donate money to ALS after I was nominated.

So are all of the adults I know and watched on Facebook dumping buckets of ice water on their heads the same as the teenage lemmings standing in the cold November rain?

YES. Sort of.

The difference is the adults did it for a good cause which actually caused good.

According to McDavitt's article and the ALS Association website, "For Ice Bucket-ing, specifically, the ALS Association reports receiving $94.3 million in donations as of August 27th, compared to $2.7 million during the same time period last year. Perhaps more fascinating is the acceleration - by August 19th they'd only raised $22.6 million, but then donations started raining in at a rate of about $9 million per day.

Turns out I was wrong and lame not to dump ice water on my head.


But how can the teenage lemmings and the Ice Bucketeers teach us something about marketing and help us reach new levels of sales success? The answer is two little words at the beginning of each sales conversation you have with your clients.

Most people... (you fill in the rest of that sentence).

For example; most people choose our $20,000 package, most people purchase a 40x60 framed portrait, or even most people opt to refinance their home to finance their wedding photography. You get the picture.

As McDavitt explains, telling your clients what other people are already doing is a powerful influencer called a Descriptive Norm. In other words, people did not participate in the ALS Ice Bucket challenge because they wanted everyone to look at them, they did it because their friends were doing it. It turns out we haven't really changed that much since high school, we want to fit it and do what is socially acceptable and in our minds, if a lot of other people are participating in a certain behavior then it must be the right thing to do.

Interestingly before we knew the proper term for it, Trish and I were already using Descriptive Norms in our sales strategy with success. This is a new strategy for us so we'll report back with real numbers after the New Year but for now here are four real-life examples of how we use Descriptive Norms in our sales.

1. Book Now, Choose Later. Most of our clients book without ever visiting us in person. If they do visit they try to cram a lot of other appointments with florists and caterers into their day as well and are literally leaking money as they make a myriad of quick decisions about vendors. It's a very stressful time for them. We've noticed that they end up booking a smaller more inexpensive photography package because they are overwhelmed and tapped out. Recognizing this we've stopped trying to sell a package right off the bat and instead started saying, "Most people know for sure that they want to book with us, but find it hard to make a decision about albums and framing right now. You can book now with a retainer and choose your products later. That is what most people do." Twenty-six out of the 33 weddings we have booked are on the book now, choose later bandwagon. In addition, people have stopped dragging their feet through the booking process so we are almost completely booked for the year.

2. Come For a Visit And Bring Your Checkbook. (Part two of the book now choose later scenario). During the booking process we have told all of our clients that "Most people visit us in person a few months before their wedding for a sales meeting. At that time, you'll choose your album, parent albums and framing. We have beautiful sample albums and swatch books to look at. Oh, and there's snacks!" Our clients expect to visit us and plan for it. They expect to choose and pay for their products because they've been told that is what most people do. We used to have to chase our clients down to choose their albums. We'd call and email them with very little results. Now our clients are actually excited about the sales meeting and they are calling us to set up the sales appointment after the New Year. Why after the New Year? Because we've told them that's when most people do it and we need a vacation. Can I get an Amen?

3. Everybody Wants Dis One! Once when I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic and checking into a resort, the concierge pointed to our room on a map of the property and announced, "Ooooh, everybody wants dis one!" My heart skipped a beat! I was getting the room everyone wanted! Little old me! The "room" could have been a hammock strung between two palm trees with an Iguana for a bunk mate and I would have been happy. Why? Descriptive Norms, my friend. As we've established already, to feel safe and secure in our purchases, society has trained us to gravitate toward choosing what most people choose. Inversely as a business owner, you know the amount that you'd like your clients to spend in order to feel safe and secure in your business. Put the package that reflects that safe and secure amount right in the middle of your pricing and then point your clients to it like a treasure on a map and declare, "Everybody wants dis one!" P.S. Make sure that Dis One is really nice and hold the Iguana. Lizards turn some people off.

4. See... We Told You It's What Everyone Else Is Doing. We use social media to reinforce the Descriptive Norms that we are touting. When an album or framing leaves the Snap office for a client's home we often Instagram it, or post a picture of it to Facebook. We'll tag it and say, "Look, Amy and Conor's beautiful album is leaving the office for its new home!" Our clients may even comment back, "Can't wait! We're so excited!" Not only are we telling our clients what most people do, we are also showing them. It's proof (i.e. don't lie to your clients it's called Descriptive Norms not Deceptive Norms) that what we are saying is true and it makes them feel excited about their purchase. Why shouldn't they be? See how excited everyone else is about their albums and framing? It's smart to Describe the Norm to your clients, but showing a photo of the norm really takes it to the next level. A client who may have been entertaining the idea of going with your cheapest album could have a change of heart seeing what all of your other clients are up to.

So take your little lemmings clients in from the rain (the insecurity and anxiety they feel over making a decision) and show them that most people prefer to be inside staying warm and dry (they can feel great about what they've chosen because after all it's what most people do). And if they don't want to get on board then you can always throw them in a bucket of ice.

Just kidding, don't do that.

There will always be rebels, kids that are too cool for school. Kids who wear cowboy hats. Hopefully those kids own an oil field in Texas and want your $20,000 package because it's NOT what everyone else is doing. But remember, your business is built on the people in the middle. The lemmings. Take care of them. Make them feel safe, sales will be a cinch and your clients will be happy.

About the author:

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for winter.jpgMariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van,  grew up on a cranberry farm and is happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.







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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on November 25, 2014 9:34 PM.

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