The Evolution of Commitment

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Evolution of Commitment

Most of us want to sell something – want to get people to commit to plopping down the hard won cash in an exchange of value. That’s certainly one of the reasons millions of business folks have jumped into online networks and social platforms – to gain access to the hundreds of millions that hang out there and prospect for customers.

But while social technology has made it much easier to gain access to people, I think in some ways it’s actually made it harder to get those same people to commit to buy (or at least it hasn’t really made it easier.) While selling in the old days (2 years ago) was still very much about getting someone’s attention and making them an offer, it has now become much more of an intentional act of gaining trust and helping prospects evolve towards a customer commitment.

The Evolution of Commitment looks a bit like this:

  • It’s pretty darn easy to get a fan or a follower, but what’s that really worth by itself?
  • Using social media platforms to drive fans and followers to read your educational content furthers their engagement
  • Encouraging that reader to subscribe to your email newsletter or how to series is the link to gaining permission to make offers
  • Creating opportunities for subscribers to participate by evaluating, sampling and trialing your products and services is the key to demonstrating value worth paying for.
  • And finally now you’ve got them hooked and it’s time to pay up – but wait, why would I pay for something I can get for free in so many other places?

The response in the last point above is the dilemma of the free online world that people have grown accustomed to. Scads of smart marketers have mastered the pre commitment dance of know, like and trust, only to fall flat when asking for the ultimate commitment – money.

So what does it take to get fans and followers to commit, take the act of paying for your offerings?

I asked some of my followers on Twitter that very question and receive responses like:
“there needs to have been serious “can’t live without” value on the free version that would make me test out the paid version.”

“the idea that what i’m paying for has real life value, isn’t free somewhere else, or won’t lose half it’s value in < 1yr.”

“add’l features get me from free to paid, as does a great free experience.”

“It has to inspire me, be enjoyable and/or fulfill a true need.”

As I look around at some of the successful freemium models, Basecamp, Evernote, and those that have experience challenges going to a paid model, Ning, I’m struck with the impression that commitment comes from an experience that so exceeds expectation, so motivates people to talk, and is so valuable that people actually feel bad not paying for the experience or come to understand their life will be better by making the commitment.

That’s a pretty high standard, but the clear message is this – people will buy anything that’s free, even crap, but they won’t commit unless it’s remarkably free and freeing.

But think about that for a moment – isn’t there a similar bar for any commitment? What gets someone to say yes to a marriage proposal? What gets someone to commit to giving up smoking? What gets someone to go after a job at a company with no current opening?

Commitment, and it’s semi-evil twin non-commitment, is all around us every day. What can we learn from it to bring to our business, culture and marketing? I think there is much to explore on this topic.

So, what tips you to a commit to something?


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  1. Plenty of foreplay! *wink*…er…uh…I mean lots of useful content that establishes you as an expert in your area and the feeling that you genuinely want to help and don’t just want to get into my pants….to get my wallet! 🙂

  2. Hi John,
    This is a great article and can be applied all areas of our lives. Personally speaking and in my business too, I believe that commitment comes from when we see/believe that we would be more with something than without out it. Only then will we feel able to commit.

    Adrian

  3. John, I think convenience is also a factor. I would much rather buy your books than try and find the same content in all of your old blog postings. Its something about having all the information tied up in one bow that makes paying for content attractive.

    1. It’s a fair point and to illustrate it – I do a weekly podcast and give it away to anyone that want to download or listen though iTunes. I recently added an iPhone app option for $2.99 and people are paying that by the hundreds to get the same content, but the way that’s most convenient for them.

  4. Plenty of foreplay! *wink*…er…uh…I mean lots of useful content that establishes you as an expert in your area and the feeling that you genuinely want to help and don't just want to get into my pants….to get my wallet! 🙂

  5. Hi John,
    This is a great article and can be applied all areas of our lives. Personally speaking and in my business too, I believe that commitment comes from when we see/believe that we would be more with something than without out it. Only then will we feel able to commit.

    Adrian

  6. Interesting take on things- it has definitely increased the expectations customers have for businesses to engage in dialogue before they are willing to jump on board. I wonder if this will, over time, generate customer loyalty in a new way. People aren’t flippantly buying, they’re researching, interacting with companies and then purchasing- the social side of media, while more work for businesses (and the new expectation for them!) may generate ROI from increases in retention. Time will tell…

    @threeshipsmedia
    http://www.threeshipsmedia.com/blog

  7. In my opinion, Steven hits an important element. Convenience has been a huge selling point offline with malls, shopping centers and supermarkets. History has shown, people will purchase something that is more expensive if it is next to everything else they need.

    I wonder if we are seeing the same phenomenon occurring on the net. Within the past 3-5 years, we have had an explosion in the availability of information and websites. You could go to each different website to find what you need, just like people used to do with small businesses, or you could pay a little extra to go to the place that aggregates the products/services/information for you, just like the supermarkets.

    I think people are really becoming open to pay for the benefit of convenience on the web because the options have finally reached the point of unmanageable.

    Take websites, there are plenty of free options and tutorials on how to do it yourself. But people will pay for the convenience of having it done for them. It saves time.

    I think if people can’t get it for free but they want it, they will pay. I also think if people can get it for free but their time is saved by using your services (convenience), they too will pay.

  8. John, I think convenience is also a factor. I would much rather buy your books than try and find the same content in all of your old blog postings. Its something about having all the information tied up in one bow that makes paying for content attractive.

  9. It's a fair point and to illustrate it – I do a weekly podcast and give it away to anyone that want to download or listen though iTunes. I recently added an iPhone app option for $2.99 and people are paying that by the hundreds to get the same content, but the way that's most convenient for them.

  10. Interesting take on things- it has definitely increased the expectations customers have for businesses to engage in dialogue before they are willing to jump on board. I wonder if this will, over time, generate customer loyalty in a new way. People aren't flippantly buying, they're researching, interacting with companies and then purchasing- the social side of media, while more work for businesses (and the new expectation for them!) may generate ROI from increases in retention. Time will tell…

    @threeshipsmedia
    http://www.threeshipsmedia.com/blog

  11. In my opinion, Steven hits an important element. Convenience has been a huge selling point offline with malls, shopping centers and supermarkets. History has shown, people will purchase something that is more expensive if it is next to everything else they need.

    I wonder if we are seeing the same phenomenon occurring on the net. Within the past 3-5 years, we have had an explosion in the availability of information and websites. You could go to each different website to find what you need, just like people used to do with small businesses, or you could pay a little extra to go to the place that aggregates the products/services/information for you, just like the supermarkets.

    I think people are really becoming open to pay for the benefit of convenience on the web because the options have finally reached the point of unmanageable.

    Take websites, there are plenty of free options and tutorials on how to do it yourself. But people will pay for the convenience of having it done for them. It saves time.

    I think if people can't get it for free but they want it, they will pay. I also think if people can get it for free but their time is saved by using your services (convenience), they too will pay.

  12. I have to agree with Stephen, the convenience factor is huge. It’s why people pay $2.50 for a box of mac and cheese at the mini-mart when they could drive a bit further and pay a buck for it at the grocery store. If you could deliver it to their door even better, and they wouldn’t even blink at that $1.00 delivery fee you tacked on.

  13. I have to agree with Stephen, the convenience factor is huge. It's why people pay $2.50 for a box of mac and cheese at the mini-mart when they could drive a bit further and pay a buck for it at the grocery store. If you could deliver it to their door even better, and they wouldn't even blink at that $1.00 delivery fee you tacked on.

  14. Very interesting article John. For myself, I need to feel as though I am receiving something that will provide a tangible benefit. It doesn’t have to actually provide a tangible benefit directly (for example, books don’t directly provide me with sales), but it needs to at least give me the sensation that I am accruing knowledge or tools to improve my business.

    With Freemium models, the additional features need to be significant in order for me to make a purchase. You can purchase (lease) outstanding CRM’s online for under $30 a month, so I need to receive comparable value if I am spending anywhere in the same range.

    The evolutionary process between follower to conversion is a very interesting topic; I would be very interested in more articles on the same topic in the future. Good read.

    Jason
    http://twitter.com/StartupSidekick (Follow me on Twitter for entrepreneurial advice)

  15. Very interesting article John. For myself, I need to feel as though I am receiving something that will provide a tangible benefit. It doesn't have to actually provide a tangible benefit directly (for example, books don't directly provide me with sales), but it needs to at least give me the sensation that I am accruing knowledge or tools to improve my business.

    With Freemium models, the additional features need to be significant in order for me to make a purchase. You can purchase (lease) outstanding CRM's online for under $30 a month, so I need to receive comparable value if I am spending anywhere in the same range.

    The evolutionary process between follower to conversion is a very interesting topic; I would be very interested in more articles on the same topic in the future. Good read.

    Jason
    http://twitter.com/StartupSidekick (Follow me on Twitter for entrepreneurial advice)

  16. This is a very helpful article. Thanks for the advice. It is so essential to find a need to meet in order to have value. It seems like this is getting more and more difficult. I’m always looking for ways to make a system or product better, and focusing on what others value.

  17. Probably the personal approach I’m giving them – honest and provide pros and cons, showing them that I truly care for their business and not just the money they have to pay…that way you also gain their loyalty…

  18. This is a very helpful article. Thanks for the advice. It is so essential to find a need to meet in order to have value. It seems like this is getting more and more difficult. I'm always looking for ways to make a system or product better, and focusing on what others value.

  19. Probably the personal approach I'm giving them – honest and provide pros and cons, showing them that I truly care for their business and not just the money they have to pay…that way you also gain their loyalty…

  20. The article is awesome. I appreciate the author. I want to add that we provide a customized, one-on-one relationship to support sales professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners or managers who also sell their product or service. Whether you want to improve your skills, time management or productivity, exceed goals or reduce stress, coaching will help you realize your potential and impact your professional and personal life in a positive way.

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