Socks and the gentle art of persuasion.

Socks and the gentle art of persuasion.

Today another pair arrived in the post. They are the fourth pair of socks I’ve received. The first, turquoise with a magenta trim, were delightfully soft, cosy-warm and skinny enough to wear under smart work boots. The second arrived about six months later. More sporty, thicker, reinforced heels, below the ankle so great for trainers. This is nice. When the third pair arrived (a fine stripe in navy and beige), it was clear a pattern was emerging. I was starting to anticipate the arrival of the free socks! Once is a data point, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend.

So I should point out that these socks also arrive with a catalogue. They are made by BAM, a bamboo clothing company. Before the first pair arrived I’d never heard of them. When the second pair arrived, I took a bit more notice. Until today however, I’d never bothered looking in the catalogue. But I like the socks very much, they are natty, comfy and made of an interesting material. And I like the fact that they keep sending them to me. So today I looked in the catalogue – it looks like very nice kit. I might buy some.

Over the last couple of months as my new socks have been arriving I’ve been mentioning them to people. I told my sister whilst we were out running yesterday that yet more socks had arrived, and I pointed out the fact that I was actually wearing pair number two.

I don’t know much about selling clothes, but I do know about selling professional services and a lot of it is to do with persuasion. When we first started working together, a wise and learned colleague @Shaun Frohlich introduced me to Robert Cialdini’s model of the six stages of influence.

Somewhat paraphrased*, his model comprises six principles of persuading and influencing which could be applied to any business…

  • Reciprocity – give some things away for free – invitations, speaking slots, reports, the first six months’ involvement
  • Be consistent – have a regular, quality offering with a strong reputation (brand)
  • Social Proof – provide testimonials from high profile participants in the ‘pack’
  • Be Likeable – make your communication stimulating and entertaining and help people to ‘like’ you
  • Authority – be expert, authentic and principled. Provide insights not easily available elsewhere…
  • Scarcity – know your real value and don’t be tempted to sell yourself short.

Whether by design or accident, this is just what these BAM people have been doing. They’ve been giving, I’ve been liking, I’m now checking them out and finding that I like what I see, and so on.

Their freebies have been consistent – arriving regularly and of very high quality. They aren’t giving away toot. There’s authority in the approach, for this isn’t a cheap campaign. They must know who they are targeting (I had hoped to keep my sock fetish quiet, but it’s out there now) and even though it must be getting on for a year and I’ve never responded to them, they keep on sending me socks.

“People don’t buy from strangers, so be less strange”

BAM’s clothing isn’t cheap. But if the socks are anything to go by it’s durable, highly wearable and comes from a company that’s been built on a belief. As human beings we’re conditioned to reciprocate if someone gives us something. I like these socks, I think I like these people and I’m going to have a browse and see what I might buy.

So here’s the thing. Whether you’re selling professional services or socks, people don’t buy from strangers. Our job as marketers is to tell stories, to build a brand, to be familiar, to stand for something – to be less strange.

*If you want the un-paraphrased version, read Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.