One simple trick. What if that’s all it took to make your next pitch or presentation more persuasive and compelling? What if this technique could help you convince your prospect that the change you’re proposing is better than what they’re doing today? And, what if you could get them to consider paying more for it?
That simple trick exists, according to new research done jointly by my company, Corporate Visions, and Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. And, if you take advantage of the messaging technique we put to the test in the following experiment, you stand to substantially improve your chances of getting prospects and customers to embrace the value of doing something different with you.
For this experiment, we specifically wanted to measure the persuasive impact of messaging, pitches or presentations that establish contrast—that is, contrast between a prospect’s current state and a proposed future state.
Would underscoring key differences between a desirable future state, such as product features and benefits, and a painful present state have a statistically significant impact on swaying buying decisions in your favor? Could the effect of contrast, as opposed to simply presenting future-state information by itself, actually reduce a prospect’s trepidation about doing something different? Could it even make your prospect consider paying more for it?
To reveal the answers to these questions, we set up the experiment as follows:
We told two groups of roughly 100 participants each to imagine they’d had their current smartphones for about a year and were reading information about a new phone option. Prior to viewing the information, participants were told they’d receive information about the new smartphone’s features and benefits, starting on the following page.
What they didn’t know is that, before the study began, they had been randomly assigned to two different presentation conditions. The presentation differed in two key aspects of how the information was presented: the presence of the information and the location.
The first group viewed a non-contrast condition, or the future benefits-only presentation. Participants were given no other information.
The second group, on the other hand, viewed a contrast condition in which the current issues were compared with the future benefits. These participants received the exact same features and benefits list for the new phone, but next to it they received a list of four issues or problems connected to their current devices. These issues correlated to each of the listed features and benefits.
So, was there a statistically significant difference between the two presentation conditions? And if so, which one came out on top?
The study revealed the contrast presentation outperformed the future benefits-only condition by a statistically significant margin across several areas. While all participants were given the same information about the new smartphone’s features, the study found that the prospect buying a new phone was more compelling when directly contrasted with the drawbacks of the current smartphones.
The contrast condition performed better across the following areas, all of them critical to influencing buying decisions:
- Purchase intent – Contrast condition participants reported more interest in and a higher likelihood of purchasing the new smartphone. On average, this condition creates more than a 14+ percent boost in purchase intent.
- Willingness to change – Contrast condition participants reported more favorable attitudes toward the new phone and a greater willingness to switch to it—and even pay more—by a margin of 14+ percent.
- Advocacy – Comparative condition participants were 12+ percent more likely than future state-only participants to share information about the new smartphone and recommend it to others.
- Perception of quality – Comparative condition participants believed the new smartphone to have higher quality, be more innovative and stand as a more marked improvement over their current phones. In these areas, the contrast conditions outperformed the future state-only scenario by a margin of 13+ percent.
In the study, which included more than 400 participants, another two groups viewed two additional contrast conditions (putting information on different screens or in various positions on the screen). In both cases, the comparative presentations outperformed the future state-only conditions by the same statistical difference across the areas mentioned above, further validating the power of including contrast in your message.
What does this study tell you? Mainly, that a message with contrast stands to make you more persuasive and the possibility of change more compelling. To get buyers to soften their resistance to doing something different, you need to draw sharp distinctions between the pain of their status quo and the value of where your solution could lead them.