Check out this study by Prof. Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!). She tested the hypothesis that thinking about money can create social barriers. Here is a description of what she did:
“To examine this idea in a more controlled setting, Vohs, now at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues recruited several hundred college students to participate in a variety of experiments. In each experiment, the researchers subtly prompted half the volunteers to think of money—by having them read an essay that mentioned money, for example, or seating them facing a poster depicting different types of currency—before putting them in a social situation. In one experiment, the researchers gave volunteers a difficult puzzle and told them to ask for help at any time. People who had been reminded of money waited nearly 70% longer to seek help than those who hadn’t. People cued to think of money also spent only half as much time, on average, assisting another person who asked for their help with a word problem and picked up fewer pencils for someone who”d dropped them.”
This may be my own twisted logic, but this study has important—and perhaps counter-intuitive and even puzzling—implications vis-a-vis the evangelism of products and services. That is, if a company brings money into an evangelistic relationship with its customers, it could create barriers and instead of incentives—for example, if Apple, Harley-Davidson, and Tivo paid their customers to spread the word. After all, evangelism is the process of selling dreams, and selling dreams doesn’t necessarily require monetization.
My take on this is that if you have to pay your customers to evangelize your product or service, you probably don’t have a great product or service.
I wanted to forward this post but then I noticed the word money and decided not to.
Money makes them show up at 8. Passion makes them work after 5.
I’m very curious whether you think it would have the same undesirable effect if a company offered its customers not money but merchandise from the company.
I think it’s better, but not foolproof. It depends if the merchandise is given in order that the evangelists are given early looks at new products, a gift, or simply a reward. The first two are okay. The latter is problematic.
I don’t even think that giving customers early looks at new products can induce them into evangelising your products, Guy. (I am responding to your response to Ralph’s question.) Evangelism is based on belief, and belief cannot be bought. On the other hand, involving customers in the creation of the product can make them good evangelists of the product, don’t you think?
Anyone else notice that the only sample here was taken from college students? Perhaps the conclusion to be drawn is only based on college students – which probably aren’t your target market.
Would you tell your friends about something knowing they would discover you had been paid to do so? Not me.
It’s pretty clear that MS’s attempts to sell their products through astroturfing have been a complete waste of money. Has anyone been fooled by the zune blogs?
We All Have Different Relationships
This post (from Guy Kawasaki’s Blog) reminded me of some information I ran across a while back (unfortunately I can’t find it now – that figures) that talked about people having multiple relationships with products, companies, people. At different points
This reminded me of some information I ran across a while back (unfortunately I can’t find it now – that figures) that talked about people having multiple relationships with products, companies, people. At different points of interaction the relationship can be different. Take a relationship with an automobile – some people are fanatics about a brand. It would only make sense then to use these folks as evangelists. But don’t ask them to do it in a bill stuffer. When paying the bill the customer is in a transactional point in the relationship and asking for help to sell more cars would be inappropriate at this point. Target them when they are in an emotional point in the relationship – say, when they buy a new accessory for their car – then ask for some evangelism.
I agree 100% with what you are stressing in your post. We experienced the »evangelist paradox« in the field of sponsoring, athletes promoting a new product for money is contradictory per se. Our product needs an evangelist approach, and, one cannot buy belief in whatsoever it may be. Currently we are creating a new concept called »good bye sponsoring«. Instaed we count on community building and networking, the core group is a hetergeneous group of individuals, most of them freelancers or small business owners, a crossover collective with ambitions and visions. Money is not the focus, but hopefully one day a by-product of our activities. We want to offer a platform for all of us to take andavantage from.
They all believe in our product. The gang as we call the inner core of the community is based on human relations. Very simple, we like each other and want to support each other and want to achieve… finished no big words anymore… our slogan »we are, what we do«… a quote adapted from Reinhold Messner who says: I am, what I do.
Guy, you are absolutely right when saying “My take on this is that if you have to pay your customers to evangelize your product or service, you probably don’t have a great product or service.”
I have experienced this noz just once in my everyday business. Even in the “good old Germany “it is the same. :-(
Can money detract from teamwork?
Guy Kawasaki highlights a fascinating study conducted by the psychologist Kathleen Vohs. Vohs performed experiments in which, prior to being assigned certain collaborative activities, some participants were cued to think about money while other partic…
I think that the people who tend to be evangelists are not motivated by money anyway. People who can influence others are able to do so because they don’t abuse this power.
You just hit the nail right on the head. Brava!
Despite how delicious money is, I still think there’s a social stigma attached to it. Sometimes giving money can be insulting. It puts a price on the person.
“if you have to pay your customers to evangelize your product or service, you probably don’t have a great product or service.”
Standing, bent over at the waist, one hand on the desk for support and trying to catch my breath after being kicked in the…. with a high-pitched yet strained “Good point Guy.. good point.” ;)
Very interesting point of view. We are managing a community of opinion leaders, influentials bloggers,… at BuzzParadise.com. We have always believed that paying them would have been a mistake. To collaborate with them and help brands generate wrd of mouth we prefer to offer them something that does not have a price : accessing or testing a product before it would even be available, inviting them to a VIP event or providing them with an exclusive experience. It is all about getting to experience and not about bribing them…
Just as important to those findings is the “insider” feeling a lot of people get from being paid to promote a product. Once you pay for evangelism, there’s an “us vs. them” feeling in the air.
Some record companies I used to work with spent a lot of time and money building up “street teams” of kids that got free merch and a little cash to tell everyone this or that label was the best. It increased their loyalty to the label, but just as often caused them to take on a kind of haughty “you-can’t-really-understand” attitude towards outsiders.
We can see this inside/outside thing going on in all age groups in all kinds of industries and paying your evangelists, thus making an even more distinct separation between the inside and outside is just a bad idea.
Point well-made, Guy.
Money and Customer Evangelism
When people love your product or service, they feel compelled to tell others about it whether they are paid or not. I somewhat disagree with Kawasaki’s statement because there are dozens of companies nowadays who offer affiliate pr…
Americans were both more isolated and less cooperative in 2004 than they were in 1985, says an interesting study in the American Sociological Review. The study was published in June of this year, and I can’t help but wonder whether the psychological effects of money (debt?) are causing some or all of this behavior.
I realize that the Vohs study applies only to college students, that you’re talking about evangelism on college campuses, and that this study I’m referring to applies to Americans generally.
However, I think the connections are worth considering. And the implications are sobering.
What about sites like iStockphoto, which pay a portion of revenue to the contributors? This is indeed a sticky issue with social news sites, such as Netscape vs. Digg.
Interesting study, has this been replicated elsewhere?
If the mention of money does lead to more isolative (is that a word?) behaviour could this have implications in the business world within day to day dealings with staff. Does the mention of money have to be their money, or would the mention of company money have a similar effect?
I’m wondering whether when one embarks on a project and there is a lot of talk about money maybe this could be causing an otherwise sharing/inclusive group to act more isolated and be less willing to help, thus reducing the potential improvements a project could make.
Evangelizing a product does not have anything to do with a great product. Research suggests that people do not share as many good experiences as bad ones. Having said that, evangelizm of a product thrives on something bad with a competitor/product in the market. Not just greatness of the product being talked about.
And, People never evangelize a product that is ubiquitous. The product becomes ubiquitous because it is a great product in the first place. On the other side, people tend to evangelize a new or niche product. Not because it is great. But because only a few have it. Its an age old, and well known human tendency.
Some times, people evangelise a product, because they don’t like a competing product in the market. Microsoft for example.
When reason for evangelism is not greatness of a product, money has nothing to do with the greatness of a product. More over, referral bonuses, though in the form of money is a great motivator to create evangelizm around the product. Recommendations about products on blogs is a great example of what money can do about it.
Maybe this study can be taken a little further into the business development arena. When meeting a potential client, I try not to think about the money I could make from them, but rather how I can help them. I ask questions about their needs and make recommendations based on what I hope is an objective assessment, rather than on how I can rack up the invoice. This approach has led to a pretty good success rate for targeted leads, and maybe it can be related to this study.
How To Get More From Your Customers And Your Product
I recently read Guy Kawasakis article on Money as a Social Barrier. He refers to a study on how people react when they are pre-exposed to money then are asked to do a puzzle where they may ask others for help. The study concluded that those who …
Although there are seberal factors that determine success, none is much
more important tjan commitment – Commitment will be tthe ingredient that will separate the losers in the winners.
Having that characteristic is vital becausee it builds a relationship for home buyers to be your broker to assist them to find very good
home for them. Unnless that person understands what your background experience
is because may not break things down enough.