Thursday, February 28, 2013

The bait-and-switch

The bait-and-switch has many names, but the concept is always the same.  You promise one thing (most often without the intention of ever following through) and switch your promise for something less appealing.

Car salesmen use this technique to sell cars.  They promise an incredible price, then later, before the paperwork is filled out, they say their manager won't let them sell it for that price.  

Event promoters are probably the most famous for the bait-and-switch.  They hype an event with the promise of a celebrity and free drinks.  In truth, it's a local celebrity, like a news anchor, and the free drinks are ones you wouldn't pay for anyway.

The bait-and-switch can be frustrating, so frustrating in fact, it makes you feel like you should just walk away.  But you don't.  You don't walk away because the "bait" was just the first push for you to make the decision to go.  

Like the poles propping up a circus tent, the first one gets the bulk of the tent's weight off the ground and makes all the other poles easier to put up.  The neat thing is that after a tent has been put up, you can remove any given pole, including the initial one, and it will still stand.  

Decisions then, are the tent.  They almost always have more poles than they need.  When you decide to go to the event, to rub elbows with a celebrity and get free drinks, your mind puts up a bunch of other poles to keep your decision firm.  You decide the event itself will be fun, and it's a good excuse to get off the couch.  Even at the car dealership, you fall back on your other poles.  You do like the car, and the salesman is very nice. 

These other supports for your decision combined with the justification that you are already there, and have already invested the time to get to this point, make it unlikely that you will walk away.

I don't support the bait-and-switch but the insight it gives us into our decision making is important.  It only takes one pole strong enough to get the side of the tent up for us to find all sorts of other support for a decision.

There is no need to throw all the benefits of your product at a potential customer.  They just need one really good reason to support the decision themselves.