Today I’m talking about Architecture Leads and how to increase your conversion rate with a strategy called ‘The Principle of Consistency’.
Let’s start with a question – what is ‘The Principle of Consistency’?
Architecture Leads & The Principle of Consistency:
The principle of consistency is teaching us that it is human nature for people to want to be consistent with things they have previously said, or with things that they have previously done.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Example # 1: Consistency in our Words
For example, have you ever noticed that when in conversation with a group of friends, once someone in the group has stated their opinion on a specific subject matter it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to get them to change their point of view (especially in public)?
This is the principle of consistency at work. As human beings once we have publicly voiced our opinion, we look for opportunities to justify and support our view.
In summary, people like to be consistent with things they’ve previously said, but it doesn’t stop there, people also like to be consistent with things they have previously done.
Example # 2: Consistency in our Actions
For example, every year millions of people join their local gym in an effort to improve their physical health and mental well-being.
What’s interesting about this behavior is not the enthusiasm for a healthy lifestyle but that most people will continue to promote the benefits, and pay the high fees for gym membership, long after they have stopped using the facilities.
According to statistics published by Statistic Brain (Accessed 12/13/13), 67 percent of gym members fail to use the facilities.
So, why does gym membership continue to grow, and why do so many people continue to support a commitment that they fail to utilize?
Once again this is the principle of consistency at work.
As human beings, once we have publicly committed ourselves, we will look for opportunities to justify and support this commitment.
In summary, people like to be consistent with things they have previously ‘said’ and with things they have previously ‘done’… but why does that matter?
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Principle of Consistency & Architecture Lead Conversions:
Researchers from the field of human behavior have discovered that when seeking to win new Clients, it helps to start the process by activating the principle of consistency and seeking their approval to smaller commitments first.
Small commitments & Architecture Lead Conversions:
There are two reasons to start Client relationships with small commitments:
1. Smaller commitments offer less risk and are therefore inherently easier to say yes to.
2. Smaller commitments frequently pave the way to more substantial commitments that align with the original request.
This may seem obvious, so to demonstrate just how powerful small commitments can be I’d like to share some research with you.
One of the best examples of how small commitments can generate big results is provided by a famous research study (Freedman, J.L. & Fraser, S.C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique.) involving a drive safely campaign.
Research Study: The ‘Drive Safely’ Campaign
According to the study, researchers went along to a suburban neighborhood in Southern California to test how the principle of consistency may affect the residents’ compliance to a simple request.
The object of the exercise was simple… to get all those residents in favor of a ‘drive safely’ campaign to signal their support by erecting a ‘drive safely’ sign on their front lawn.
It should be noted that the sign lacked aesthetic value and did little to enhance the curb appeal of the homes in the neighborhood. It was an ugly sign!
The researchers split the neighborhood into two groups – a control group and a test group.
First, they approached the control group and, using perhaps the most direct approach, asked all those in favor of the campaign to erect the somewhat ugly-looking sign on their front lawn.
Despite a healthy interest in the campaign, very few residents complied with the request – only 17 percent of those asked erected the ugly sign on their front lawn.
Researchers then turned their attention to the second group: this time they started the process by utilizing the principle of consistency and asking all those in favor of the campaign to demonstrate their support by placing a small ‘Drive Safely’ postcard in their front window – nearly all the residents in the neighborhood complied with this much smaller, and less onerous, request.
Ten days later the researchers returned to the second group and asked all those residents with the ‘Drive Safely’ postcard in their front window if they would be prepared to increase local awareness of the campaign by erecting the ugly sign on their front lawn.
To the researchers’ surprise, residents were much more willing to erect the ugly sign on their front lawn when they had already committed to placing the postcard in their front window.
It would appear that the small public and activate commitment provided by the postcard was the catalyst required to influence the residence behavior – This time 400 percent more residents complied with the request than in the first neighborhood.
How the research can help convert Architecture Leads:
What this research and other similar research is teaching us about human behavior and the principle of consistency is that it’s not what you are asking your Clients to do, but how you ask them, that has the strongest influence over your success.
To be successful at converting architectural leads and winning more work you must start Client relationships with small commitments first, and then build upon those small commitments, as you build the relationship.
Principle of Consistency and Fee Proposals
This same principle applies to the fee proposal process.
When possible, try to avoid starting the Client relationship with a long and detailed fee proposal document for the full design service.
Instead, try starting the relationship by activating the principle of consistency and looking for, and asking for, smaller commitments first.
Examples of small commitments Clients can make to Architecture Firms:
Example # 1 – Guide/Publication: Perhaps the easiest way to activate the principle of consistency is to ask all potential Clients who are viewing your website if they’d like to download a free guide in return for providing an email address and some contact information.
The free guide will give your clients an opportunity to get answers to some of their most pressing questions, while the email address will provide you with an opportunity to follow up with them and develop the relationship further.
Given that a recent report cited by the online marketing guru Neil Patel (Accessed 9/16/19) suggests that only 1% of your website traffic will return to your site within the next 3 months, collecting contact information could prove to be a very useful way of helping your firm build a database of potential leads while exchanging commitments.
Example # 2 – Office Meeting: Another example of a small commitment could be to offer all potential clients an opportunity to meet with you at your office (not the project site or their home/office) free of charge.
This free meeting will give your Client the opportunity to meet with a Design Professional and get answers to their most pressing questions regarding design ideas, time frames, and build costs.
Meanwhile, you receive a small but vital commitment from your potential Client. It’s a commitment of their time, effort, and energy to get to your office for a free meeting.
Given that most Architects and Design professionals fail to get any commitments from Clients at the start of the relationship, by utilizing this strategy you’ll be one step ahead of your competition on the commitment ladder.
Example # 3 – Pre-Design Service: Perhaps one of the best examples of this strategy comes from a project I worked on where the Client was interested in building an entirely new city in the Middle East.
Knowing how the principle of consistency works, we avoided starting the relationship with a fee proposal to design the new city.
Instead, we applied the principle of consistency and started the relationship with a fee proposal for a simple 3-month master planning study.
Make the Clients decision easy:
Any Client who is thinking about developing an entirely new city is going to have quite an easy decision to make when it comes to appointing a design firm for a 3-month master planning study.
In fact, it was such an easy commitment to make that the Client said yes, we exchanged contracts, and the relationship began.
At the end of that 3-month study, we felt like the Client was ready for a slightly large commitment, so we offered them a 12 months study.
Once again, the Client said yes, so we exchanged new contracts and the relationship continued to grow.
The concept of starting relationships with small commitments proved so successful that over time the 3-month study developed into approximately 10 different contracts for a whole range of new projects including residential buildings, commercial buildings, and educational buildings.
It just goes to show how successful this approach can be.
By offering a pre-design service and building commitments slowly we ended up with enough work to keep a very large portion of the office busy during a very difficult financial period – the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.
The Most Successful Commitments:
So, if you’re going to apply the principle of consistency and offer Clients small commitments first, what are researchers saying about the most successful types of commitments?
Researchers have determined that for the principle of consistency to be most effective it’s important that you as the Architect or Design Professional look for, and ask for, commitments that are:
- public, and
It’s also useful to remind ourselves that people are more inclined to follow through on commitments that are confirmed in writing.
A written commitment can be achieved by confirming meeting arrangements in an email or other suitably documented form.
As simple as this approach may seem, many Architects and Design Professionals often misuse the application of this principle which ends up with results that don’t align with their intentions.
For the principle of consistency to work properly (for you) you should be looking for small commitments that your Client can make to you, not the other way around.
When looking or asking for a commitment from a potential Client you may also want to consider how the principle of reciprocity (Episode # 030: How to Avoid the Cost of Free Design Services) can help you secure that commitment.
Remember, the gift doesn’t have to hold substantial material value: you just need to be the first to give an unexpected and personal gift.
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