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Are You Willing To Read One Blog Post or Two?

In the course of 24 hours, two different articles about how to manipulate people into doing what you want came across my Twitter feed.

Okay, it isn’t totally mind control but rather how using the right word can make people more receptive to the choices you offer them.

Seth Godin mentioned “Wheeler’s Which,” a term I had never heard before. Elmer Wheeler is the guy who coined the idea of selling the sizzle rather than the steak. His “which” involves asking a question that includes two “yes” options rather than an opportunity to answer “no.”

[…Elmer Wheeler was a sales trainer nearly a century ago. He got hired by a chain of drugstores to increase sales at the soda fountain. In those days, a meal might consist of just an ice cream soda for a nickel. But for an extra penny or two, you could add a raw egg (protein!). Obviously, if more people added an egg, profits would go up. Wheeler taught the jerks (isn’t that a great job title?) to ask anyone who ordered a soda, “One egg or two?” Sales of the egg add-on skyrocketed.]

Personally, while I find the frequent question, “would you like to add X for $Y more,” annoying, I think I would be angered or insulted at the assumption I would purchase something extra. I would counsel using this technique sparingly for that reason unless you think most of your customers are less ornery than I.

There are opportunities to use “Wheeler’s which” in ways that don’t pressure people. For example, “how many of you will be attending our free playtalk” or “will you be accompanying your child to the children’s’ activities or having coffee in the parents lounge?” Using the question in this manner can help increase attendance numbers for outreach events on your grant reports.

The other magic word came from a New York magazine link Dan Pink provided about the power of “willing.” (my emphasis)

When a request framed in more direct terms is turned down, a follow-up with a willing will often get the other person to cave:

Are you the type of person to mediate? Yes or no. What was really interesting about the mediation “willings” is that if you ask someone “Are you interested in mediation?” they might say yes or no. But if you ask them if they’re willing to mediate, that requires them saying something about the type of person that they are.


With a caveat: “‘Willing’ works best after resistance, so it shouldn’t be your opening gambit,” she said. If the first approach fails, though, the trick can be a persuasive backup strategy. Now go forth and bend the world to your will.

If someone is really opposed to something I am not sure asking if they are willing or not will overcome that resistance but I thought it interesting that the question of willingness introduced the question about what sort of person you are. Are you the type of person that is open to trying something new or exploring an alternative.

Again, I don’t feel like you can just slip “willing” into any question and have it be effective. There are plenty of sentiments you can express involving willingness that will offend and anger, but just as many that can help open them to an option. My suspicion is that used repeatedly over the course of many interactions, “willing” might gradually reduce resistance.

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Does The Professional/Amateur Divide Come From Within?

About 10-15 years ago, the idea of Pro-Ams, emerged. Pro-Ams are essentially amateurs who pursue an avocation with such diligence it was difficult to discern them from people who employed the same skills as a vocation based on degree of knowledge and practical execution.

Since that time there has been some occasional effort to clarify the distinction. Partially, I think there has been concern that sub-par products and services by amateurs not be mistaken as representative of the ideal by those having little familiarity with those products and services.

Most of the attempts to define the distinction have fallen short. The economic definition about professionals being paid and amateurs doing it for the love was problematic even decades prior to the Pro-Am term emerging. Using years of formal training or experience practicing the skills as a measure also falls short.

In both cases, you can find notable exceptions to the rule you don’t dare include in one category or the other lest you insult or overpraise. It also doesn’t take much before elitism and condescension creeps into the process.

In looking for a link about Pro-Ams for a post I did last week, I came across a piece on Medium that offers a definition of the differences that doesn’t involve any of the aforementioned criteria. It doesn’t answer the concerns about sub-par work, but I can attest from recent experience that there are companies with long history, great amounts of experience in their craft and millions in receipts each year who are managing to provide sub-par experiences and products without amateurs serving as poor examples.

Jeff Goins’ Medium piece, The 7 Differences Between Professionals and Amateurs, depends more on internal motivation than external definitions of achievement to draw his distinction.

Even if it wasn’t already highlighted, the following would probably naturally jump out at you:

If you want to be a pro in your field, you’re going to have to break this terrible amateur habit of looking at what people have without paying attention to what they did to get it. Chasing the results without understanding the process will lead to short-lived success, if not outright failure.

I have touched on this idea before. Even though the phrase “success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration,” is well known to the point of cliche, everyone has this idea that success is the result of a rare element – genius, talent, lucky big break – rather than developed as a process. Yes, natural ability often factors in, but people often believe that there is an easy recipe for results rather than the requirement of effort.

Among his seven differences are the following.

1. Amateurs wait for clarity. Pros take action.
You have to know what you are before you can figure out what you want to do.
In my case, I spent too long waiting for someone to call me a writer before I was willing to act like one. Now I’ve learned that clarity comes with action. We must perform our way into professionalism. We must first call ourselves what we want to become, and then get to the work of mastery.

2. Amateurs want to arrive. Pros want to get better.
You have to become a student long before you get to be a master.
For the longest time, I just wanted to be recognized for my genius. It wasn’t until I started putting myself around teachers and around the teaching of true masters that I realized how little I knew and how much I still had to grow as a writer.

3. Amateurs practice as much as they have to. Pros never stop.
You have to practice even, maybe especially, when it hurts.

It’s not enough to show up and work every day. You have to keep challenging yourself, keep pushing yourself beyond your limits. This is how we grow.


6. Amateurs build a skill. Pros build a portfolio.

You must master more than one skill.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a jack of all trades, but you must become a master of some. For example, all the professional writers I know are good at more than one thing. One is a great publicist. Another is really smart at leadership. Another is a fantastic speaker.

For creative professionals, this doesn’t mean you have to work at your craft uninterrupted for eight hours a day — at least not for most professionals. It means you will spend your time getting your work out there through a variety of channels and mediums, or that you’ll work for part of the day and master something else with the rest of your time.

I don’t know that this is the final word on amateurs vs. professionals, but I feel it is a constructive line of thought to pursue, if only because it get away from the practice of judging the worthiness of others.

Perhaps one benefit of these criteria is that you can be a professional at some pursuit, move to amateur status as other things draw your attention (perhaps a focus on professional status in another endeavor), and return to professional status later in life when you decide to rededicate yourself to it.

In this way, one need not sigh regretfully at once having been a “professional” with no hope of returning to that status because you have fallen out of synch with the latest philosophies, techniques and knowledge. Yes, regaining technical expertise later may be a challenge, but if professionals take the long view toward knowledge acquisition, that mindset puts you halfway there and may have kept you from falling too far behind in the interim.

Thoughts? Have you come across other definitions that are better in whole or in part?

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Stuff To Ponder: Expanded Approaches To Pay What You Want Pricing

A few weeks ago economist Alex Tabarrok wrote about a strange “pay what you want” promotion a shoe company was running. It struck him and many commenters of the Marginal Revolution blog as a psychological experiment with a goal of getting most people to select the set middle range price.

In that same post he linked back to 2012 post where he provided an analysis for why “pay what you want” can make sense for charities and performing arts organizations. The analysis may be difficult to understand, but the bottom line is:

Probably more importantly, pay-what-you-want pricing is going to be advantageous when the seller also sells a complementary good, such as concerts, which benefit from consumption spillovers from the pay-what-you-want good.

Basically, when you offer an option to pay what you want, there should be accompanying options like food, merchandise, other participatory activities that you can earn revenue from. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the movie theatre model where a bag of popcorn is $10. Offering pay what you want simply because you think it is a good idea without any sense of how you can offset the loss of revenue isn’t prudent. If end up with a higher per ticket price than you had before, that is great, but don’t plan on it.

One of the commenters on the 2012 post noted that the site HumbleBundle allows you to pay what you want, but also posts the average price paid in real time.

Currently, if you pay more than the average of $4.14, you can unlock additional content and if you pay more than $14 there is another level of content you can receive.

Having some sort of bonus content or access people will receive for exceeding the average is a smart idea. It rewards those who act early before the average increases as a result of people paying to receive that content (or just being generous). This content or access could be better seating, merchandise, concessions, meet and greet opportunities, invites to other organizational activities, etc.

I got to thinking about how my ticketing system can tell me what the average selling price of my tickets are on demand. I could theoretically manually update that information on the lobby screens simply as a point of information at various intervals just as a bit of psychological social pressure on people to pay close to that or a little more. While I might also choose to update that information on our website, I am not sure the sense of social pressure would be as significant for online sales.

However, if ticketing software providers created a way to export that information to update in real time like HumbleBundle does, it might be possible to create a sense of tension and excitement in lobbies just prior to performances. (Or if handled correctly, even online). Granted, it could be done manually but I know I have better things for my staff to do than constantly run reports and post data to a public screen.

Watching it tick steadily up with every purchase is much more interesting. Especially if you are experience the dual satisfaction of seeing how much money was being raised for the organization while knowing you got access cheaper than a lot of other people – “Whoo hoo!! We collectively moved the price to $15.63 (but I got mine for $4.85!)”

Thoughts? What experiences, if any, have you had? I know a number of places are doing pay what you want/can, but I am not clear if they are supplementing their income with related goods and services or if they have found a way to energize audiences around the practice in a productive manner.

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The Real Competition Is Inaction

As he often does, Seth Godin is speaks right to the arts and culture industry when he suggests that we welcome an environment where there is a lot of activity similar to our own rather than viewing it as competition. (my emphasis)

But for the rest of us, in most industries, it turns out that the real competition is inaction. Few markets have expanded to include everyone, and most of those markets (like books and music) have offerings where people buy more than one.

This means that if there’s more good stuff, more people enter the market, the culture gets better, more good work is produced and enjoyed, more people enter the market, and on and on.

So encouraging and promoting the work of your fellow artists, writers, tweeters, designers, singers, painters, speakers, instigators and leaders isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s smart as well.

I think we can all see the truth in the statement that the real enemy is inaction, not the other organization down the street. The big concern more than anything else these days is that people will stay home and disengage.

I believe I have mentioned it previously, but when I am asked to speak to groups about what my organization is doing I take the opportunity to speak about how all the arts and cultural organizations make the community a great place to live. Even if people don’t patronize all the groups, at the very least it engenders some pride and loyalty to the community. At best, my description of what is enjoyable and valuable about these places may inspire a visit.

The other factor is that the existence of other arts and cultural entities helps attract and cultivate a talent pool that you can benefit from.

When I started in my current job, I was a little disappointed in how few students were initiating their own projects compared to where I came from. It took me awhile to realize that the students with whom I previously interacted were regularly working together on projects at four or five other organizations, plus doing a handful of one-off projects for other people in the arts community. Not only had they developed a close rapport among themselves, but they had many hours exposed to a variety of concepts, techniques and processes working for other people.

I bristle at the suggestion someone invest their time and talent for the experience and exposure, (getting paid doesn’t inhibit the absorption of new skills after all), but I certainly saw their abilities and judgment develop as a result of their effort and discipline.

Moreover, my organization benefited from them having gone through this process. It was only later that I realized how much.

This basic concept then supports the idea that perhaps Professional-Amateurs aren’t the threat to “professional” artists that they have been perceived to be.

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