Asking for a little goes a long way - Foot in the door

yes = yes = YES.

The foot in the door technique garnered its name from the age of the door-to-door salesmen. Literally the ability of the seller to get his “foot in the door” increased his chance of making a sale, whether it be an encyclopaedia, insurance or even mops.1

The technique

By asking someone for something small they are more likely to commit to a larger ask later on. The trick is to begin small, then go big.
In online marketing and advertising, the same effect can be replicated by asking for something simple, like your email address or a facebook like.
The compliance rate is much higher when there is a similarity between the first request and the second. So plan each step of your marketing campaign with the same aim and wording in mind.

The Psychology

Freedman and Fraser first studied the technique in 1966. They conducted a number of compliance experiments looking into which type of questions and to what scale the effect is recorded. In one, they asked people to put a small sticker advertising safe driving in either their home or car.

Drive Carefully.

Later they returned and asked the same people to display a billboard with the same message in their front gardens. A huge 55% agreed, whereas only a 20% agreed when asked outright.
The effect has been proven to transcend both the medium used2 and different cultures3. It is, therefore, an excellent technique to use in online marketing, advertising and self-promotion.

The foot in the door technique works on the principle of consistency.4. As a human, we constantly check and evaluate our own behaviour. With a large amount being self-affirming and cyclical, this is how habits are formed. Therefore, a small request followed by a larger makes a person think:

I agreed to a, therefore, I can agree to A.

Psychologists have also summarised that as humans, we are more likely to interact with something we have already interacted with. For example, you are more likely to say hello to the neighbour you signed for a package that one time, than anyone else on your block. This is a effect of familiarity and the reciprocity nature of interaction; in effect we feed off our past compliance behaviours.

Examples of foot in the door

In the simplest of examples, the brand that asks for your email or an interaction on social media is using the foot in the door. You are more likely to engage with the brand and respond to any future campaigns once you have given a few details about yourself.

In terms of self-promotion, it can be as simple as tweeting an editor of a prominent design magazine and asking a question relating to your long term aim.

Psychology of selling and marketing for designers, example

Example created to show the technique. By giving your email address for the free resource, you are more likely to respond to further communication and business from them in the future.

Have you seen any examples of the technique used recently? Add them to the comment section below.


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1 Freedman, J. Fraser, S. Compliance Without Pressure: The Foot-in-the-Door Technique 1966
2 Guéguen, N. Jacob, C Fund-raising on the web: the effect of an electronic foot-in-the-door on donation. 2001
3 Cialdini, R. Compliance with a Request in Two Cultures: The Differential Influence of Social Proof and Commitment/Consistency on Collectivists and Individualists. 1999
4 Petrova, P. Cialdini, R. Sills, S Consistency-based compliance across cultures. 2007

Form for thought - A blog about design psychology and design thinking for graphic designers, web designers, ui designers, ux and illustrators. Looking into the psychology of colour, user behaviour and advertising psychology.