6 Ways to Bait People Into Doing Stuff


So let’s be straight for a moment, yes? Social media, talking to people, being a great brand — it’s all wonderful.  But at the end of the day, marketing is the act of ever-so-gently pushing someone’s hand into doing the thing they didn’t realize they wanted to do until you told them they wanted to do it.  It’s pushing them to act but letting them believe it was their idea. Kind of how like wives pick the movie and the restaurant while still allowing their husband to think he had a say. Yeah, just like that.

If you remove the warm and fuzzies from it, marketing means getting people to do stuff. It’s baiting. And there are bunches of different ways to hook your customers. Here are just six you may want to try.

Playing to Ego

If you want to get people to do something, play to their ego. Sure, it’s a little shameless but it’s also really effective. Your customers want people to think know that they’re special. They want to be associated with things that other people love because it makes them think others will love them too. It’s a bit like high school, but with better haircuts. Take a look at the Outspoken Media home page

Our home page lets you know that The Wall Street Journal, Business Week CNN and Inc Magazine all find Outspoken Media cool enough to talk about. Why are they there? For ego-baiting. If you know that these well-respected media outlets are associated with Outspoken Media, then you want to be associated with us too. Because in some cosmic universe, it links you to those big brands and you leach their street cred.

Why does DIYthemes have a whole section of their Web site dedicated to showing off killer thesis customizations? Vanity baiting.

Don’t look at me like that. It’s only manipulative because it works.

Playing to Wealth (or lack thereof…)

People, aside from being narcissistic ego-maniacs, are also cheap and want to consume as much as they can for as little
as possible. For an example, see Walmart.

For another example, check out the SEOmoz promotion that just ended, offering people the chance to win a free SEOmoz Pro account FOR LIFE.

People TRIPPED over themselves tweeting it up a storm in hopes they’d win. Now does someone really need an SEOmoz PRO account for the next fifty years (sorry, according to SEOmoz, that’s how long your life is)? Probably not. But when enticed, who could turn it down? No one.

Along the same line, did I really want the year subscription of Entrepreneur Magazine that I ordered last week? Not really. But it was $9 for the whole year. I spend more than that on coffee every day. That’s a deal.

Playing to Laziness

Your mother is right about you – you’re lazy. You only do what you have to do and you do it as close to the deadline as possible.  You’re all about putting out as little effort as possible to make it through the day. Don’t feel bad. Most of us are. And that’s why we have places like Staples.

Could they have driven home that “easy” thing any harder? Or how about TurboTax and it’s “choose easy” slogan promising the biggest refund ever and seeing how many times they can use the word “free” on one page.

People don’t want to wait for things. They want it now and they want it for free.

Playing to Sex Appeal

How do sites like the Huffington Post, Forbes or other major news outlets get people to write fantastic original content for them free of charge? By waving sex appeal in their face. They win favors simply by offering regular people like you and me the exposure they can’t get anywhere else.

How do you get women panting over YOUR engagement rings, not the next guy’s? By making it flashy and letting people play with the rings before they buy them. You whet their appetite and make them come to you. The more they play with it, the more they want it, the more you can charge for it. Right, Tiffany’s?

Playing to Status

More than just wanting to be associated with cool things, we want to be recognized for that participation. It’s the reason so many community-oriented sites have leader boards to highlight the most active participants. They know that certain people will increase their engagement just to get their face on that board. Is it crazy? Yes. Does it work? Absolutely.

If you want to get people to do something – give them a reason for doing it. How will doing what you want them to do help them to achieve status? Is there a leader board? A list of the most recent commenters? Will you retweet something they say or share it on your Facebook wall? You gotta give ‘em something.

Hell, how crazy do people go to become the Mayor of their local Starbucks? They go batshit crazy.

There are a lot of ways to bait people into doing what you want them to do. You can call it being manipulative but I prefer to call it marketing. Or one of the many perks of being female. How do you get people to do your bidding for you? What strategies work for you?

Your Comments

  • Joe Hall

    Damnit Lisa! Your not supposed to talk publicly about all this! Remember its all unicorns and holding hands! Stick with that! :P

  • Hugo Guzman

    There’s nothing wrong with a little influence and persuasion. It’s what makes the world go around (well, that and fossil fuels, but I digress).

    Or as Zig Ziglar once wrote: you can’t make people change their minds about almost anything. You can only guide them to make a new decision based on new information.

  • bluephoenixnyc

    Yes! This is a great post. Social media, if we’re to look at it from a step back, is just a very elaborate and sophisticated mechanism for holding someone’s hand while you whisper into their ear, “Yes, you do want to buy my product.”

    Which is also why I think the hard sell via Twitter or Facebook is next to impossible unless you’re a brand like Starbucks or (yikes!) Taco Bell.

    Customers have become very picky and highly-evolved over time and the first step in any sales process is acclimatization. Social media and the vanity mentions are all great ways of making a customer hesitant about working with a smaller brand more comfortable with your name and identity. Or in your words, “baiting them into doing stuff.” Ha.

  • Ed.T

    Engagement Rings??? Yes I am a man who read the whole post. Boy did you disappoint me. Not the topic, great as usual. The “Sex Appeal” picture – way off the mark. I was scrolling down slowly wondering if I should even steal a glance while in the office. No worries, it was not sexy.

  • Paul May

    Nice list, Lisa. Two more methods I think are worth adding are time-bombs and creating a sense of scarcity. You can see both in the SEOmoz promotion…their email message led with “Hurry, you can enter only through Tuesday, February 15” and they placed a limit to the “first 10,000 trial customers.”

  • Todd Mintz

    Playing to people’s good nature. Any person in our industry that’s well thought of and has a cause they are passionate about (think Matt Cutts & Project:Water) will invariably get donations from others to show allegiance with either the spokesperson or the cause (or both).

  • Mark

    Agree with Paul (as usual). Time limited offers are *very* compelling. Most things we can “look at tomorrow”. While I don’t endorse it, I’ve seen lots of landing pages where the offer always expires tomorrow – no matter when you look. It probably works, although a tad unethical for my liking.

  • Jason Acidre

    Psyching people out is one of the most evil effect of getting into marketing.

    I’m thinking of getting into a more prestige or antagonist approach in marketing, I think that’s smart, and that could make people take action, but not really sure if it will be as effective as to what you’ve listed here.

  • bijuterii argint

    people have the fault for beliving in texts not in their instincts… if something appears on TV or on a poster they take it for granted. for example if a company says it’s the best in the industry they just believe it and buy whatever it sells.

  • Kathryn Cicoletti

    “Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all” – Eisenhower