The Marshmallow Test or are We Just Plain Fickle?
Have you heard of this? I hadn’t either until Carol Defina, Principal of First Wave Communications, sent it along as she thought it was thought-provoking and timely for our society. How many times have you offered a workshop for free and had an initial great response but when the time came, had few show up? Have you offered a new product that generated great enthusiasm but again, when the time came, no one put their money where there mouth was? Perhaps here are some reasons why:
“Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing, had an interesting article that spoke about a famous study that put a 4-year old child is put in a room with a desk and a chair and a single marshmallow on a plate. An adult tells the child the following: “Here’s a marshmallow for you. You can eat it now, or you can wait 15 minutes and I’ll come back and give you a second marshmallow and you can then eat both of them. If you eat the first one before I return, you don’t get a second one.”This test was conducted by a professor of psychology, Walter Mischel, in Stanford in the late 60’s. Essentially the test measured a child’s ability to delay gratification. And only about 30% were able to do it. But the interesting part was when they came back and evaluated these children (now adults) years later. The ones who were able to wait for that second marshmallow before eating the first, showed markedly higher scores than those who ate that first marshmallow. They scored higher in such areas as overall success, sociability, teamwork, even SAT scores (on average 210 points higher) and, of course, self-control.
Last week I held a teleclass called, “Attracting More High-End Clients.” I had 425 people make reservations. However about 150 showed up, only 35%. The other 65% were no shows. Just a little bit better that the marshmallow test! When the marshmallow test story was brought up at the party I made an immediate correlation with my teleclass no-shows and devised a theory:
“Those who signed up for the teleclass but didn’t show were excited at the moment, but a week after signing up it just wasn’t as important anymore.” (I even sent reminder emails the day before and two hours before.) The majority couldn’t delay gratification for a week and just gave up. People get excited about something but then talk themselves out of that excitement. They want to eat that first marshmallow now, but if they have to wait a week, it doesn’t seem so tasty anymore and they go onto other goodies. Of course, it also made me wonder if those who attended the teleclass would end up as better marketers of their services down the road than those who missed the teleclass.
Not to lay a guilt trip on anybody, but my guess is, yes! If you consistently show up for opportunities to learn, you’re going to go further than those who don’t show up.
But then this raises another question, “What can I do to help more people show up? Can I keep those who signed up for the teleclass a week before, still interested in those marshmallows, thus delaying gratification or the promise of real value in the teleclass? In fact, wouldn’t it be the ethical thing to do to support them in showing up?”
Please visit Robert’s web site at www.actionplan.com for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.